But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Matthew 5:16
In one region of Africa, the first converts to Christianity were very diligent about praying. In fact, the believers each had their own special place outside the village where they went to pray in solitude. The villagers reached these “prayer rooms” by using their own private footpaths through the brush. When grass began to grow over one of these trails, it was evident that the person to whom it belonged was not praying very much. Because these new Christians were concerned for each other’s spiritual welfare, a unique custom sprang up. Whenever anyone noticed an overgrown “Prayer path,” he or she would go to the person and lovingly warn, “Friend, there’s grass on your path!” (RWD Our Daily Bread, November 18, 1996)
Cultivating a prayer-saturated life takes hard work and dedication. We can easily be distracted by the cares of this world and lose our desire to remain fervent in prayer. At times, we need to retreat from our daily routines and from other people so we can focus on God and delight in His presence through prayer.
One of the best ways to increase our stamina for prayer is by investing in a prayer retreat. The word retreat means to withdraw or move back. A prayer retreat is about withdrawing from our normal activities to move back to God. Why do we have to move back to God? As long as we are in the flesh, we will need a daily spiritual recharge. Like an automobile that needs to be refueled as it is used by its owner, we too need to be refueled as we are used by God in kingdom works.
Our spiritual energy gets depleted by the cares of this world. At times we become worn out by our struggles and the struggles of those near to us. Even working in ministry can cause us to become depleted. Therefore, it is helpful to withdraw at times so we can be revived by the Holy Spirit as we commune with the Lord in prayer.
Jesus often withdrew from the crowds and His disciples so he can have His alone time with His Father in Heaven. He was unapologetic about having his prayer retreat when necessary. He valued the spiritual intimacy He cultivated with the Father by retreating for prayer. Jesus began His ministry with a prayer retreat. He went into the wilderness where He prayed for 40 days. And He ended His ministry with a prayer retreat by going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before His arrest and crucifixion.
A prayer retreat offers the sacred space for us to be more intimate with God in prayer. It removes the distractions that often hinder our ability to pray earnestly and forces us to be intentional in practicing the exercise of prayer. Investing in a prayer retreat is one of the most effective ways to increase our prayer stamina.
A sustained prayer life is still a challenge for many Christians. Yet we should heed the warning of the African believers in today’s illustration and not allow “grass on our prayer path.” One of the best ways to do so is by spending time in personal prayer retreats. Now more than ever, brothers and sisters in Christ should take the opportunity to withdraw from their daily routine and spend focused quality time with God in prayer. This can be done at home, or at a retreat center. Because my wife and I are empty-nesters, I find it easier to have prayer retreats at my house, especially since the pandemic started. If you notice an “overgrown prayer path” in the life of other believers, lovingly warn, “Friend, there’s grass on your prayer path.”
Questions for Personal Reflection
How can a prayer retreat be beneficial to your spiritual life?
What lessons have your learned from Jesus about investing in a prayer retreat?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please help me to prioritize the intimate time I spend with you in prayer. Help me to invest in a personal prayer retreat whenever I feel depleted and need to be refueled by the Holy Spirit.