This past Saturday I had the opportunity to lead my first ever spiritual retreat. Many retreats and conferences consist of sitting in a large room with other people and listening to spiritual or business leaders give presentation after presentation; to be honest, it can be exhausting.
Instead, I decided to pattern the retreat from Mary’s posture when she sat at the feet of Jesus and simply listened to His teaching (Luke 10:38-42). Our day was structured around connecting with God through Scripture, silence, prayer, and nature. As one of the people who joined me said, “God whispers through nature, talks through His Word, and shouts in our circumstances.”
Below is the schedule and information I created for those who joined me on the retreat. I pray you find it helpful and possibly encourages you to embark on your own retreat so that you can practice the discipline of solitude and silence to hear God’s voice more clearly.
As soon as you enter into the State Park, directly in front of the entrance, you will see a picnic shelter and various tables. This will be our designation meeting location. Please be there by 8am.
(8am – 5pm)
– Meet at Palisades State Park
– Short Teaching
– Morning Prayer
– Meditation Walk/Hike
One of the “spiritual disciplines” we can practice to connect with God is to slow down and be truly present to what is around you. Go on a walk or hike around the state park with no agenda. Listen to the sounds of nature and pay careful attention to the trees, flowers, grass, and insects that you see. What does the created world teach you about the Creator? Write down a few observations in your journal.
– Centering Prayer & Meditation on Scripture
Find a place to sit down at the park – it could be on a bench, a picnic table, or even on the ground. Focus on your breathing and seek to be still in the presence of God. As you do this, meditate on 1 Kings 19:1-13. In this passage, Elijah has reached a place of exhaustion and fear – seeking to die. God reveals Himself to Elijah but only through the still small voice of a whisper. What other details do you notice about this passage? What is the significance of God speaking through a whisper?
Notice the question God asks Elijah – what are you doing here? Take a moment and write out the reason you are on this spiritual retreat. Are you exhausted? Anxious? Fearful? Why? What circumstances in your life have led you to this point? How might God be inviting you to find rest in Him during this retreat? Journal your answers.
– Spiritual Reading
Spend some time reading the book you received at the beginning of the retreat – Habits of Grace. What stands out to you from the reading? How might God be using this book to speak into your specific situation of life? What about the “spiritual disciplines” is new to you? What is a good reminder for you? Journal your observations (or continued questions) about spiritual disciplines.
– Silence Lunch
Return to our meeting place with your lunch. We will sit down & have lunch together but we will practice a “silent lunch.” This is a monastic discipline of eating in community while seeking to be aware of nature together. During your lunch, pay attention to what is around you and how God is seeking to get your attention through nature and the meal. As you eat your food, reflect on Jesus’ death & resurrection. As the food is crunched in your mouth and as you consume your drink, remember that Jesus’ body was broken for your sin and his blood poured out for you. Receive the afternoon meal as a gift from Him.
– Afternoon Prayer
After lunch, we will slowly read a few Psalms together and pray for one another as we enter into the afternoon time.
– Meditation on Scripture
The best way to grow in the Christian life is to read Scripture slowly, prayerfully, and out loud. Find a place in the park where you can sit down and read the Bible out loud to yourself. For this time of meditation, read through the famous “Sermon on the Mount” preached by Jesus as found in Matthew 5 – 7. What themes stick out to you? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through this sermon by Jesus? In what ways does this message challenge you to live differently? Journal your reflections and observations on the Sermon on the Mount.
– Rest in God’s Presence
We have arrive at the afternoon hour of rest. Around 2pm, we often become tired and lethargic. Rather than fighting against this, spend some time “resting” your body, soul, and mind in whatever way you prefer. You can continue to read Scripture, you can read another book, you can go on a walk or a hike, you can even find a place to lay down and take a short nap in God’s presence. In order to begin your time of rest, read aloud Matthew 11:28-30 and receive Jesus’ invitation to rest in Him.
– Reflection on the Retreat
For this final hour in solitude, reflect on the retreat today. What parts of the retreat were especially life-giving and joyful to you? What parts of the retreat were difficult? Was solitude and silence easy for you? Or was it extremely difficult?
– Three Take-Aways
Pray through Psalm 139. After praying and reflecting on this Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to give you at least three “take a-ways” from this retreat. How is God asking you to apply ideas, themes, or principles you learned to your every day life? How can you make this type of retreat a regular occurrence in your life? How is God inviting you to sit at his feet and listen to his voice this upcoming week?
– Meet for Sharing
We will return to our meeting place and share with one another some of the insights God has given us during this retreat. Specifically, we will share our “take-aways” we journaled about in the previous hour. How can we support, encourage, and pray for one another before we leave?
– Closing Prayer
We will close our time by reading and reflecting on Scripture together. Finally, we will pray for one another and be dismissed.