When the world gets loud and my thoughts become scattered, when my emotions need anchoring and my vision needs renewed, I plan a personal spiritual retreat to get alone with God.
A personal spiritual retreat allows us to push pause on the rush of our schedules and the noise we get used to, so we can focus on God, get into His Word and listen to what He’s telling us.
Because let’s face it: it’s hard for us to really be still and know He is God in the day-to-day of endless emails and errands or the rush of school mornings and late nights at the field.
It’s hard to hear God’s still, small voice when life is neither still nor small. When there’s the constant low-level noise of our culture and round-the-clock news, the banter of other voices or the tumult of our own thoughts.
I so often feel pulled by a hundred needs in a hundred directions with a hundred possibilities and dreams that need my attention.
And all the while, God has said, Abide in Me.
Oh, how desperately we need to quiet ourselves and everything around us, so we can hear God.
Jesus modeled this. Jesus who had such intimacy with God, made it a practice to push pause on the endless demands around him and spend time alone with God.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed,” the Word tells us in Luke 5:16.
Mark tells us that after a long night healing the sick and demon-possessed “when the whole town gathered at the door” Jesus got up early the next morning while it was still dark and “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) His disciples began looking all over for him because, of course, people needed him. Roll up the sleeves, there’s work to do, right? Just the opposite actually. Jesus took time alone with his Father despite looming demands.
Another time, Jesus spent a whole night praying alone on a mountainside before choosing his 12 apostles (Luke 6:12) and after feeding the 5,000, he sent his disciples off in a boat while he went up on the mountain alone to pray well into the night. (Matthew 14:22-23)
When Jesus’ ministry became so intense that neither he nor his disciples had time to even eat, Jesus called his disciples to a place of quiet and solitude. “And He said to them, ‘Come with Me privately to a solitary place, and let us rest for a while.’” (Mark 6:31a)
Jesus didn’t wait for life’s demands to quiet down to get alone with God. Instead, Jesus wrangled quiet time from life’s demands to get alone with God.
If Jesus needed it, surely we need it more.
What a Personal Spiritual Retreat Isn’t
Let’s first look at what not to do as you plan a personal spiritual retreat.
- A personal spiritual retreat isn’t a getaway to budget your finances, though you will look at your money and what, if anything, God is directing you to do with it.
- A personal spiritual retreat isn’t the place to finish that work project or map out business plans, though you will set your business, your ministry, your projects before God and seek his wisdom and direction in them.
- A personal spiritual retreat isn’t a weekend of self-care, mani-pedi’s and long dinners out, though this time will leave you deeply refreshed and renewed.
While setting aside time for finances, ministry plans and self-care is time well spent, a personal spiritual retreat should bring you straight to the heart of God.
A personal spiritual retreat is time between you and God to place your mind, your heart, your soul and your life fully before him and listen for his direction, conviction, wisdom and insight.
How to Plan a Personal Spiritual Retreat
These 5 things will help you create a well-designed personal retreat:
1.A large chunk of uninterrupted time.
You want undistracted and uninterrupted time by yourself. A weekend or two full days with an overnight stay is ideal. More than that and I’m missing my family; less and I haven’t been able to saturate myself in the Lord. You need to have enough time to decompress and clear away the clutter of your mind and heart and enough time to fill up with God.
2. A quiet place to get away.
I choose a local spot because I don’t want to spend the rare time I get like this driving long distances to and from a place, no matter how beautiful. My favorite spot is a small hotel on the beach about 40 minutes from my home. As a single mom of 7, I’ve also done personal retreats from sun-up to sundown at a nearby park or an off-season day at the beach when I’m vitually the only one around. Resist staying in your home even if it’s quiet because daily habits and to-do lists will start calling your name.
3. Your Bible.
This isn’t the time to finish that book on the nightstand. So often, we let Christian books filter what God says to us. Even women’s retreats, as much as I love them, fill up the time with a speaker, games and activities. This is time between you and God. Use this Personal Retreat Guide with scriptures, prompts and thoughtful questions to get you into the Word and structure your retreat time.
Time to unplug! Time to turn off all the notifications that ding and distract us. I actually unplug the television because I don’t want the temptation and I have to put my phone far, far from me and beg God to keep me focused on him. Worship music? Yes, but not constantly. A personal retreat gives us the extended quiet that’s so missing in our everyday life. In the stillness, we can pray deeply and tune our soul to hear God alone.
5. A Journal and Personal Spiritual Retreat Guide.
This is where the beauty happens. This is where we lay bare all that’s bottled up on our heart, mind and soul before God. The prompts and questions in the Personal Spiritual Retreat Guide will take you through each area of your life, helping you unlock concerns, questions, needs and hinderances.
This is where you can deep dive into the Word, spend time in prayer, ask God to examine your heart and let God reveal his direction to you.
This printable guide includes scripture, prompts and journaling space for thanksgiving, confession, worship, taking a current spiritual inventory, praying through your biggest needs, identifying your hardest struggles and sensing how God is moving in your life.
One thing’s for sure — personal time alone with God won’t just happen. Don’t wait for your calendar to clear or the world to slow down. Like Jesus, push pause on never-ending to-do list and carve out time to spend alone with God.
God will not only refresh you, God will redirect you and reveal himself in ways that are hard to hear in the crush of the world’s noise.
I’m happy to share this Personal Spiritual Retreat Guide to help you clear what’s cluttering your mind and heart and fill up on all God has for you.