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Give Yourself a Prayer Retreat with Jesus
Are you a disciple of Jesus? A committed and deepening prayer life is one of the keys to growing as a disciple. Elijah discovered the value of such extended times with the Lord during his misadventures with Jezebel (I Kings 19). Jesus often went on such retreats into "a mountain apart to pray" and he invited his disciples to "come apart and rest." Paul practices the discipline of prolonged times of prayer as well. In fact, every man or woman of God throughout the history of the church has found this to be a secret to spiritual strength and refreshing.
The first prayer retreat I went on I learned so much about my prayer life. I was young, and struggled with the solitude and silence, but it had a lasting impact on my faith. I have never been on a retreat that God didn’t bless me in some powerful way. I try to get away for an extended time of prayer at least once a year. More would be better.
I want to encourage you to design a personal prayer retreat. What is prayer? Prayer is daily time set aside to be alone with God to get to know God through the Bible, sharing what is on your heart, and listening for God’s will.
Here are some hints for a successful prayer retreat. 1) Schedule it with God just as you would any other appointment. Write it into the calendar. 2) Find a secluded place where you can be alone with God and your thoughts. If you don’t have a special place you can go to pray speak to your pastor about using the church sanctuary. 3) Meet God alone. If you have a young family to care for ask a friend or relative to care for them for a day so you can meet with God alone. You may want to find a friend to join you, and have a chance to process your experiences during the day, but the majority of the time should be with yourself and God. Here are some resources to have available. 1) Take a familiar Bible, a notebook for journaling your thoughts and recording the results of your retreat, a clock, comfortable walking shoes, and worship music (note: though music is a nice part of the day, only use it as a small treat. Do not be afraid to spend most of the day in silence, and turn your phone off except to listen to music.
Here are some hints on how to design your retreat. 1) Read the Bible. Perhaps target to read one of the Gospels, the book of Romans, or an Old Testament Book like Genesis or Kings. 2) Discipline yourself in a pattern of prayer. I use the acronym ACTS IN Communion to guide my prayer retreats. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, Intercession, Communion with God). 3) Fast or at least drink lots of juices. It is not a time for feasting. Take along some crackers or simple fruit snacks if you are not an experienced faster. But don’t let fasting distract you from prayer. It is more important to pray than to fast. There are no "brownie points" for endurance.
Here are some things not to do. Don't take gadgets along (computers, Ipads, phones, etc). Don't watch TV, movies, or listen to radio. Don't fuss with stuff - keep focused on God, not stuff. Don't play games even if they are available. Don't bring your kids. Don't hang around people all the time - get alone with God - He's jealous for your time! Don't read a novel, magazines, etc.
I have two resources that I have put together that I can send if you email me through lagrangepres.com. The first is a prayer book called An Invitation to Pray by Lauren Rittman and me. She and I pray very differently, and we describe our styles. God works through both. The second is a one-day prayer retreat called “A Day with Jesus.” I am glad to send one or both on request.
Have you ever prayed for an extended period of time? Does the idea intrigue you or frighten you? When would be a good date to schedule a day with Jesus in prayer? What barriers do you need to knock down to be able to have your special prayer retreat? I hope you will start knocking down those barriers now!