How might I prepare for my retreat?
The prospect of going on retreat may prompt you to pay closer attention to what God is doing in your life. You may begin by asking broadly what you would like from the retreat, what blessing you ask of God. As the retreat approaches, you may notice that specific aspects of life suggest themselves for prayer. It will be helpful, however, to hold all of your considerations lightly as you come on retreat for it is often the case that God has other things in mind for us!
Pray for an open heart and mind
For Ignatius of Loyola, there are some fundamental attitudes that are necessary for the person undertaking the Spiritual Exercises, and so are important for us to consider at any time of retreat. David Fleming paraphrases an early note in the Exercises,
The most important qualities in the person who enters into these exercises are openness, generosity and courage.
Let your basic prayer be for a spirit of openness, for a deepening trust in God who wants to bless you. Conversation with a spiritual director may be of assistance during your time of retreat but the most important element will be the time you give to God in prayer as you respond to the invitation to take time aside.
Ask for an appetite for prayer
The time you will give on retreat is itself a response to God; you may be searching for God but God is already seeking you out. Just as Jesus looked at the disciples and invited them to come away and rest awhile (Mark 6:31), you have heard the same invitation. You might like to ask God to draw you into prayer as you review and revive your habits of taking time alone with God. It may be that a little time with Pray as you go or Sacred Space will be helpful to you, prompting you to reviewing your day and to recognise how God is touching you in your daily experiences.
What are you looking for?
Many retreats begin with the question Jesus put of the disciples, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:35) Ignatius of Loyola helps us to reflect on this question in asking us to pay attention to our desire. You might think of the retreat is a time to relax into confidently expressing yourself to God, naming what it is you really want.
Putting aside busyness
You may enjoy a busy life or appreciate being reliable and productive. Retreat-time invites you to experience yourself in another way as you appreciate yourself as loved by God for who you are. It may seem selfish to focus less on the needs of others and to have so much “free time” but the time you spend on retreat allows you to deepen your relationship with God wants to bless your life too. You are not, after all, the focus of your retreat God is! (Psalm 95:7)
Prayerfully consider what God has been doing
It may be helpful to look back - perhaps to the time since your last retreat, if you have done one before - to recognise more clearly how you have responded to God’s Spirit at work in you. As you prayerfully look over the time gone by it may be helpful to ask,
- What has been most life-giving for me? how have I responded and cherished what God has offered?
- Who are the people who have inspired me most? How has God blessed me through them?
- Do I notice any pattern that has caused me to become discouraged?
- When do I have a sense that God is calling me to more?
- Have I noticed changes in how you pray, in what I seek, in what I value?
Your thought of coming on retreat involves plans that you make, but begins in God. May you approach your time of retreat with hope and joy!