The Importance of Spiritual Retreats
A few days after I’d written my last post, ‘What I Loved About Creation Fest 2015’, I realised that I had missed something. One of the greatest things about it, which I didn’t realise until later, was that it gave me time to think. Even though I was busy in the Kids Tent, and with my own kids, I was able to see the big picture of my life with regard to eternity.
I think just the fact that I was getting away and serving God helped me to put everything into perspective and be reminded of what is really important. And that has reminded me of how helpful it us for us to take some reflection time and retreat spiritually.
We get so busy with our day to day lives, that it’s almost like we’re stuck in a tunnel – just seeing what is right in front of us. But God calls us to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). I think one of the best ways to do this is to go away for some time and reflect and pray. It doesn’t necessarily have to be going away for a retreat – even just going for regular walks to pray can do the same thing.
When I was a student at university in Dundee I would regularly take my bike and cycle to Invergowrie, a little village nearby, and then walk around there and think and pray. Invergowrie had a special place in my heart because it was where Robert Murray M’Cheyne would go and pray – and he has been my hero for a long time, ever since I read his biography! (If you want some inspiration you should read it J)This is what his biography says:
‘During his first years in Dundee, he often rode out in an afternoon to the ruined church of Invergowrie, to enjoy an hour’s perfect solitude; for he felt meditation and prayer to be the very sinews of his work.’
When Jesus started to get busy with people crowding around him, this is what it says he did:
He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Luke 5:16
And at another time it says:
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. Mark 1:35
Here are some suggestions from my experience of how we can do this:
- Try to set a regular time to get away from everything and pray, whether that’s in your closet or walking outside. I personally find walks in God’s creation a lot better for this, as I can see God in everything around me, and I can talk aloud to Him whereas it always feels strange praying out loud in private! Since having kids it is more difficult to do that, so I have to be creative and settle for praying in my room more often 🙂
- Go away to something where you will get a lot of spiritual input. Things like retreats, Christian festivals and places where you are serving God in some way are great for this. The spiritual input means that it will keep your mind on the things of God, and you can usually fit in some prayer and reflection as well.
- When you have this time, pray about your life as a whole, and try and get God’s perspective on it. Remember His priorities – like seeking first His kingdom and righteousness – and be open to changing your mind about things in your life if He wants you to. Try and get to the point where you can trust God that He knows best and be able to say, ‘Not my will, but yours, Lord’ – like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- If you are really busy and tired, try to get some rest. I have found that often rest and renewal will help me get back to where I should be if I have my heart and desires in the right place, and it will free up my mind to start thinking again about what is important.
Do you have any other suggestions for stepping back and getting God’s perspective? Please share in the comments if you do!
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