For more than 20 years, an annual—sometimes twice a year—prayer retreat has been a major boon to my prayer life. What began as an act of desperation and concern for my teenage son has since become a major factor in my growth in grace and survival in faith. Still, it is hard to express why I keep taking a prayer retreat, and why I look forward to it with such joy and anticipation. But the following list, of ten good reasons to take a prayer retreat, are a good start.
1. For a change of scenery
Sometimes a simple change of scenery—especially if it allows you to spend time in nature—can lift your spirits, refresh your soul and renew your prayer life.
2. To get away from distractions
Daily life—internet, laundry, kids—can easily get in the way of prayer. A prayer retreat of almost any length can push the “reset” button for you.
3. To experience silence and solitude
When did you last spend time alone? When did you last feel like you had time to think? The silence and solitude of the right prayer retreat can work wonders in your mind and heart.
4. To meet with a spiritual director
At some retreat centers, you can sign up to meet with a chaplain or spiritual director. Sometimes there is a small cost involved, but it might lead to a breakthrough for you.
5. To plan, pray through and set goals
I have sometimes spent time planning a new season or a new year on my prayer retreat—prayerfully evaluating and envisioning what I want to do and where I want to go. It is a great time to focus and dream.
6. To deepen your relationship with God—or take it to a new level
What better reason to spend time in focused prayer than to draw closer to the God who made you and longs for your company?
7. To bask in God’s love
Many monasteries and retreat centers are configured to help a retreatant feel and enjoy the love of God in its many forms: a blooming flower, a flittering hummingbird, a beautiful verse painted on a wall, a song, etc. A prayer retreat provides the opportunity to stop striving for God’s favor and try to accept it and experience it instead.
8. To work through a problem
Some people enter a retreat vexed by a problem. They can’t see a solution. But often, by the time they leave, they take new understanding and wisdom home with them.
9. To experience a new form of prayer
Previous retreats have introduced me and trained me in new ways of praying (chant, fixed-hour prayer, etc.) that I would never have experienced on my own. None of them were “pushed” on (or even overtly suggested to) me, and all have added immensely to my prayer life.
10. To pray through to a goal or destination
My first prayer retreat was focused on prayer for my teenage son. During a later retreat, I wanted to pray through the Psalms in the Bible. A focused retreat can give the opportunity to accomplish a goal or reach a new destination.
These ten reasons to take a prayer retreat only scratch the surface. But any one of the above could be life-changing for you. They have been for me.