Day Apart Retreat
April 2020 | Forgiveness
Well done! You’ve chosen to give a part or all of your day to spending time with God! Intentionally making space in your life for a more extended period of prayer isn’t easy in our world. The hard part is behind you!
Taking dedicated time for prayer is modeled for us through all of Scripture. It is often talked about as going into the desert or wilderness. Moses meets God in the desert, God takes Israel into the desert after Egypt to teach them about God’s self, David seeks God in the wilderness while shepherding and when fleeing from Saul, Elijah meets God there when he’s scared for his life, and Paul goes to the desert for several years after Jesus confronts him on his way to Damascus. So, we have a lot of examples of meeting God in solitude and silence.
Jesus also repeated goes to lonely and deserted places to pray. Luke says this directly in his gospel, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Lk. 5:16. As we take these hours to be alone with God and pray, we’re following after Jesus!
Things to Know
Wherever you are, however you are entering the day is fine! We don’t have to get ourselves right before we meet with God. Through Jesus sacrifice and forgiveness we are able to come to God with great confidence (Heb. 4:15-16).
God is in control of the time. Accept whatever God gives you in your time and be thankful. God may speak powerfully to you, or you may have a quiet time. Trust God that you will get what you need.
Don’t worry about your mind wandering. It happens to all of us. It might help to pay attention to where it goes and see if there is something there you need to share with God.
Being fidgety is pretty normal, too. Our bodies are use to activity, so slowing down is a discipline. It is alright to walk a bit while you’re praying. But try not to get hocked into any productive activity, i.e. cleaning the room, reading something you’ve been putting off…
You can’t get the day right or wrong. The choice you’ve made is your best intention.
Things to Have
Be sure to have your Bible, a journal or paper and pen, the retreat materials. I’d suggest printing the materials out rather than having them digitally, as the phone or computer might suck you in.
The purpose of the retreat is to listen and connect with the Lord. Stay with any question or thought that opens the door for that.
We pray you have a wonderful retreat!
Before you begin, it will be helpful to gather any materials for the retreat that will be helpful for you. i.e. Bible, journal, pen, any symbols or images like a cross or picture that connects you with God, art supplies… It would also be good to turn your phone off and put it away. That way calls won’t interrupt and the phone itself won’t distract.
We retreat today in the midst of our world being turned upside down. Something too small to see with the unaided eye has disrupted our lives. Anxiety now accompanies us on the few trips we make to the few places still open. We’re keeping distance, washing hands, and harboring suspicion and distrust for folks we don’t know. Our freedom of movement has been stripped and our freedom from fear has fled.
As people of faith, we grapple with this new threat. We believe God is greater than the coronavirus. Somehow, we need to know that God is good and loving without equating that with our own, or those we loves’, health and safety. That is easy to say but challenging to achieve.
Begin the retreat by finding a place to settle. Take several deep breaths. As you exhale, try and release any tension you are carrying in your body. Relax. Breathe in the peace of Christ.
What cares, concerns, and people do you want to entrust to God’s care today? Spend as much time as you like lifting these up to Jesus and sharing your heart with God.
How have these last weeks affected your spiritual life? Has it moved you to greater or less prayer? Greater or less faith? Take some minutes to talk with the Holy Spirit about how you’ve been affected.
What do you come seeking today? How would you like God to meet you in this time?
If it is helpful, pray through Max Lucado’s Prayer for the Pandemic (below). If you find it helpful, pray through it slowly, making it specific to yourself and your situation.
Before moving on in the retreat, sit quietly with Jesus, listening for God’s voice and being aware of God’s presence.
A Prayer for the Pandemic by Max Lucado
We’re still hoping we’ll wake up.
We’re still hoping we’ll open a sleepy eye and think,
“What a horrible dream. How could this have happened?”
Just a moment ago moms were packing school lunches.
Just a moment ago chefs were planning the day’s menu.
Just a moment ago arenas were noisy, brides were walking down the aisle and neighbors were discussing the weather.
In just a moment, everything changed.
A phantom disease invaded our peace, our plans, and our security.
In a heartbeat, our language and behaviors were upended.
Even young children understand the term “social distancing,” “quarantine,” and “Covid-19.”
Grandma isn’t allowed visitors in her nursing home.
Workers are telecommuting, Zooming, and Skyping in their baseball caps and slippers.
Handshakes and hugs have been put on indefinite hold.
This strange season has introduced a level of fear
we haven’t seen since 9/11.
Fear of what might come. Fear of touching.
Fear of exposure. Fear of what we can’t see.
We are anxious, Father. And so we come to you.
We don’t ask you for help; we beg you for it.
We don’t request; we implore. We know what you can do.
We’ve read the accounts. We’ve pondered the stories
and now we plead, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again.”
Remember Joseph? You rescued him from the pit.
You can do the same for us. Do it again, Lord.
Remember the Hebrews in Egypt?
You protected their children from the angel of death.
We have children, too, Lord. Do it again.
