Tag Archives: Traditional Prayers

What IS a Silent Retreat

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What IS a Silent RetreatOne of my favorite things to do is go on Silent Retreat. When I tell people I’m heading off for one of them, sometimes I get asked, “What IS a Silent Retreat?”

Silent Retreat is an extended time of listening, watching and waiting on God. Often I am too busy in normal, hectic life to be quiet long enough to truly know I’m hearing from God.

There’s not a definite Silent Retreat format. Here are some ways that I’ve been on Retreat:

1) I first discovered retreating when an old friend and I used to go on quarterly weekend retreats to pray about an organization we co-led. We would get up in the morning and head out into the woods, each going in separate directions. We’d spend hours alone with God, just listening, journaling, watching. Then we’d come back at the end of the morning. Often we’d find that we had heard the same thing from the Lord (imagine that- same Holy Spirit)!

2) Next I found that a local Christian conference center was starting to have Silent Retreats. I started attending their silent weekend each year. At their Silent Retreat, they set up stations all over the center with quiet prayer activities. I find the guided activities uplifting and also spend hours walking alone with God. Sometimes, when life has been rigorous, I take silent naps 🙂    I learn something new from Him each time I go- about Him, about me, about His plans for me.What IS Silent Retreat?

3) I also have started attending weekend Silent Retreats at a monastery. These are sponsored by the spiritual formation school that I hope to take spiritual direction courses with. At these retreats, I also spend long walks around the grounds, sit in my simple room and meditate, walk the labyrinth, or sometimes join a group lectio devina. Again, I come away refreshed and encouraged in the Lord. Always, I hear something I needed to know.

4) Some people go on absolute Silent Retreats where they simply sit and listen for an entire weekend. No other activity and definitely no group things. I haven’t participated in one of those yet but will someday.

Are there other Silent Retreat formats that you have discovered?

The Jesus Prayer

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This may be the world’s simplest prayer: The Jesus Prayer. It is a brief statement:

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

This little phrase is called “The Jesus Prayer” and has its roots in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. (The story goes that originally, the old monks prayed only the first phrase of the prayer. However, when a number of young whipper-snapper monks joined, they added the humble line to help the novices maintain perspective- they didn’t know it all- haven’t “arrived” yet, everyone is a work in God’s progress…  good thoughts for us all.)

As I have learned to pray The Jesus Prayer, it has become a lovely way to relax with God and ready myself to listen to Him.

I simply breathe in slowly while saying (I say it silently), “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God”.

Then I exhale slowly while saying, “Have mercy on me, a sinner”.

I find that my body slows down, and after a few repetitions of the prayer, my mind slows down, too. Soon, I am able to put aside the chaos of life and simply concentrate on the meaning of the two lines.

And then, amazingly, I am feeling relaxed and trusting. And can listen when God directs.

Give it a try!

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.