Just a snip from Wright's For All God's Worth that caught me this morning: "Just as evil is more than the sum total of individual acts of wrongdoing so Jesus' victory over evil is more than the sum total of subsequent individual acts of selfless love. Christian faith, faith in the crucified Jesus, is more than my individual belief that he died for me, vital though that is. It is the faith that on the cross Jesus in principle won the victory over sin, violence, pride, arrogance, and even death itself, and that that victory can now be implemented." (55)
First of all, let's not miss what Wright is saying - the death of Jesus, a victory over evil, is greater than all the acts of faith we may do. This puts things like the spiritual disciplines into perspective: we do not practice solitude because we think God is pleased with our pursuit - we pursue solitude so we can go there and come back and not only be alive (cp. Exodus 15, 17; Matt. 4) but we can come to understand a new level of freedom from that death (and all of its friends) which Jesus defeated. Solitude then becomes an exercise in implementing victory to become more like Christ, and in so doing find ourselves courageous enough to enter places of silence, hunger, thirst, intellectual dispute, trial, joylessness, etc. and come back alive.
This is the place where spiritual disciplines transcend the moralistic, therapeutic deism (do the right things, feel better, because of God) that we've been taught. Disciplines don't make you holy, at least not explicitly, they create a place where we lose the fear of sanctification. We become courageous enough to step beyond the comfort of knowable God into the blessed distress of a God who moves without our permission and asks us to follow.
Prayer becomes an experience in locating ourselves in conversation with God.
Solitude invokes wilderness where we are not without water or bread, but we are fed on the will of the Father.
Silence invokes the slow death of noiselessness that we all avoid - and I think we might be afraid to hear the voice of the marginalized and oppressed - and brings us under the counsel of God.
Fasting shows that trees of all kinds of fruit are subject to God alone - and that we'll live without the FDA guidelines and in fact may live better.