Throughout the public ministry of Jesus, His life was enriched by extended times alone with His Father.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1: 35
Jesus’ example grants us permission (and perhaps even a directive!) to retreat to solitary places for extended prayer. Living water from heaven refills us as we enjoy Jesus’ company on walks or delight in His artistry in the canvas of the sky and scenery around us where we are.
Henri Nouwen encouraged his readers to retreat for alone time with God “an hour a day, an afternoon a week, a day a month, a week a year”.
Think about your current spiritual formation rhythms, patterns, practices. In what ways do you feel that placing the focus on retreating more often could enhance your spiritual life?
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
Mark 6: 45-46
Thousands of years after Jesus’ example, what practical steps can you take toward adopting Jesus’ holy habit of solitary prayer? Regularly?
Set a date—place it in your diary like any other appointment! If someone comes (other than a life or death need) wanting your attention—do not break that appointment with God—give them another time and date! Give God priority.
Whatever you place on pause, or postpone, will benefit in the long term by your absence because you will return from your retreat time more clear minded, creative and kind. It’s true!
Choose a place—somewhere that restores and refreshes you, such as the bush, a mountain, the beach, or a favourite spot near a lake.
Pack— your favourite Bible, pens, highlighters, journal, colouring in (if that appeals to you), and a couple of books that nourish your spirit. Try not to look at your phone/social media. Only use your phone for urgent calls. Also consider silent retreats, even without music.
(It can distract).
Submit your mind to God—start by breathing deeply , reminding yourself of God’s faithful presence. As your mind is quieted, realise that you are in a protected space devoted to the nurturing of your relationship with God.
Begin by praising God—choose some Scripture —for example Psalm 18
I love you, Lord; you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Saviour; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.
Psalm 18: 1—3
Repentance and Rest— Focusing on God’s character almost always leads safely into repentance. Worship is a cleansing force.
When you become aware of sin, ask for God’s forgiveness. He reveals to heal.
You may need rest at this point.
Pause and rest.
Continue as God leads—prayer, reading, colouring in, reading, silence, listening.
Don’t fill every space or moment with things, sounds, or music.
Take time to listen in silence.
Breathe in the presence and peace of the Holy Spirit. Breathe out stress & anxiety.
Focus on these encouraging verses:
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.