Structural Elements for Retreats

“God often speaks to us in obscure ways to allow us the room and time we need to respond. He lets us know He is speaking to us but also that we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message. Perhaps we think, “God, why don’t You just say it? Tell me in detail how to live.” But we are usually full of mistaken ideas about what that would actually mean. If it actually happened, it would probably kill us or unbalance us. So God in His mercy continues to approach us obliquely. Our minds and values have to be restructured, but God speaks anyway because He appreciates our interests. As we mature, this is less so, until that time when we can safely know Him as He knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12).”

Dallas Willard in Hearing God

Many people are anxious about what they are going to do for a half day or full day retreat.  The following elements can be put together to create your half or full day retreat.

Settling In – For most of us it takes time to get settled in before we can enter into God’s presence. Here are a few suggestions.

Familiarization with the property – What space within the place you are meeting God  looks most inviting. Which chair is most comfortable?

Laying Down Burdens – Take a few minutes and write down in your notebook anything that you brought with you that is on your mind that might distract you. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Picture yourself handing these concerns over to Jesus.

Worship – For some worship helps them to prepare for their time alone. Spend some time singing a favorite hymn or chorus. Hymnals are in the book shelf in the living room.Worship is more than singing. Take some time and thank God for who He is; for what He has done in your life and in those you know. Read a Psalm like Psalm 63 and make it personal. Simply sit in front of the cross (in the upstairs bedroom); be still and softly say the Lord’s name occasionally

Confession – It is always helpful to bring before the One who loves us the things that have kept us from Him. Use Psalm 139. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you through a time of confession so as to remove blocks to hearing Him prayer.

Centering Meditation -Your Retreat leader may provide a brief meditation or a scripture to start you off.

Bring a Question before God – Choose a question that you are going to pursue. Write it out.


Give yourself at least an hour to an hour and a half to hear how God would speak to you.Write down what comes to you. Find a place either inside or outside where you can settle down. If after a half hour you are not connecting with Your heavenly Father, change positions – move to another location.

Take a long slow walk

Follow one of the trails. Listen while you walk. Talk as you walk. Be very alert and observant as to what God will show you through nature.

Take a nap

People often come on retreat totally exhausted. There is such a thing as holy rest and sleeping in God’s presence. Ask God to give to you His beloved even in your sleep. Psalm 127:2 (Note: if you are on a day retreat, please only sleep on the beds – not in them).

Sharing (when two or more are on retreat)

Share with each other what you heard. What new questions come up? Repeat the cycle of Listening apart and Sharing together.


This web site has additional Spiritual Disciplines that can be practiced while on Retreat.