An extended time alone with the Lord…
Though it may sound intimidating, I believe that everyone who belongs to Jesus truly longs for a more intimate friendship with Him – even in the midst of a crazy, busy life.
Last week, I wrote about a “Divine Reset for Your Soul.” I told you about the personal retreat I took last month and the sweet refreshing and recalibration it brought to my body, soul and mind.
In today’s post, I’d like to give you a peak into what a personal retreat with God looks like for me.
What Is a Getaway With God?
Though it’s not necessary to have a clear objective for your personal retreat, it’s often good to prayerfully consider what God might want to target so that you can plan (and pray!) towards it.
Here are some reasons I’ve carved out extended time alone (1-3 days) with God:
- To seek wisdom or direction when facing a difficult matter
- To draw near to Jesus when I feel distant
- To hammer out forgiveness when struggling with bitterness
- To renew strength when I feel weary and weak
- To wait on God when seeking direction for ministry or fresh vision – especially when I’m getting ready to write a book!
Other reasons may come to mind, but above all, a spiritual getaway is a chance to be alone with Jesus, to hang out together. To look each other in the eye, metaphorically speaking, and be fully present and totally engaged.
Shedding the world and bringing my swirling thoughts into captivity can be difficult, so when I arrive at my retreat destination, I immediately:
- Get settled physically – I do the following:
- Unpack and arrange my room – toiletries and other items
- Put away food – rather than going out to eat, I bring simple, healthy food. Snacks and meals that can be fixed quickly, and lots of water
- Get settled spiritually – After arranging the living area, I work on the “meeting” area:
- Find a comfortable space – chair, side table, good lighting
- Arrange my study area – set out Bible, journal, pens, calendar, and other books
- Plug in I-Pad or computer for worship music, if desired
If you’re curious, here’s a downloadable list of the general items I bring – as you plan your own getaway, add things to the list:
One-On-One With My Savior
Once all the distractions are dealt with, the getaway truly begins. I make a cup of tea or coffee and settle in for time with the Lover of my soul. Sometimes, I play soft worship music and light a candle to signify the start of our time together.
Because there are no time constraints, I don’t hurry – I just settle in. Closing my eyes and breathing a few deep breaths, I say a simple prayer welcoming the Lord to have His way…
Dear Lord Jesus, I dedicate this time to You. Holy Spirit, please lead and guide me into all truth. Help me see what I need to see and hear what I need to hear. Most of all, Lord, may You be blessed by our time together.
Just like it takes time to reconnect with a friend when you’ve been apart, I take time to reconnect with the Lord. For me, that happens best when I use a journal and I’d like to invite you to do the same.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Pour out your heart to God – be honest, don’t sugarcoat your condition
Often, we come to a personal retreat with our hearts unsettled if not in turmoil. There’s something powerful about putting pen to a page and getting honest before the Lord. Things come out that we didn’t even know were there. Fears, frustrations, unmet desires, hopes and dreams. All of it is spilled on a page so that both we and God can see it. So that we and God can deal with it.
Don’t worry if your words and thoughts come out on the page imperfectly. Don’t worry if it’s difficult at first. Just begin to write and the words will come, along with the ability to share what’s really going on inside.
- Confess any known sin or unbelief – ask the Holy Spirit to reveal and remove anything standing between you and the Lord
Don’t attempt to dredge up sin on your own. Instead, invite the Holy Spirit to pinpoint any behavior, attitude, unforgiveness or cherished sin that might be interrupting fellowship with Him. Remember, God only reveals so He can heal. Confess your sin, then gratefully receive the forgiveness of the Lord.
God may bring you back to these items later in the retreat, but for now, focus on repentance so that nothing stands between you and the intimacy your heart need.
- Make your requests known – outline what you need during this personal retreat
We’ve been given such a privilege to come to the Lord in prayer, and yet so often we don’t take advantage of the invitation found in Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NKJV). Since we will be praying for others later in the retreat, let this time be about what YOU need from the Lord.
You may feel uncomfortable doing this, as though you’re being selfish. But remember, God longs to minister to you – you are His precious, beloved child. Nothing brings Him more joy than to bring you healing and hope, wholeness and refreshing, deliverance and restoration.
- Go to the Word – read slowly, really thinking about what God is saying to you
After I’ve poured out my heart, I’m ready to receive. If I’m using a Bible reading plan, I follow it, but I don’t rush through the assignment. Instead I read slowly and meditatively. I stop to talk to the Lord about what stands out to me. So many times, something correlates with what I’ve just prayed about and a holy dialogue begins!
Choose a verse or portion to write out in your journal, then respond to what God is saying. There are so many ways to do this: Write a prayer noting the ways you want to apply the truth. Paraphrase the verse or ask God questions about what you’ve read. Cross-reference and do a deeper study of the portion you’ve read.
- Be still – allow God time and room to speak
So often, I miss this part. In my everyday life, I tend to close my quiet time with prayer then rush off to other things. But a personal retreat with God allows plenty of time to quiet my heart and learn how to listen. Though I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, I’m learning how to recognize the inner voice of God – that “still small” voice Elijah describes in 1 Kings 19:12.
Don’t be threatened if the Lord seems silent during your retreat. Certainly, you should double check your heart to make sure there is no unconfessed sin, but after doing that, just relax in His presence. After all, when you think about it, the most intimate friendships don’t require constant conversation. Instead, there is an easy enjoyment of each other’s presence. I believe that’s the kind of relationship God wants to cultivate with us.
