Augustine once said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I recently preached at Redeeming Life Church on the Discipline of Solitude and a large part of my understanding of solitude has been formed by the practice of taking a monthly Personal Retreat Day (PRD).
PRD's were first introduced to me by some godly leaders at Impact Campus Ministries when I was on staff with them for a few years. It was a requirement for every staff member to take one day a month and spend the majority of that day cultivating intimacy with God through silence, solitude, rest, prayer and fasting while being alone with God.
To be honest, this was hard at first because my soul was not used to "doing nothing" for such an extended period of time. The more I practiced PRD's the more and more I couldn't wait for the next one! I tasted the sweet joy of being alone with God with no distractions, no to-do lists, and no agenda. It quickly became one of the most important spiritual disciplines I practice even to this day.
Because disciplines like solitude, silence, and prayer don't get talked about much in some Christian circles, I'd like to offer three reasons why I think you should take a monthly PRD, whether you're in ministry or not.
1. Jesus Modeled It
If anyone could have justified not needing a PRD, it would have been Jesus. Yet, interestingly, as we read the gospels we see that Jesus was regularly practicing the disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer. (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).
In Luke 5:15-16 (NIV) it says that Jesus "often" withdrew to desolate places to pray. Clearly, this was a habit for Jesus and it almost always included prayer time between just Him and the Father.
If Jesus needed one on one time with the Father on a very regular and consistent basis, how much more do you and I?
In John 11, we also see that Jesus does not operate under the same rhythms for time and pace as the rest of the world. What looks like laziness or even neglect, was actually the perfect timing of Jesus. This drove the disciples crazy yet we see that Jesus' ways always provided the better outcome.
Therefore, if Jesus was ruthlessly eliminating hurry from his life and ministry, should we?
2. Scripture Teaches It
In Psalm 46:10, we find a verse that definitely goes "against the grain" of our culture yet in this verse we see a simple and profound truth of how silence and solitude is relevant to our busy lives.
“Be Still...” – this is a command to temporarily stop moving, stop speaking, and to eliminate distractions. In our tech savvy world, this one seems impossible, right? But if we value the authority of the Bible, we should take note that it's not a suggestion, it's a command. Are we willing to do what's hard to gain the better things of God?
"...know that I am God” – once we've actually stopped long enough to remove the distractions and actually "be still" then we're actually able to acknowledge, adore and worship God, reflect on who we are in relation to Him, and enjoy listening to Him and being with Him.
So, what does the Enemy want us to do and believe instead of the truth of this psalm?
- Be busy, and forget that He is God
- Be busy, and think that you are God
- Be busy, and never know that He is God
The context of this Psalm is one that paints a picture of God being our refuge, our strength, our fortress, and One who promises to always be with us. Everything we need can be found in the presence of our good and gracious Father. Yet how often are we "too busy" to spend this kind of unhurried time with Him? When was the last time you were intentionally silent and alone with God in order to meditate on God, the gospel, and how good of a Father He is?
3. Your Soul Needs It
Our cell phones, and the technology in them, have radically changed the pace of our lives forever. Because of this, it is entirely possible to be reached and available virtually 24/7. While there are benefits to this, it's also dangerous.
If we never disconnect from the temporary busyness of life we'll never be able to meditate on and pray about things that truly matter: eternal things (Colossians 3, Psalm 62).
We were designed by God to live with Him and in harmony with the rhythms of life He has established. The rhythm of creation shows us this in the rhythm of Sabbath. If we're not mindful of these holy rhythms, our soul and our physical life suffers.
THE FRUIT OF PRD'S
Once again, there is no "silver bullet" to a spiritual growth but rather it's a lifelong journey of dependence, trust, and intentionality. By the grace of God, He gives us the strength we need to do what we could never do on our own: mature into Christ-likeness.
As we practice PRD's here are a few fruits that I've seen in myself and in others along the way:
1. Greater dependence and intimacy with God (John 15, Psalm 1)
2. Our soul finds peace, rest, and satisfaction in His presence (Psalm 62)
3. A greater awareness of the transforming power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18, 30
4. A greater awareness of the blessings and hope that we have because of the gospel
Here are a few possible applications that I believe may help you work up to taking a PRD if you're not quite there yet. Remember, the goal is progress not perfection; quality over quantity. Anything worth doing is worth starting small.
- Use the time on the commute to pray, worship, listen, or simply sit in silence
- Get up early, before the kids/family, spend 10-60 minutes alone with God
- Stay up late after everyone goes to bed and be alone with God for 10-60 minutes
- Go for a walk by yourself and enjoy being with God
- Go to a park, sit somewhere and be alone with God; watch the sunset/sunrise
- Take an overnight camping trip by yourself to a secluded area
For the Kingdom,