Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8, ESV)
In any endeavor worth undertaking, training is part of how we accomplish our goals. Training, or discipline (being a disciple), means doing what we can do directly, in order to become able to do what we can’t. Athletes sprint and lift weights and eat well and rest so that, on game day, they can do what needs to be done. The same principle holds for life with God. If we would love God, love His church, and love His world well, we have to train.
The difference is, in life with God, we don’t train in order to do good things alone. Rather, we train for partnership with God in goodness. We train to become aware of His presence, to depend on His grace and to use His resources in loving others.
Spiritual practices are not righteousness; they don’t impress God or make us good enough for him. Rather, they are ways of placing ourselves before God and learning to do life with Him. They help us become attentive to what He is doing, and help us know the reality of the Kingdom of God among us.