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Practical Tips for a Personal Retreat

21 Jan Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Practical Tips for a Personal Retreat
Practical Tips for a Personal Retreat

We’re excited to have our good friend and author Doug Jones back with two special guests posts on the spiritual discipline of personal retreat. Be sure to check out his first post entitled “Why We Need Retreats.” – Editor’s Note

A Day Alone With God

During my early years in ministry I often wanted to go on a personal retreat day, but one of the reasons it was pushed out of my schedule was the simple question, “What do I do for a day alone with God?”  I could see that I needed to get away to refocus my awareness, tune up my alertness and become more attentive to God; but I lacked the experience of actually spending 8 or more hours alone for that purpose.  Out of desperation I finally took the plunge and over a couple of times on retreat, by trial and error, I came up with a schedule that you can modify – that might be helpful for you.

A few words about the schedule that follows:

  • Take it slow; be conscious of your pace as you begin and end each element.
  • Allow for 30-45 minutes for each element and then pause and be before jumping to the next element
  • Remember it isn’t about finishing or following the entire schedule, it’s about being with God


One Approach to a Schedule – Spending a Day with God.

AM:  9-Noon

Pray – Dedicate the time to be with God

Read – Open the Scriptures and spend some time reading it aloud, slowly and reflectively.

Listen – Become present to the Presence of God

Wait – Trust that God will reveal what we need

Noon – 2

Lunch – listen to a book on tape or sermon as you eat

Rest – Relax, nap, be

Enjoy – Count your blessing or listen to a worship recording

PM:  2 – 4

Pray – spends some time praying about your concerns and/or with a prayer book

Reflect – end your time journaling about your day and after reflecting, distill your day into a paragraph or less.


How should we approach personal retreats?

In attempting something new or different, we often focus on the “what and why” and fail to look at an important question, “How?”  Not in a “how to” manner but in a how do we approach something in respect to our motives, intentions and attitude.  This manner of how is something we don’t want to overlook or minimize in approaching a Personal Retreat.

The following are some of the matters I think are important to consider as you approach a personal retreat. These are the values that shape how I approach my time with God.

Intention: this not a planning retreat or a study time – a personal retreat is about being with God.  We need to carry this intention with us to and throughout the retreat.  When distractions come – we need to either dismiss them, jot them down or confess them and return to our intention.

Essentials: take only what is needed; this is not time to pack for a variety of circumstances, a Bible, prayer book, and journal is often all that is needed.  Each thing you take has the potential of leading you astray from your clear intention.

Solitude: for this day make arrangements to unplug from your mobile device and social media and sequester yourself alone with God.

Personal: this is called a personal retreat because that is what it is all about.  This day is for you to be with the One who has called you.   This is not a day to move toward how you might teach or share some new insight.  Resist the urge to move into the role of teacher or preacher.

Carry it Home: spend this uninterrupted time with God and trust that as you grow in increasing awareness of God, that you will carry this attentiveness into your daily life.

Dawn to DarkMore from Doug Jones

Check out Doug’s book Dawn to Dark: A Book of Christian Prayer published by Barefoot Ministries.

Check out Doug’s previous series here at Project Renovation:


Doug Jones
R Douglas Jones has spent the past 25 years as a volunteer, part-time and full-time youth worker in the local church and as a retreat leader. He has earned a Master of Arts degree in Youth Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Doug lives in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, Lawren, and daughter, Amelia, along with many dogs, 2 cats, 2 horses and a pony.