Spiritual Practice

A Solitary Retreat

Daniel Wolpert

Retreats take us away from our everyday hurried lives to focus on our relationship with God.

In the past, God asked several prophets and teachers to go into the wilderness to spend time listening to God. Jesus withdrew from his friends and disciples to spend time alone in prayer. And ever since the church began, Christians have been going on retreat.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”
Mark 1:35 (NRSV)

Maybe you’ve been on a retreat with your church or your youth group. Group retreats can be wonderful times of spiritual growth, but sometimes they are as busy as our daily lives.

Have you thought about going on a retreat by yourself or perhaps with one or two friends? Maybe the idea sounds weird or scary, but think about it. Do you spend time alone with close friends, getting to know each other better? Would being alone with God help you get to know God better?

During a solitary retreat you can deepen your relationship with Jesus, you can pray without distraction, and you can quietly listen for God’s voice.

devozine Retreat Spot TS 83452838>> If you decide to take a solitary retreat, the first thing to do is to talk with a youth leader, a minister, or another adult who can help you organize it. Without guidance, you may spend your retreat time wondering what you are really trying to do and why you’re not just hangin’ with your friends.

>> The next thing to do is to decide where you want to go. Finding a quiet place is essential for a solitary retreat. The place will depend on where you live and what kind of transportation is available to you. A park or a quiet room would be a good place for a retreat. So would a church. (During the week or on Saturday, many churches are completely empty!)

>> What should you do on the retreat? Most retreats follow a general plan that includes hearing, listening, reflecting, and responding to God. You may want to begin with the outline below for “An Afternoon Retreat.”

Begin with a passage of scripture, a section of devozine, a chapter in a book on prayer, or devotional music. Let your selection serve as a starting point in your conversation with God. Allow your mind to wander, listening for what God might be telling you. Write your reflections in a journal, draw a picture, take a walk, or tell your thoughts to a friend. Ask God to deepen your relationship with Jesus. Conclude your retreat with a prayer of thanksgiving.


Don’t be discouraged or disappointed if you don’t have a dramatic experience. Often you won’t notice the results of a retreat until later. Talk with the person who helped you plan your retreat about your experience. With time, as you continue to meet God in solitary retreat, your relationship with Jesus will grow and deepen.



Try taking a mini-retreat. After the retreat, reflect on your experience. When were you most aware of God? In what ways has your relationship with Jesus grown? Write down your observations.


devozine Retreat2 TS 126426597

  • Begin with prayer. Ask God to be with you. Spend five minutes in silence.
  • Read a favorite passage of scripture. Read it several times. Spend some time in silence thinking about the passage.
  • Express your reflections in words or art. Talk about the scripture with another person.
  • Read the scripture again.
  • Take a short walk.
  • Write in your journal. How does God want you to apply the scripture to your life?
  • Say a prayer thanking God for your time together.
Daniel Wolpert is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Crookston, Minnesota. He is also a trained spiritual director and retreat leader.

—from Devo’Zine (September/October 2002). Copyright © 2002 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

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