Drawing from Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s book entitled “Living Forward,” (Click here to preview the book), the Lord impressed on me that the best way to stay focused spiritually is to develop an action plan.
Many people are frustrated that they don’t seem to hear from God, and yet they never take specific steps to change that. Since we have a biblical promise that believers can hear him (John 10:27), it’s up to us to listen. If you are among those who aren’t as disciplined about maintaining quiet times, or if you simply want to improve your existing relationship with God, this strategy is for you.
As we begin a new year and a new era, I want to challenge you to pull out your calendar, block off at least an hour or two of time in the near future (a half-day would be even better), and do a “mini” prayer retreat. The goal of your retreat is to create an action plan that will help you see exactly how you can improve your relationship with God.
Here’s what your personal mini-retreat might look like:
Why Do a "Mini" Prayer Retreat?
Because they are so powerful, I hold prayer retreats on a regular basis each year. Schedules and priorities change, and it is helpful to get away and “take inventory” to see where my spiritual resources are weak or depleted, and what areas need growth or change. Even disciplined believers with regular quiet times need a chance to evaluate occasionally what is working and whether they are moving closer to their ultimate goal of life-giving communication with God in every area of life.
For example, one of the things I have noticed (and write about frequently here on my blog) is my tendency to allow notifications on my phone to distract me from my focus. (Click here to read my thoughts on smartphones.) Looking at the retreat outline above, that habit falls under the category of my “present reality.”
However, the kind of future I envision with God is similar to the one I cultivate with friends: if I am having a conversation with someone, I put the phone away and focus on the relationship. I’d like to be more consistent in really listening to God, and this can’t happen when I’m pulled away by phone calls or emails every few minutes.
So to reach the goal of giving God my full attention, my specific action plan includes waiting until my quiet time is over before turning on my phone, and – to increase my focus during the day – returning to just a few set times daily when I check email and messages. I have learned that very few alerts on that phone demand my immediate attention, no matter how loud or persistent they seem!
A second priority for me is increasing the amount of prayer time I spend listening to God. It is easy – and sometimes tempting – to read the Word, send up a few personal requests for the day, and then move on. My richest quiet times, however, come when I allow God the time to speak in return, quietly journaling what I hear Him saying to me, or even taking the time to meditate more deeply on the scripture verses He “highlights” to me as I read.
Tithe Your Time
If the idea of doing a mini prayer retreat interests you, I want to ask you to make a commitment to God right now to schedule that time – before you close this page and move on to the next things in your day! It is much easier to move forward spiritually when you set aside just a little time at the outset to create a plan and stay focused.
My mission, and the mission of His Inscriptions, is to Restore Life-giving Communication with God. If you decide to use the prayer retreat outline above, I’d love to hear how it works for you.
Where to Do A Mini Prayer Retreat
If you live in the New England area and need a quiet place to do a spiritual retreat, there are many options. The Sanctuary at Woodville, in Hopkinton, MA, has space for individual or corporate prayer retreats, as well as beautiful trails you can hike around a lake. (Bonus: It’s stunning in the Fall!) You can find more information here.
L’Abri is another well-known resource for Christians, with retreat centers in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Canada, England, Australia, Switzerland, Korea, and even Brazil. Guests spend half of each day in self-directed study and the other half working in the community. Dinnertime conversations and lectures are always spiritually focused and very enlightening! I have enjoyed many pleasant hours in both the American and Swiss Alps retreat houses. More info here.
For a large database of retreat centers in the Northeast (note: not all are Christian), click here for the RetreatFinder site. To connect online with others who pray, I highly recommend Pray.Network’s website, which also lists nationwide prayer events.
Lastly, check with churches in your local area for prayer rooms that are open to anyone wishing to use them. It is a rare church that will turn away someone who wants to invest time in prayer! These settings are usually quiet and conducive to personal reflection.
One Final Note
You can download your own print-ready copy of the Mini Prayer Retreat strategy here. For more on the Living Forward book, including life-plan templates, visit the website here. I pray the Lord will use this simple, strategic idea to help you renew your relationship with Him!