How to Plan a Prayer Retreat
Anyone else feel like they are running 100 miles per hour this year? Perhaps it’s just me. I realized something needed to change when I lashed out on my husband in the middle of the afternoon while the baby was screaming and we were discussing our budget. I had one of those complete and total meltdowns where I forced myself into the shower to cry and just be by myself. I realized that something was wrong in that moment, that I was being robbed of the abundant life that Jesus promises His followers.
This last year and a half has been exciting, adventurous, scary and testing all at the same time. As many of you know, my husband and I quit our jobs last year and moved across the country with a 2-month-old newborn to plant a new model of churches. I am still processing a lot before completely sharing that journey but I realized that through all the planning, moving, change and responsibilities – I needed time alone with God.
I decided to go on a prayer retreat and went to Facebook to find suggestions. Many people suggested “Christian retreat centers” but I didn’t feel like they were the right fit. I didn’t want to fill my afternoons with seminars, healing workshops, and gatherings but needed solitude, silence and time to just think. I decided to go on a little bit of a different route. I prayed and asked God to help me find a place that fits “me”. I’m not the outdoorsy, wildlife girl but I enjoy crisp white sheets, massages, and water. After much research, I found an Adult-Only Retreat Resort in Palm Springs called “Two Bunch Palms.” I confirmed the dates with my husband, booked two nights, and packed my things.
During the drive over, I immediately started to feel nervous and emotional. I listened to a podcast by Bill Johnson and kept getting stuck in traffic. At that point I decided to do a Facebook Live Video to share what was in store.
As I started to share, I realized that I was scared to address some of the things in my heart. I knew that I had been harboring trauma from the move, unforgiveness, bitterness, and so much more. I was desperate for Jesus to heal these areas but didn’t even know where to start. I was scared to be alone for 3 days and 2 nights. I kinda hate being alone. I was scared to unplug from social media, especially being someone whose entire income is based on being on social media (Nyc-Collective.com).
When I arrived at the resort, I checked in and immediately felt peace. I knew that it was time to address these hidden areas of my heart. My check-in wasn’t for a few more hours so I decided to have lunch and change into a bathing suit and visit the pool.
Over the course of the next three days I read:
Secrets of the Secret Place
Driven by Eternity
and The Passion Translation Bible
*You can find all of these books here
As my day casually switched from reading, journaling, praying, walking, swimming and eating I felt my heart being unraveled and healed over and over again. As I read Driven by Eternity, I found myself sitting in the grotto crying and asking God to forgive me for gossiping. Usually, I would stop there, but I decided to push further and ask God to show me why I even gossiped and address the core issues in my heart and not just symptoms.
I treated myself to a prenatal massage followed by a delicious dinner for one. I felt my insecurities rise to the service as I sat at the table with no one to talk to. I decided to sit and pray, to savor every bite and not rush through it, to thank God for this opportunity. As each day passed, I made lists of people I needed to forgive whether the pain was justified or not. I asked God to speak to me again about His promises for my life and to give me the strength to continue being a fore-runner in the model of church that we are called to.
The resort that I happened to choose was a bit “new age-y” and I am someone that is extremely spiritually sensitive. However, as an evangelist, I always feel a certain sense of purpose being in those environments and actually flourish there (once I get past my fears). God created several opportunities for me to share about His Kingdom and I felt myself becoming alive again, not out of religious obligation but of this burning within me of who God has called me to be. A light in dark places. One evening I woke up at 2 am from a terrible nightmare and turned the lights on and started to pray. I opened my Bible and decided to read all of Matthew. During this half asleep stupor, the Word became alive to me more than ever before. I started to see the heart of God for people in ways I had never seen.
I highly suggest planning a prayer retreat – alone – if you feel like you are hitting a roadblock in your faith. Instead of complaining or giving up, get away with God! One of my favorite verses says:
Matthew 11:29-30The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
This is such a good reminder that sometimes we need to get away with God. We need to learn how to live the life that we are called to. You are worth the investment. You can’t change the world if your grumbling every right and left turn and barely hanging on!
Some suggestions for your prayer retreat:
- Ask God where you should go – mountains, a cruise, a retreat center, etc. He knows how you rest, listen to his leading!
- Go by yourself if possible – this will force you to pray, read and journal when you want to just chat and process with other people.
- Turn off your phone or have designated phone time so you can really shut off.
- Bring a paper Bible that you can write in and a journal that you can process what is happening.
- Bring 2-3 books with you – Ask God what books you should bring.
- If possible, pray and fast before you go. Anytime I have fasted before getting alone with God, my breakthrough has been exponential.
- Try to go once a year. You need it. It doesn’t have to be a long trip – it can be just a weekend. Save up and make it a priority to get your heart and spirit right.