The following suggestions may help you plan your own spiritual retreat.
Daily Living Retreat
A Blueprint for Living
Do you have a plan for how you will live your life that zeros in on the spiritual dimensions? Some of the “giants of the faith” down through the centuries developed a personal set of practices or rhythms they very deliberately set out to make an integral part of how they lived. Often called a “rule of life,” it commonly read like a list of practices the person committed to follow.
This retreat is about developing such a blueprint for living for oneself. Clearly personal, it is for nobody else’s use but yours. Grounded in personal prayer, consideration of practices others have found productive, and exploration of the personal impact of such practices, this weekend retreat can be the beginning of a new direction for living.
This retreat is especially appropriate for someone who has attended a previous retreat or two, or is already familiar with the spiritual disciplines.
Discerning God’s Desires for Us
Living according to God’s will for our lives is an ongoing process that is grounded in our relationship with God. It involves cultivating a life of recognizing and responding to God’s presence in all aspects of our lives.
Central to this process for many people is a continuing process of self-examination not morbid introspection, but prayerful reflection on how they are living their life. Reflection on the past is a beginning point for recognizing God’s desires for our future.
Down through the centuries, followers of Christ have followed a variety of practices to foster this relationship with God, including ones that have carried such names as the examen of consciousness, the examen of conscience, and discernment.
This retreat is about adopting such practices, and putting them into use. The retreat will include times of prayer and meditation linked to times of following some of these practices.
This retreat has a focus on personal prayer and the practical aspects of life.
Prayer: Our Relationship with God
Prayer is not just a formal activity that occurs at a designated time and place; it is every way we communicate and share ourselves with God. Through prayer in its many forms our intimacy with God deepens. This retreat is intended to foster this intimacy by experiencing many approaches to prayer and considering how this desired intimacy with God can become more of an ongoing part of one’s daily life.
Students of scripture and prayer practices have come up with different categories of prayer. Richard Foster, in his book on prayer, for example, describes 21 different forms of prayer that vary in form, setting and intent.
Some prayer is beyond words; prayer without audible words that takes many forms and fits into different parts of our life. When described as a specific form of prayer, common descriptive terms used today for such prayer include interior prayer, prayer of the heart, centering prayer, unceasing prayer, contemplative prayer or simply silent prayer. Participants in the retreat will be given an opportunity to experience such forms of prayer, generally as an individual, but also with a chance to discuss their experience later with others.
Upon examining descriptions of prayer in the Bible, we see that prayer can be experienced as part of all of life. The goal of this retreat is to experience many forms of prayer and begin a process of making it an ongoing and all-encompassing part of our lives.
Scripture Reading Retreat
Reading Scripture for Transformation
While Christians take the Bible seriously, they do not all approach it in the same way. Some, for example, study the Bible to gain information or knowledge. They are seeking detailed information about biblical events, the practices of the early church, or doctrines of the faith. Such knowledge, of course, may or may not have an impact upon how one lives, which ought to be the central priority. The serious disciple of Jesus Christ is not reading the Bible just for information, but also for transformation of his or her life.
Some go to the Bible to solve a pressing and immediate need. They are in search of healing, comfort, forgiveness, or another special need they see in their lives. But we must go deeper. We must approach Scripture in humility and repentance not just to meet what we see as a need, but to open ourselves to being transformed in the totality of our lives. We need to approach the Bible not just for information, or a solution to a pressing need, but for transformation.
This retreat will center on experiencing Scripture in this manner. It will include various ways of reading Scripture, meditating on it, praying it, and making it the core of our being. We will read the Bible to foster a life of intimacy with God reading to engage the heart, not just the head.
In this retreat we will practice engaging the Bible in a variety of ways that serve this purpose. We also will consider individually as well in dialog with others how such use of Scripture can become an ongoing and deep part of our lives.
Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines
Burned out? Unending busyness? Spiritual dryness? While modern life seems to lead in this direction, such conditions are not inevitable. A life in true relationship with God is possible in the midst of the normal stresses of life. Wanting to keep company with God is the point of beginning.
Since New Testament times have linked their desire to keep company with Jesus with various practices and experiences which have been kept down through the centuries. Often called spiritual disciplines, they include having periods of silence and solitude, as well as engaging in prayer, meditation, fasting, personal examination, service, worship, and many other practices. In and of themselves, these practices do not earn us credits with God; they can, however, lead us to take notice of God and begin to respond to His presence.
The intent of this retreat is to provide an introduction to the broad sweep of spiritual disciplines and engage in the actual practice of a select few during the retreat. In particular, attention will be given to reading scripture for personal transformation (rather than for information), approaches to prayer, and discernment. The retreat is designed to help a person begin such practices, start their long-term pursuit, and begin a process of incorporating numerous disciplines into life.
The retreat will be individually tailored to each person present; it will not be conducted as if the practice of the spiritual disciplines is the same for everyone. Yet the spiritual disciplines generally are practiced in community and in a retreat there can be a community context for practice of the disciplines.
The Joy of Sabbath
The Sabbath is a great gift to us, but a gift that in our modern society is largely spurned. Keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments and we should think of it as such a commandment to be kept. But it is also a great gift, a gift we can receive only by living in a certain way, i.e., by keeping the Sabbath.
Keeping the Sabbath is about establishing a rhythm of work and rest, indulging in wasting time with God, being free of a to-do list for a day, convincing ourselves busyness is not the route to holiness, and reveling in our relationship with friends and God. But few and especially those engaged in serving the community of faith find it easy to receive the joy of this gift from God.
This retreat is about experiencing the joy of Sabbath. It includes some aspects of Sabbath itself, some how-to-do-it hints for keeping Sabbath in the midst of our frenetic society, expressions of the joy some others have found in the Sabbath, insights on how real Sabbath deepens our intimacy with God, and an opportunity to dialog with others about the joys and difficulties of keeping the Sabbath. Its about finding that weekly day that rests the body, replenishes the spirit and restores the soul.