The Problem with Spiritual Practices


Acts 3:6–10 (NIV)

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.


“The Spirit of Jesus in me greets the Spirit of Jesus in you and brings us together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.”

How often do you remember one of the stories from the life of Jesus? Would it be monthly, weekly, daily—even more than that? For most, this is likely not an active part of our understanding of discipleship. I find in recent years how disciple-making has become somewhat disintegrated and functionalized. What do I mean? Well, it has become all about teaching people “practices.” You know what I mean. Discipleship is about learning to study the Bible and pray and practice solitude and fast and keep sabbath and meditate and get in a small group and eliminate hurry and don’t forget lectio divina and . . . and . . . and are you tired yet? And if you do all these things in increasing measure you will feel closer to God—or maybe you will feel worn out with it all. 

So I’m not knocking “spiritual practices.” They have their place, there is just something far more fundamental we must recover if they are to really matter. That something is the discipleship of our memory. Every religion out there has this same battery of practices. Do you know what no other religion in the world has? The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No other faith lifts up the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. What makes fasting Christian? Is it because you are a Christian and you fast? Nope. It is the story of origin. It is the memory of the way Jesus fasted and the things he taught us about fasting. Chances are you aren’t practicing fasting. Perhaps you want to. You’ve tried before. Why aren’t you doing it? You know you should be fasting, right? And there are apps for that too. 

Here’s the reason you aren’t fasting. You have no real memory of Jesus and his disciples fasting. It is simply not a part of your working memory. Therefore, there is no apostolic imagination for fasting. Most people who do fast do so out of sheer commitment and discipline, and that’s not wrong. It’s just not Jesus. Fasting does not begin with a lot of how-to’s, but with deep immersion into the story and the stories of Jesus and his disciples fasting. It begins with remembering, which is to say re-attaching ourselves to the disciple maker, Jesus, and beholding his way of fasting.

So why all of this about fasting. I thought we were talking about the Holy Spirit. Exactly. 

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast” (Mark 2:19–20).

It turns out fasting is not a spiritual practice. It is a way of life to walk in fellowship with Jesus through the person and power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of his physical absence. So if you are not fasting, the last thing I am going to tell you is you need to be fasting. Nope. I’m going to call you deeper into the story of Jesus, to the discipleship of your memory, and we are going to trust the Holy Spirit to infuse you with the kind of imagination real fasting depends on. You see, to fast doesn’t require more discipline. It requires more memory. Because fasting is not about fasting. It is about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the kingdom of Heaven. It’s why if you want to learn about fasting you don’t take a course on fasting, you take a course on the Holy Spirit. 

And that “time” and “day” Jesus refers to in the text above is today—the day after the day of Pentecost. 

In other words . . . 

Still day one. 


God our Father, who with your son Jesus Messiah, fills us with the Holy Spirit, thank you for the miracle and the mystery of the day of Pentecost. And thank you for today, and that it is only the day after. How I long to be filled and filled again with you, Holy Spirit, and yet I know this must mean more emptying of what I am already filling myself with. Reveal this way to me. Take me into the deep remembrance of Jesus and the way he fasts and teaches his disciples. More of Jesus, yes, more of Jesus. Praying in his name, amen. 


So what do you remember about Jesus and fasting? I’m not asking you to look stuff up in your Bible. If you have to look it up, it’s not in your memory. I am asking about your real memory here. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

P.S. Why take the Holy Spirit Course: 

Have you ever really given yourself to studying and learning about the Holy Spirit? If so, are you continuing to dig the well deeper? There is no better time to do this than right now. I waited way too long to start myself, and the more I learn the more I want to learn more. But it is more than mere learning. This is not about knowledge but knowing. This is not mere education but real experience. That’s why we created this short course. How to Experience the Holy Spirit.  You can get all the details here and register. 

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