How I (Prayer) Retreat…
I have been taking an annual prayer retreat for several years now. Since then, several people have inquired about the format I use. When I first considered taking a prayer retreat, I did some research and did not find much out there. Most of what I did discover was designed for group retreats. So I decided to create my own DIY prayer retreat.
Each year I have varied the elements, but it has always included simplicity and solitude. Big surprise. I am an introvert.
Here are the common elements I use each year. I have also included a link at the bottom of this post for those who desire a more extroverted approach.
Each year I ask 5-10 people to partner with me in prayer for the week I’m away. They receive a list of things to pray over including my family and congregation. During the most recent retreat, I sent a group text each morning with a scripture verse or photo. I wanted them to have a sense that God was moving in response to their prayers as well. You might find it necessary to disconnect completely. Therefore, I would not suggest daily contact with your prayer partners. However, a thank you note afterward would probably be appreciated.
My scripture reading during my retreats varies each year. This year I chose to read through the book of Romans once every day for five days. My intention was to read slowly and allow God to highlight verses. He spoke to my heart in a different way each time I read through Romans. Other years, I have focused on a theme reading several scriptures throughout the week on fear, hope, forgiveness, etc. Trust the Spirit to direct you for your own needs during your retreat.
Meditation and Silence
Meditation and silence have become essential to me. Someone introduced me to the HeadSpace App. The app does an effective job of focusing on the science of meditation. They provide basic introduction sessions as well as guided meditations on specific topics. Calm is a similar app that you might want to consider. I know there are lots of Christians who get pretty wigged out thinking about meditation. They relate it to Eastern religions. However, meditation was practiced throughout scripture including in the Old Testament. It’s also what Peter was doing when he had his vision of the sheet being lowered from heaven. That vision lead to the Gospel being preached to the Gentiles.
I’ve found that meditation and silence help me to stop the barrage of thoughts that keep me from hearing God clearly. After 10-15 minutes of meditation, the scriptures seem to come alive when I read them. I’ve also experienced some of my greatest spiritual breakthroughs after meditating. Once my mind has settled down, it is then I find new solutions to problems and answers to questions I have been asking. It also allows me to then contemplate what God is doing in my life.
During my retreats, I incorporate some form of physical exercise every day. We are not only spiritual beings. We are mind, body, and spirit. Our physical bodies are important enough to God that He has planned to resurrect them one day. And we do ministry here on earth in our bodies. The better we care for our bodies, the longer we have to do Kingdom work here. There is no award given for neglecting our physical bodies.
I have also discovered that daily fitness during my retreat functions as a form of meditation. It clears my mind and allows me to focus on God. And it reduces tension and stress that I brought with me into the retreat. My preference for fitness is walking or running. There is something about being outside in God’s creation that stimulates my connection to the Creator. But you might be a biker, hiker, swimmer, or yoga person. Do whatever helps you release stress and connect with God.
Journaling and Mind Dump
My retreat mornings usually begin with running. Then I spend time meditating before I journal. Journaling helps me to get ideas, thoughts, prayers, and concerns out of my head on to paper. On the first day of my retreat, I use a mind dump approach. I use a bullet point style to capture every thought that is keeping me from focusing. Usually, they are things that I keep reminding myself to do after the retreat. It could be anything from going to the bank, sending a thank you note, reply to that email, or clean out the garage. It’s all those little things that my mind is trying to remember and they get in the way of me hearing from God. Once I get them on paper, I put a reminder in my phone to check the list the first day after retreat. Then my mind is free to focus on experiencing God in the present moment.
I incorporate daily worship into my retreat. The place I go to each year has a chapel on the grounds. I will take about an hour in the chapel each day. I like to sing or read through the psalms during that time. There is also a labyrinth on the grounds. It can be a powerful discipline to connect and worship God. Find a way to worship that helps you pour out adoration to God during your retreat.
We have been created in the image of God, our Creator. This means we are also creative beings. Creativity is a way we worship God. It is also a way to allow His Spirit to move through us. Therefore, I practice creativity during my retreats. My preference is for writing or drawing. You might build something, carve something, paint, or play an instrument. Anything creative will allow the Spirit to move through you and renew your soul.
Prayer & Petition
Prayer seems rather obvious for a prayer retreat. It can be tempting to bring all of your questions, concerns, and wants/needs to God during your retreat. I find it cumbersome though and try to limit my prayer list to 3-5 specific items. I make those the focus of the retreat and keep my conversations with God specific, but deep.
I’m sure there are more elements you could include in your retreat. I know there are other components that I have not shared here. You might find some of these clunky or trivial for your needs. But I encourage you to make time to get away and spend time with God. Design a time that helps you decompress and connect with Him.
For my extrovert friends, you might design a group retreat. The participants could be staff, other pastors in your area, or a Bible study group. There are some group retreats offered by other ministries. If you’re a hardcore extrovert, then you might enjoy meeting new people at a group retreat planned by other ministries.
Here is a resource for a women’s group retreat.
Here is a resource for men’s group retreats.
Here is another resource for extroverts.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you after your DIY retreat. Message me and let me know how it goes. I’m praying for you!