And Sarah? Remember her prayers? You heard them.
Joshua? Remember his fears? You inspired him.
The women at the tomb? You resurrected their hope.
The doubts of Thomas? You took them away.
Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
You changed Daniel from a captive into a king’s counselor.
You took Peter the fisherman and made him Peter an apostle.
Because of you, David went from leading sheep to leading armies.
Do it again, Lord, for we need counselors today, Lord.
We need apostles. We need leaders. Do it again, dear Lord.
What we’re seeing on the news, you saw on that Friday so long ago.
Innocence interrupted. Goodness suffering.
Just as the darkness fell on your Son,
we fear the darkness falling on our friends, our family, our world.
Just as our world has been shaken by a disease,
our world was shaken the day the very child of Eternity was pierced.
You saw it. But you did not waver, O Lord. You did not waver.
After your Son’s three days in a dark hole,
you rolled the rock and rumbled the earth
and turned the darkest Friday into the brightest Sunday.
Do it again, Lord. Grant us another Easter.
We thank you, dear Father, for these hours of unity.
Selfless acts of service and kindness warm our hearts.
Strangers see opportunities to share with others.
Our medical warriors are working together, at personal risk,
to care for the rest of us.
We thank you for their remarkable commitment.
And we see the world turning to you, Father.
People encouraging people with scriptures
and reminders of your sovereignty.
We read posts urging us to respect each other, care for each other, and look up.
We confess we have been anxious, but because of you, we have hope.
We ask, Father: let your mercy be upon all who suffer.
Grant to those who lead us wisdom beyond their years and experience.
Have mercy upon the souls who have been hurt by this disease.
Give us grace to help each other and faith that we might believe.
And look kindly upon your church. For two thousand years, you’ve used her to heal a hurting world.
Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
Day Apart | Forgiveness
The topic of our retreat today is forgiveness. In Lent we focus on recognizing our need for a Savior and our propensity for turning away from relationship with God. At the same time, we want to be aware of the stress we are experiencing from the coronavirus. So our choice of passage offers both hope and the awareness of our need for forgiveness.
Read the passage slowly several times and pay attention to how the Spirit speaks to you from it. This prayer is very familiar and dearly loved. But God will say new things to you today through it.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
What speaks to you as you read this text today? What is Jesus saying to you? Is there a felt need that you have that it is addressing?
What comfort do you find in the prayer? Does praying for God’s will to be done settling or unsettling for you?
If daily bread represents all our physical needs, what needs that you have does it cover today?
The version we’re most familiar with says, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Have you experienced any increased intensity in temptations since the crisis began or after the “Stay At Home” order? It is very normal during times of stress to find our temptations asserting themselves with renewed vigor. God understands our weakness and has placed our sin upon Jesus.
Are there ways you’ve wanted your will to be done or a result in life that you’re not sure God will provide? If so, now if a great time to talk with God about this and to confess this to him.
There also may be some persistent ways or themes where you desire your own will over God’s. If any come to mind, it would be good to pray about those now, too.
Are there any obstacles you face to believing and receiving God’s forgiveness? For many of us we can’t forgive ourselves and therefore can’t make room in our souls for God’s forgiveness. If you have this obstacle, spend time sharing your remorse and feelings about yourself with Jesus.
If you have time before you finish, sit with God and be quiet in God’s presence. Ask for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Day Apart | Christlikeness
How are you growing in Christlikeness? The expectation of Scripture is that we, as God’s children, are being shaped over the course of our lives, to reflect the character of God. In the passage below, Paul give us one of his lists of godly qualities. As you read it, reflect on how each of them is expressed in your life.
Pay attention to the section on forgiveness. How might forgiveness find a home in our hearts if the characteristics listed before are present in us? And how might the qualities that follow from a forgiving soul?
Read the passage several times slowly. Pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s work of making words or phrases more prominent in your reading.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
From the lists that Paul gives us in this passage, which attitudes can you identify most easily in your life at this point?
If you reflect on the different areas of your life; home, work, church… do you find the same attitudes in you in each location, or are they different in different places? If different, what in you brings about the different responses?
In this strange season that we’re in with the coronavirus, how might you nurture these Christlike qualities in yourself and those around you?
Note that Paul’s first list qualities, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and bearing with one another are primarily others-centered traits. They are followed immediately by the charge to forgive one another. Paul bases this forgiveness on our experience of Christ’s forgiveness. Who are the people you have a complaint against or about? Forgiveness may express itself in behaving toward them with the previous set of traits and cultivating our heart attitudes toward them.
Paul calls us to “let the peace of Christ rule” in our hearts? What was Christ’s peace based on? What rules your heart?
Are there people or circumstances that come to mind, where you have lived more in the earthly attitudes rather than Christlikeness? Would confession to the individual(s) help free you and move you toward Christlikeness?
Envision your home, church, and neighborhood if you were to “clothe yourselves” as Paul calls us to. How would you be different? How would those communities be different?