The gospels tell us that Jesus frequently went on retreat. Before his public ministry began he spent 40 days in prayer. The Gospels record how Jesus often went off alone to pray (Mark 1:35) and at other times told his disciples; ‘Let’s get away from the crowds for a while and rest’ (Mark 6:31).
When Jesus broke into Paul’s life as he travelled to Damascus to persecute Christians he told him to go into the city, where he would be told what to do. For three days Paul fasted from food and water as he waited to receive the spiritual direction of Ananias (Acts 9:1-9). Those, three days were a retreat as Paul waited to hear what God wanted to do with him next.
From our founder’s example to the present day the pattern of taking a retreat is a recurring and vital thread.
Modern life can be highly pressured and hectic, leading many to feel burnt out. We ignore God’s creation principles of taking a Sabbath Day to stop, rest and be recreated at our peril. Regularly taking time out not to do – but just to ‘be’ with God, to stop, withdraw from the everyday and to spend time to rest before we go again is wise and godly.
Prioritising a day or longer to spend time in silence, reflection, confession and meditation means slowing down and stopping, which some consider a luxury, but by stopping we can gain so much, above all by experiencing a refreshment in our soul, body and mind.
Avoid taking books to read, just a Bible and a notebook and pen is all you need. Anything more and you will not stop but find yourself working through a book, making lots of notes and missing on the value of stopping for a long pause.
To retreat means leaving your normal location and activities to go to a place of safety, quiet, and seclusion. By going to a retreat, we physically remove ourselves from life’s distractions, the call of chores, and the demands of people in order to make space for God.
Look for a retreat setting that fosters an atmosphere of silence, not as a penance, but so that listening to God’s Holy Spirit is easier. The aim should be to get to know God and yourself better by stopping and listening.
If you own a Smart phone the thought of even half a day let alone 24 hours or more with your phone switched off may terrify you. But no emails, texts, tweets or other social media will reduce distractions and make it easier to tune into listening to God’s still small voice and gain fresh perspective.
Dr Micha Jazz leads participants on Premier organised retreats called ‘Be Still & Know’ to discover and grow in silence and meditation. Many Christians, particularly in 21st century Britain find silence intimidating. You might want to choose this or similar guided retreats that offer a beginner’s guide to going on retreat. Micha Jazz will equip you with practical advice including breathing exercises, divina lectio (divine/spiritual reading) and spending time in silence and meditation.
I attended a Be Still & Know retreat recently and was amazed at how quickly 60 minutes of silence zoomed by when I put Micha’s principles to work. I’m someone who finds the idea of silence and meditation challenging and potentially a bore. But the day gave me a healthy appetite to spend more time apart with God exploring spiritual disciplines like silence and meditation. I met many others at this retreat who were similarly enthused and equipped to dig deeper.
Attending a guided retreat can do just that – provide practical help and guidance which you can then take and use in the future, giving you the confidence and practical spiritual tools to take further retreats on your own.
Some years ago when my wife and I told some friends at church we were about to attend a weekend course on ‘enriching your marriage’ they looked concerned and asked if we were okay. Some people assume the same about retreats – that you only go if you are in trouble, but in fact, it’s a sign of a balanced approach which seeks to enrich and protect your relationship with God. Sure, some people use it as a last resort, but the normal Christian life should include retreat as a regular and healthy part of living and growing in faith.
So retreat to make progress, withdraw to face the challenges of modern life, stop to make a fresh start, listen to gain fresh perspective and take time away from the crowds because Jesus, our great example and pattern did.
Be Still & Know One Day Premier Retreats facilitated by Dr Micha Jazz are taking place in Hampshire, Nottingham, Bath, Birmingham and Oxford between March and July, with further dates and venues to come. For further details and to book your place visit here.
Written by: Steven Grimmer
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