What is a Spiritual Retreat?
A spiritual retreat is a time when one withdraws from people and from all else, in order to be lost in God, listen to Him, hear Him, make a plan to obey Him and do something with Him that is best done in seclusion.
It is a time when in response to the call of God to come apart and be with Him alone, a lover of the Lord obeys and so finds himself alone with God.
It is a time when all other voices and noises are shut out of the heart and mind and all attention is directed to the Lord - on hearing His voice and doing His bidding.
It is a time when a person goes away from the presence of men and their distractions, to be alone with himself, in order to concentrate on a God-given task.
There are a number of practical considerations that you need to consider as you prepare to go on a spiritual retreat.
The first one is the amount of time that you have available for the retreat. Do not start by being too ambitious. Go on progressively. Do not start with a three-day retreat and find out that after three hours you no longer know what to do with your time.
The second thing is to find a place where the retreat can take place. For long retreats, it is best to withdraw to a lonely spot. You could also withdraw to a retreat centre.
Do not say that you are not able to go on retreats because you cannot find a suitable place. If you are serious, you will find a way out. Have you tried the following?
Asking for a room in a friend’s house?
Booking a room in a hotel?
Withdrawing into the visitor’s room in your own house and locking yourself up?
Maybe you live in a single room in a University hall of residence. You can withdraw into your room for a number of days. All you need to do is to put a notice at your door that reads, “I am not available. Please, call again.”
Any other convenient place.
You need to decide about your feeding during the retreat. Do not expect that the one who has given you a place in his house to have a retreat should also take the responsibility for your meals. So arrange for them beforehand. Do not plan to exploit the one who has shown you mercy by letting you have your retreat at his. Of course, if you are going on a fasting retreat you have nothing to bother about as regards food.
You need to take your Bible and a notebook with you. To be going to talk to God and listen to Him without preparing to write down what He will say is just sheer foolishness. What would you think of the secretary of a general manager of a corporation who was called in by the boss to take notes and she went in with neither paper nor pen? If you expect the Lord to speak to you and to give you instructions, commands, and/or encouragements, you had better prepare to be able to keep a record of what He will say to you. To think that you will remember everything is folly. To expect God to repeat what He has said so that you may remember it because you did not write it down is to show Him disrespect.
It is also advisable that you take a good songbook along with you. You will find that ministering to the Lord in song enables you, minister, also to yourself.
Suggested Programme For a Prayer Retreat of Thirty Minutes.
Quiet before the Lord.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any sins in any of the following areas:
Your relationship with the Lord.
Your relationship with God’s work.
Your relationship with believers in general and in specific cases.
Your relationship with your family, friends and all who are close to you.
Your relationship to unbelievers in general and in specific cases.
Repent of each act of sin and claim cleansing from the Lord.
Write down any acts of restitution that you have to carry out.
Ask and receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Praise the Lord for who He is.
Thank the Lord for His acts of goodness.
Name very recent specific acts of His.
Thank the Lord for very specific acts of His goodness to some believers you know.
Thank the Lord for very specific acts of His goodness to some unbeliever(s) you know.
Thank the Lord for the help he has sent to you through believers and unbelievers.
Thank the Lord for the help He has sent to believers through you.
Pray for your prayer life: its quality, quantity depth, power.
Pray about your relationship to God’s Word: your study, understanding, memorisation, the obedience of it, and its communication to others.
Pray about your obedience to the voice of the Lord, hearing it, discerning it and obeying it.
Pray about some definite situation in which you want to hear the voice of the Lord.
Ask the Lord for His step for you in the pathway of obeying His voice.
Pray for the ministry of your assembly.
Pray for your spiritual leader(s).
Pray for the most committed members of the assembly.
Take one or two and pray for them in a specific way.
Pray for one or two of the most uncommitted members of your assembly.
Pray for one or two of the most confused believers in your assembly.
Pray for one or two backsliders in the assembly.
Pray for the growth of your assembly in holiness, love, depth, vision and numbers.
Pray for one or two other assemblies outside your town.
Pray for the unbeliever(s) you live with, work with and are a neighbour to, to whom you have never presented the claims of Christ.
Pray for one unbeliever you have known for a long time but never witnessed to.
Pray for some unbelievers to whom you have witnessed many times.
Pray about the evangelisation of your village, town, country, continent and world.
Pray for one evangelist and his ministry.
Pray about ways of improving your prayer and financial support of missions.
Pray for one country where most people have never heard the gospel.
Write out all the new thoughts that you received as you were praying.
Thank the Lord for each one of them.
Ask for His power to obey and grow in the new areas He has shown you.
If you find that 5 minutes are not sufficient for the time in 1, continue. You may find that a takes five minutes, b, ten minutes and so forth. You then realize that you need more time. Fix up time for another thirty-minute retreat and then start with the suggestions under 2. If you finish 2, go on to 3, and stop when you must and continue during another session. God bless you.