Spiritual Practice

Alone with God: Your Own Personal Retreat

Ron DelBene

Our lives are so busy and filled with noise. We often don’t know how to handle silence and being alone with God. Here’s a mini-retreat to try on your own.

When people pursue being alone with God, they generally prefer various activities of short duration rather than one lengthy reflection. Thus the plan I developed divides two hours into nine activities. The time allotted for each activity is a guideline that can be changed to suit your needs. For example, if your life is hectic, you might double the time spent in silence and shorten the time spent on reading the scripture selection. Before making changes, go through at least one two-hour period as outlined. Then adapt the schedule if you need to do so.

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Prepare the space and make yourself comfortable. You may want to arrange some flowers, light a candle, open your Bible, get comfortable in a chair.

Begin with prayer to set the mood and theme of the session.

3. BE STILL (10 minutes).
Do whatever helps you wind down and clear your mind. Some people find that breathing deeply three or four times and relaxing the shoulders is a good way to get comfortable and be silent. Close your eyes and listen as you settle into being alone with God.

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Other people find that doing a little body movement (gentle stretching, dancing, exercising) helps them relax and become still. If you find yourself daydreaming or distracted, try a short prayer to bring you back into focus—perhaps “Jesus, let me feel your presence,” or “O God, lead me into peace.” Saying the Lord’s Prayer or a favorite line from a hymn or psalm serves the same purpose. Distractions are normal and nothing to worry about. When they occur, simply return to your short prayer and refocus your attention.

 (25 minutes).
Select a passage to read. I suggest that you read it aloud to yourself because there is power in the spoken word. At first you may feel awkward, but the feeling is temporary. As you read, let God’s Spirit lead you. There is no need to get through the reading quickly. Let any meaningful word or line or image do what it will. A prayer or a memory or another thought about God may be triggered. Pray that prayer, pursue that memory or thought. If you feel the urge to do so, write something down, make a sketch, or create a collage.

devozine Summer Bible Reading2 TS 80706466Read the same selection over and over with the awarenes that God is present. If the first or second reading does not strike a chord, continue rereading the passage until the time is up. Do this even if the repetition is tiresome. Before your time alone is over, the reading will have an impact on you.

We all need time for things to settle in, so take a break. If possible, get outside and breathe deeply as you walk or stretch. Have some water or juice or a piece of fruit. If you feel drowsy, take a nap.

6. INNER DIMENSION (40 minutes).
This period is for inner reflection and is a task designed to help you clarify God’s action in your life. You may want to use your notebook or art materials. Depending on how freely you express yourself, you may feel that too much or too little time has been allotted. Extend or shorten the time accordingly. If you finish quickly, look back over what you have expressed, allowing God’s Spirit to lead you to other insight.

devozine Reflective Guy FTR TS 804672167. PRAYER OF RESPONSE (10 mintues).
Pray in your own style or use a written prayer. The time may seem long if you are new to prayer or have never prayed for more than a few seconds at a time. Simply speak to God, honestly and directly.

8. REFLECTION (10 mintues).
This is a time to review what you have been doing during your alone time. People report various experiences: a discovery of how to pray, an insight regarding scripture, a desire to change a particular behavior, an emotional awakening.

You may use your own prayer or choose one that is written. Although a retreat of even so brief a time as two hours can serve several functions, the main purpose is to provide the opportunity to move closer to God, the source of all love.



Now that you have read the outline for your own personal retreat, find a two-hour time in the next two weeks when you can take a personal retreat. Plan where you will go and the scripture you will reflect on.


Ron DelBene is an Episcopal priest, author, spiritual director, and retreat leader in Trussville, Alabama. Mary and Herb Montgomery are professional writers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

—from devozine (May/June 1997). Copyright © 1997 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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