Each retreat is different for me. Sometimes I spend the first couple of hours working through these steps. Other times the steps are spread throughout the getaway, with many of them repeated.
Sometimes, I record it all in my journal. Other times, I leave the journal behind and go face down on the floor, weeping even sobbing as I pour out my heart to God. I call it “snotting in the rug.”
It’s not a pretty term, I know, but it’s fairly accurate. For many people, that approach may seem too emotional, but there have been times in my life when nothing less would do. Times when I had to get hold of heaven. Because I desperately needed heaven to get hold of me.
While polite, quiet prayers have their place, I believe we all need to learn how to call out to God – literally, cry out loud to Him! Not because He’s hard of hearing, but because “crying out” breaks something hard in us so that God’s power can be released on our behalf.
For more on that, I highly recommend the book: The Power of Crying Out: When Prayer Becomes Mighty.
Making Your Retreat Personal
From this point on, the format of your retreat is up to you and Jesus. As I mentioned last week, there’s no right way or wrong way to do this getaway with God. Just ask the Holy Spirit to lead you, and He will.
I used to think that a prayerful retreat like this required spending hours on my knees. While God might lead you to do that, I’ve found that He seems to enjoy a variety in our time together as much as I do.
So here’s a menu of ideas you might want to implement in your getaway, depending on how much time you have:
- Add a devotional – I love taking a few devotionals to use during the retreat – see this post and some of my retreat favorites on the “Getaway List.”
- Do Bible study homework – if I’m in a Bible study, I work on that week’s lesson. If I’m behind, I use some of the time to catch up.
- Read a Christian book – there are so many wonderful books available, both current and classic. See some suggestions on the “Getaway List.”
- Soak in worship music – find or create a playlist (search “worship mix”) or bring CDs. Kneel and worship, sit and rest – love on the Lord as He loves on you.
- Go for a walk with Jesus – admire the beauty, thank Him for the simple gifts of life. Pray and praise as you walk.
- Do a topical study – when I’m struggling in an area, I use a concordance or topical index to look up verses and write out those that speak most to me.
- Study a book of the Bible – really dig into one of the shorter books of the Bible. Bring a commentary if you feel led.
- Memorize scripture – use your time to learn one or two verses you can add to your spiritual arsenal.
- Make a prayer list – start a list in the back of your journal. Record answers to prayer – it’s a wonderful way to build your faith!
- Pray the Word – ask the Lord to give you scriptures to pray over people and situations. Create prayer cards with the name and verse.
- Start a to-do list – when the enemy or your flesh attempts to distract you with reminders of things to do, write them down, then continue seeking God.
- Write a note – as people come to mind, pray for them and write a note of encouragement.
- Count your blessings – take time to list all the good things God has blessed you with. Counteract negativity with gratefulness!
- Sing hymns and worship songs – declaring God’s goodness in song is not only good for our soul, it brings joy to the Father’s heart.
- Go over your calendar – ask the Lord for wisdom concerning your schedule – it’s pace as well as things He might want you to add or delete. [Check out this post and the “Dumping Rocks Worksheet”]
- Strategize – if you need wisdom or direction, ask the Lord to help you step back from the problem so you can see the steps you need to take.
- Recalibrate – if you feel a bit lost in certain areas, ask the Lord to show any missteps. If needed, repent and allow Him to get you back on track.
- Review old journals – it’s good to look back and see God’s work in our lives, as well as the big themes He’s been teaching us.
- Worship thru art – bring along a sketch pad, paint or clay; some sort of medium that you can use to craft a love gift for Jesus.
- Dream big dreams – if God’s laid something on your heart for a while, ask the Holy Spirit to help you put it on paper. Brainstorm a plan to obey.
- Take a nap – sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is get some sleep. Lay back in the arms of Jesus and allow yourself to rest in His love without feeling guilty.
Making It Happen
Well, I hope I’ve whet your appetite for some extended time alone with God!
While a personal retreat may not be feasible on a regular basis, I hope you’ll look at your calendar and carve out some time over the next twelve months. No matter the amount of time you carve out, don’t be surprised if it feels a bit awkward at first. In a sense, it’s kind of like the first time you went out with someone on a dinner date.
What will we talk about? you wonder. How will we pass the time? You kind of wish you’d suggested a coffee date instead!
In the same way, daily devotions can seem a whole lot easier. After all, you can be in and out in no time. But a personal retreat? Well, that involves a string of empty hours stretching out before you and that can be intimidating.
What will God and I talk about after we’ve covered the basics? you wonder.
Please, sweet friend, relax! You don’t have to perform for God. There is no perfect formula you have to come up with. Just show up, and I promise, the Lord will do the rest.
After all, Jesus has been longing for this time more than you know!
He’s been wooing you and whispering “Come away, my Beloved” for months now. The only requirement on your part is to respond – to take your schedule in hand and carve out some time and distance so that you can truly “come away” from your everyday life.
If we’ll do that, Jesus will do the rest. And as He does, He’ll bring a sweet refreshing to your soul. Renewing your strength as well as your mind. Recalibrating your heart so that you have no problem following the direction He’s set for your life.
“This is the way,” God whispers as we respond. “Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
I’d love to hear from you…What other activities would you suggest for a getaway with God?
(For more information on personal retreats, read “Refresh & Recalibrate Pt 1- A Divine Reset for Your Soul“)