“As often as possible Jesus withdrew to the out-of-way places for prayer”
~ Luke 5:16 (The Message)
For the past decade, I have been taking regular days away… days with Jesus, filled with solitude, study, and prayer. Honestly, I don’t know how I would survive the demands of ministry and life without them. Over the years, I have shared this “Guide to Spending the Day with Jesus” with folks who want to know either how to do a day of solitude or who want to know what my days away look like. So here’s what I do:
Before you go:
1) What do you need to experience with Jesus during this day away?
2) Where have you been in the Word in the past couple of months and weeks, and where has God been speaking to you?
3) What are you “wrestling” with in this season of your life (specific circumstance, sin, relationship, etc.)?
During the drive to wherever you’re going:
Pray that the Lord would give you direction (Scriptures, a book to read, format for the day, etc.). Remember this is a “dynamic, fluid” day with Jesus, not a rigid, hyper-formatted day.
When you get there:
1) Get the environment the way you need it… coffee, temperature, noise reduction (if there’s a clock that ticks really loud, it’s annoying, so remove the battery or move it to another room), and find the best place to really meet with the Lord where you can stretch out in prayer, with books, etc.
2) Here’s a tentative time schedule that I use (once again, not too rigid)
7:30 Arrive and get situated
8:00 Prayer. I actually get down on my knees. I ask the Lord to clear the noise in my head and heart, and in my life. It actually takes me about 20-30 minutes for this noise to clear… so be patient (this fruit of prayer does not yield itself to the lazy). I ask the Lord to meet with me… to give me a “vision” (a picture or image of what He wants me to experience today. One time it was an open meadow in the mountains that represented His freedom. One time it was a picture of my father who truly represented faithfully the love of the Heavenly Father). I also ask the Father to let me know where He wants to take me today… Scripture… prayer… reading, etc.
8:45 The Word. I listen to the Lord or sometimes pick a Scripture to reflectively study and meditate upon. Typically the Lord has led me to something, and I spend the next 2-3 hours studying it, reflectively meditating upon it, journaling through it, praying through it. Years ago when I was a worship pastor, I would actually craft a worship service (with songs, readings, prayers, etc) around this passage and theme for the day. I’d often use those worship sets on Sundays. The point is to find an expression of this time with the Lord. Perhaps for you, write a chapter of a book, write a song, write a poem, write a letter to someone, write a movie scene… whatever you need to do to integrate this is in with your passions and calling in life.
11:30 Prayer. I spend some more time on my knees with the Lord asking Him to “cement” this into my heart and life.
12:00 Lunch and a drive to process more
1:00 This is the fluid part of the day. Sometimes the Lord simply wants me to pray more, especially intercessory prayer. Sometimes I’ve prayed for the concentric rings outward from my life (Family, Ministry, Staff and Elders, specific people in the church). Sometimes I read a book. Sometimes I strategically plan ministry stuff. Sometimes I take a nap. Sometimes I go for a hike or a bike ride. Whatever happens, I always feel that it’s very effective because I’m really connecting with Jesus at this point… very actively and experientially… as if He’s right there with me (which He is through the Spirit).
I also typically leave with an “action plan” on things the Lord has impressed upon my heart that day… where to take it when I return to “reality” with family, ministry, life, etc.
I review these days away (and action plans) frequently to see how I’m doing (perhaps a stewardship issue) with the things the Lord laid upon my heart during my time with Him that day.
4:00 Prayer for the Lord to continue to integrate this more deeply into my life.
4:30 Pack up and drive back to home
Remember, this is not a formula… it’s a dynamic relationship. Even though we don’t want to propagate the “Jesus is my girlfriend thing,” how would you spend the day with someone you really enjoy being around? This is key! And remember to journal and write these things down. When you begin to get 2, 3, or even 4 days away over a year or two, it’s amazing to go back and see how the Risen Christ is transforming you into who He desires you to be.
What do you do on a day of solitude, word, and prayer? What helps you connect more deeply with Jesus?