I was recently talking to a friend whose daughters were going to stay with family for a week and she would have some time to herself after work each day. There were lots of things she could do like we all could when we find ourselves with our children at a summer camp or VBS for a few hours. My default is to get caught up on house projects, or do some cleaning or organizing. But, what if you intentionally used moments like that for a mini prayer retreat instead? Maybe kids attending summer camp or sleepovers has given you a few days without your children. Or maybe you’re like me with teens or young adults who are rarely home and you have some mornings or afternoons home by yourself. Or maybe you’re an empty-nester, or maybe you have younger children but have a babysitter who would love to give you and afternoon to pray. Whatever your situation, if you can carve out time, it is well worth trying to use part of it seeking God. Let’s walk through what it might look like in detail.
Preparing for your retreat
Before the retreat day or days, get things set up. Treat this mini retreat as you would if you were preparing to go on vacation. Deal with things as much as possible so you can be fully present.
Figure out your meals. It might be making breakfast ahead (I love this recipe as it’s super easy to pop in the oven in the morning.) for you and your family, or maybe just getting a mental idea of lunch or dinner. Get anything out of the freezer if you need to and figure it out so you don’t get distracted wondering what you’re going to feed everyone.
Pre-plan. Delegate tasks, move appointments, cancel things that you absolutely do not have to do. Make space for this retreat as if you’re going out of town.
Tidy up. If you have an overflowing laundry hamper, throw in a load. If there’s a mess in the room you’ll be spending most of your time praying in, tidy up. Don’t get distracted with organizing or deep cleaning, just remove any visual clutter or distractions that might sidetrack you.
Clear out your head. Sit down with a paper and pen (not your phone, because you won’t have it nearby when you’re starting your retreat!) and make a list of all the things that you need to remember that will bounce around in your head if you don’t write them down. There are ALWAYS things that pop into my head when I’m trying to pray. My mind has a habit of digging into the deep recesses of shopping lists and errands and waving them around in my head when I’m trying to focus. In fact, praying is pretty much a sure way to remember the thing you are forgetting. Get on top of it by making a list and then keeping it handy so you can add to it as you pray when more come up!
Set up your station. When I’ve done a prayer retreat, I have a specific place that I pray. It’s comfy, but not too comfy, it’s well lit, and I set it up with all that I might need. I keep my list of things I made earlier, sticky notes, pens and pencils, my Bible, my prayer binder, a timer. (Important because your phone will not be near you when you start. Get a wind up timer, or just use your stove or microwave timer, but no phone!) I also have a book I’ll be reading (I try to read either a book on prayer or one that focuses on whatever I’m going to pray over, more about that next). If you want to go all out, set out a pretty vase of flowers or a good smelling candle. I also like to have YouTube up on my TV with either soft music or beach waves. Add a water bottle or cup of coffee or tea, and maybe a favorite snack.
Remove distractions. Make a plan for removing any phone, tablet, laptop or computer distractions. I powered down my computer, put away the laptop, shut off my tablet, and put my phone in the room farthest from where I was praying. Set it on do not disturb at least for your prayer time.
Find your focus. Are you going to be praying for your family? For direction in a new season in life? For your church? For a particularly hard situation? Think through what you’ll focus on (this helps me not get overwhelmed with all that I could possibly pray about) and find a book that will also encourage you. It might be a book of the Bible, or it might be another book or a commentary. Try to make it a book you already have that you’ve been meaning to read if at all possible. If you don’t really have a book that would apply, do you have a book on prayer or the gospel or God? If not, focus on reading through a section of Psalms or Psalm 119.
What to do. Here’s how I did my prayer retreat with great success. I planned to pray for 15 minutes at the top of every hour. If you can do longer, do longer; if you’re new to praying maybe plan 5 or 10 minutes but push yourself a bit! After the timer went off for my prayer time, I’d reset the timer for the rest of the hour. For me that was 45 minutes. During that time I’d read, pausing to pray if I wanted to, pace, kneel, and talk to God. (I also close my blinds and doors so that it looks like I’m not at home so any solicitors or neighbors will hopefully just leave if I don’t come to the door.) And, yes, on the longer retreats that was also sometimes used to nap or just sit and think
Here is a detailed post from when I have done this previously that you might find helpful. But, whatever your life looks like, search for some hidden pockets of time where you could squeeze in a prayer retreat, even if that retreat is only an hour or part of a day. If you plan it, prep for it, and prioritize it, it will be a great help and it will be such a blessing!
Now, go forth and do the thing! (and let me know if you do!)