Why Is Service A Spiritual Discipline? [Explained]

why is service a spiritual discipline

Whether you’re just starting on your journey of spiritual growth or you’ve been involved in spiritual development for some time, you may have noticed that service is regarded as one of the spiritual disciplines.

What is meant by service in a spiritual sense is to do something for another person without expecting anything in return. Primarily, it’s a way of developing compassion for others and helping those who are less fortunate or who are unable to do certain things for themselves.

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However, this definition of service is generally based on the Christian religion and can have a much broader definition in our modern world. Before we delve into this, let’s understand the definition of spiritual disciplines.

What Are Spiritual Disciplines?

Essentially, spiritual disciplines are practices that people engage in to further their spiritual development. Whether this is through religious faith or a more esoteric spiritual journey, there are certain practices that are considered essential for a person to progress along their own spiritual journey.

For example, spiritual disciplines can include prayer, meditation, fasting, studying sacred texts, and practicing acts of service. All of these practices are designed to cultivate a deeper relationship with the divine.

Spiritual disciplines usually require immense dedication, effort, and commitment from anyone who chooses to practice them. They can often be challenging but are believed to further spiritual growth in those individuals.

Examples Of Spiritual Disciplines In Different Faiths

Spiritual disciplines are practiced in many different faiths around the world. Here are just a few to give you a better understanding of what these involve.


  • Prayer either silently or aloud is a way of talking or listening to God.
  • Fasting is seen as a way of self-discipline and sacrifice.
  • Scripture reading involves reading the Bible on a daily basis.
  • Worship is a gathering with other believers in order to listen to sermons, pray and sing.
  • Service is a way of caring for and helping others either through volunteering or donating to charity.


  • Salah is the practice of praying five times a day while facing Mecca.
  • Zakat is the practice of giving a portion of one’s wealth to charity.
  • Sawm is the common practice of fasting during Ramadan.
  • Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that is required in each believer’s lifetime at least once.
  • Quran reading is the practice of studying the text of the Quran.


  • Meditation is to focus one’s mind in order to achieve inner peace and insight.
  • Mindfulness in order to pay attention to the present moment by using breathing exercises and body awareness techniques.
  • Chanting is the practice of reciting sacred texts or mantras in order to achieve full concentration and focus.
  • Virtue is practiced through ethical behaviors such as kindness, generosity, and compassion.
  • Studying the teachings of Buddha and other masters by reading texts or listening to Dharma talks. 


  • Yoga is a spiritual practice that involves different postures, breathing exercises, and meditation.
  • Puja is the practice of worshipping and honoring deities through offerings and rituals.
  • Japa is the repetition of a mantra in order to aid in meditation and spiritual focus.
  • Seva is the practice of selfless service to others by participating in acts of kindness and helping others by volunteering.
  • Study involves reflecting on the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, and other sacred texts.


  • Prayer involves talking to God and reciting sacred texts.
  • Tzedakah involves giving to charity and performing acts of kindness.
  • Torah study involves studying the Torah and other sacred texts.
  • Shabbat is the practice of observing a day of rest and worship.
  • Kashrut involves following Jewish dietary laws and includes eating only kosher foods and abstaining from certain other foods.


  • Meditation to focus one’s mind and cultivate inner peace and harmony.
  • Qigong is an exercise practice that involves gentle movements and breathing exercises to promote vitality and health.
  • Feng shui is the practice of creating a balancing and harmonious environment.
  • Yin-Yang balance is the practice of balancing the opposing forces of male and female energy in order to cultivate harmony.
  • Wu-wei is the practice of allowing things to unfold naturally without forcing an outcome.

As you can see, most of these different faiths have service as one of their spiritual disciplines whether it be performing acts of kindness, volunteering, or giving to charity.

Service As A Spiritual Discipline

So, what does service as a spiritual discipline mean? By definition, service can be described as using one’s time, resources, and abilities to benefit others. This practice is often associated with compassion, generosity, and selflessness. 

As you would imagine, many faiths around the world regard compassion and selflessness as vital attributes of someone who wants to elevate his or her spiritual growth.

We can look at this from a Christian perspective where Jesus used his time to heal the sick and help the poor. These acts of service are highly regarded when it comes to spiritual growth and development.

Example Of Service As A Spiritual Discipline

Service as a spiritual discipline can take many forms in today’s society. It can include things like volunteering at a local charity, donating to a humanitarian cause, or simply helping a neighbor in need.

People who engage in these simple acts of service can develop a deeper sense of empathy for others as well as a more compassionate nature. It’s believed that this can help the person engaging in the service cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning.

Ultimately, service is seen as an essential part of the spiritual journey and helps individuals to deepen their connection to the divine as well as live a life that is filled with purpose and meaning.

Service As A Profession

To take this even further, there are plenty of professions that are based on service. People who work in these professions are often on a set spiritual path and have an important purpose to complete during their time on earth. 

Here are just a few professions that focus on service:

Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and therapists are all involved in the profession of service. They spend their entire careers working to improve the health and well-being of their patients.

Social Workers

Social workers often work with individuals and families who are undergoing challenges such as poverty, abuse, addiction, and mental illness. Through their service, these professionals are helping to make life just a little easier for these individuals and families.

Teacher And Educators

Teaching is also regarded as a service profession. Teachers help to educate our children so that they are better prepared to face the world as adults. There are many inspirational stories that explain how a special teacher has inspired a student to follow a certain course in life that has led to that student achieving great things.

Non-profit Workers

Many people volunteer their time for free at non-profit organizations that are set up to help people who need it the most. This help could involve providing shelter for the homeless, setting up soup kitchens to feed people who have fallen on hard times, and even animal shelters that take in strays. You see, service is not just about helping humans but also all the other living things that we share our planet with.

Humanitarian Workers

With the increase in natural disasters around the world, more and more humanitarian workers are needed to assist people and animals who have been adversely affected by these catastrophic events. 

Not only are humanitarian workers providing essential services such as getting food and other essentials to displaced people but they will also be needed to help rebuild so that these people can return to a somewhat normal life. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is service only a spiritual discipline for Christians?

No, there are many different faiths apart from Christianity that regard service as one of their major spiritual disciplines. Even those who don’t have a religious affiliation will regard service as a spiritual discipline because it helps everyone to be a better person and live a better life.

Does service as a spiritual discipline always involve working with others?

Most service as a spiritual discipline will involve working with others as this has a more direct impact. However, even donating to a charity can be regarded as a service and this can often be done anonymously.

How can I find opportunities for service as a spiritual discipline?

To elevate your own spiritual growth, you only need to look within your local community to find areas of service. There are numerous community organizations that provide essential services for others and these will always be looking for new volunteers.

Final Thoughts

Throughout the centuries, service has always been regarded as a spiritual discipline. This is because when you serve others you are giving freely of yourself to help those who need it the most.

Many different faiths around the world regard service as a spiritual discipline because it is thought to make you a more compassionate person and help you to elevate your spiritual growth. It is believed that service connects you to the divine and is an essential part of your spiritual journey.

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