Christian spiritual formation is, broadly, the development of an inward life of prayer and meditation that imitates, so far as possible, the holiness of Jesus Christ. Historically, the first Christians to address their spiritual progress were desert monks in the early centuries of Christianity. Influential senior monks gave advice to their juniors on how to pray, resist temptations, and be helpful to others.
In the Reformed Tradition, spiritual formation became severed from monastic life, and centered much more on the relationship between individual Christians and God.
Common practices that foster spiritual development include prayer of all kinds – from petitions, to praise, worship, thanksgiving, and owning one’s dependence on God. Also included are meditation, lectio divina, silence, and the use of icons and incense or candles. Some benefit from guidance by a spiritual director, a person specially trained to shepherd them on their journey with God.
Though forming a sound spiritual practice appears to look mainly inward, the outward results can amaze. Being deeply in touch with God enhances one’s ability to aid others in their sufferings, and rejoice with them in their happiness.