Spiritual Retreats

Spiritual retreats can take different forms but the heart of the spiritual retreat is to make space to encounter and hear from God in a fresh way. When life is full and work is busy, it can be easy to feel blown about by competing demands and the chaos of everyday life; spiritual retreats are a way of taking a step out of the mess in order to recenter on God.

Plan Your retreat

Choose your location

Think a few places you love to spend time—places that, as soon as you arrive, you begin to feel a lightness of spirit (the woods, the beach, a coffee shop, your favorite chair). Which of these places might work for your prayer retreat?

Choose a Date

Taking into account regular seasons in our church life and your own life (New Year, leadership community retreat, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, summer vacations, small group semesters, Advent, Christmas, etc.), when would be most beneficial for you to take your prayer retreat? Actually schedule the day—well in advance. (Be sure to clear it with your supervisor so that you feel entirely free to disengage from work on that day.)

planning the Date

An entire day of prayer can feel daunting. The best way to avoid feeling a kind of pressure when you wake up on your day of prayer is to have a simple plan for the day. (Of course, you should also feel free to deviate from this plan in favor of wherever you sense the Spirit leading.)  

Report Back

This is an opportunity -- not a requirement -- for you to engage deeper with your prayer retreat. Commit to sharing with your spouse, good friend, small group, or supervisor how you experienced God on the retreat. Consider sharing what God showed you during your prayer retreat by leading the devotional at staff meeting or a noon prayer session. It may also be helpful to write a one-page reflection/recap.

A few words about technology, distractions, and fasting

Most of us live in a Wi-Fi/smartphone world that assumes 24-7 access to everything. We have access to email, social media, web surfing, texting, people, information, and innumerable distractions at any moment of the day or night. This is both a great gift and a significant burden of our age.

Please carefully consider how you will use technology during your prayer retreat. If you are like most people, you may experience mild external pressure to remain connected. But more than likely the deeper challenge will be your own internal pressure to stay connected. Please consider what the following might do to enhance your experience during your prayer retreat:

  • Refrain from checking email when you wake up, before you leave, or at all during your retreat.
  • Consider leaving your laptop and/or tablet at home.
  • Turn off your cell phone (or switch to “airplane mode” if you are using it to listen to audio files).

Generally doing these things only requires a small effort of will and a little extra planning: download sound files ahead of time, print necessary documents, bring a print Bible rather than using the one on your phone or tablet, agree on a contact number in case of emergency (or that you will turn your phone on at 4pm), etc. Again, remember to let your supervisor and co-workers know when you will be on a prayer retreat so that they will know you are inaccessible that day.

The idea of a food fast during your prayer retreat may have occurred to you. While there is certainly merit to this idea, the question of a technology fast is potentially more important. Please consider it carefully.


  • Pray as You Go: Pray-as-you-go.org (Jesuits in Britain) offers a daily, guided scripture reflection in audio (web or podcast) form. Additionally, they offer several guided reflections based on the Examen, Stations of the Cross, etc.
  • Daily Reflection
  • Audio Examen of Conscience
  • Stations of the Cross (Scripture-based meditations on the Passion of Jesus, broken into ten roughly 10 minute audio files)


  • How to Plan a Retreat of Silence, from InterVarsity
  • Devotionals from The Dallas Willard Center -- frequently updated 30-90 minute devotional exercises that can be incorporated into a day of stillness
  • Personal prayer retreats from prayertoday.org