What is a spiritual practice?

Too often a “spiritual practice” may be assumed to be something “private” or “personal.” This was not the view of OT Israel, or God’s covenant. John Goldingay has an interesting insight:

People in Jerusalem were particularly interested in the spiritual practice of fasting and were puzzled as to why it didn’t work. It’s obvious why to the prophet, and it fits my friend’s suspicion. There was a mismatch between people’s spiritual practice and the rest of their lives. Actually no one in the Bible would call fasting a spiritual practice. In the Bible, spiritual practices or following the guidance of the Spirit involves the kind of action the prophet talks about. I read yesterday that in the United States we have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prison population. It may be a myth that there are more African American men in prison than there are in college, but the myth isn’t much of an exaggeration of the facts. Losing chains that put so many people in prison might be a good spiritual practice. So might dividing our food with the hungry person instead of throwing it away and bringing home the lowly downtrodden instead of giving them our change and otherwise hiding from our fellow flesh and blood.

Goldingay, J. (2015). Isaiah for Everyone (p. 223). Westminster John Knox Press; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

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