Taking a Personal Prayer Retreat Changed My Life | Ashley Varner

Taking a Personal Prayer Retreat Changed My Life

Have you ever felt like your Christian life was just in a slump or maybe your relationship with the Lord just didn’t excite you or you didn’t feel as connected to him as you once were? Well, there is a cure for that and we’re going to be talking about it today

Resources Mentioned

Personal Prayer Retreat Free Download: https://ashleyvarner.com/free
Power of Prayer Workbook: https://ashleyvarner.com/prayer
Thrive Bible Study Vault: https://ashleyvarner.com/thrive

Highlights From The Episode

Have you ever felt like your Christian life was in a slump or maybe your relationship with the Lord just isn’t exciting you the way that it used to, or you don’t feel as connected to the Lord as you used to? 

Well, there’s a cure for that, and that’s what we’re gonna be talking about in today’s video. 

I recently went on a personal prayer retreat and it completely changed my walk with Christ. Now, this isn’t the first prayer retreat that I’ve done for myself, it is something that I hope to continue on a regular basis. And I wanted to share exactly what a personal prayer retreat is and how you can actually go through the practical steps of setting up for yourself. Having one-on-one time with God is important. 

If you’ve ever gone on a retreat with a bunch of women in your church, or if you wanna think back to maybe going to a youth camp or something like that in the past, you know what it’s like to get away from everything and just be with the Lord. 

I remember several times, being from whenever I was a young kid, even now into my adult years, where I have gone to a retreat or a camp, and it completely changed my walk with Christ. 

Now this is something that doesn’t have to just be isolated to retreats or conferences, but you can actually take the intentional time to have a personal prayer retreat with the Lord. Having one-on-one time is so important in our walk with the Lord. 

And I just wanna ask you, how would it change your life to be able to experience the fullness of who God is, and really grow in your relationship with him? And what that feels like and how would it change your walk with him? 

Seeing a change like that doesn’t have to be as complex as you think, and it doesn’t take a huge vacation or a retreat trip or something like that to experience a renewed fervor for God. 

Reasons to Plan a Personal Prayer Retreat

I wanted to start off by sharing some of the reasons why you may want to take a personal prayer retreat. 

It could be that you want wisdom before making a huge decision. If you are at a crossroads in your career, or you have a big decision that you need to make, you just need some wisdom from the Lord, this is the perfect time to take a personal prayer retreat, to take a day or a couple of days, and really spend some time seeking the Lord about the direction that he wants you to take. 

Another reason that you might wanna plan a personal prayer retreat is to ignite a spark in your relationship with the Lord

So I like to give the example of your marriage. So whenever you have been married for a long time, it can be difficult to find that spark, that first love experience that you had at the very beginning of your marriage. And sometimes whenever my husband and I need some time to just be together, we take a trip alone with just the two of us, and we leave the kids with grandma and grandpa and we go and have a couple of evenings, a couple of days just together. It doesn’t have to be like to The Bahamas or some huge trip, it usually just is to a town maybe a little bit away from us. We live in the mountains so we have gone to like a little cabin in the woods or a hotel or something like that, where we can just spend some time being together, having dinners together, talking with each other, really just remembering the love that we have for one another, right? 

The same can be true in a personal prayer retreat between you and the Lord. When you have been a Christian for a long time, it can be easy to lose that spark and lose that first love experience with the Lord. And you can take time away just to be with him, just to be with the Lord to renew that love for him that’s always been there, but you just need to have that reignited. 

The third reason why you might wanna take a personal prayer retreat is to fill your cup

If you are actively serving the Lord, and this could be in a volunteer position, it could be in ministry, it could even just be the way that you are serving the kingdom in your professional job. Whenever you are actively serving the Lord, it can be hard to keep filling your cup. 

There’s something that I love to share whenever I’m talking to my clients about this type of burnout, and that is, you can only truly give from your overflow. 

So I want you to imagine a teacup on a saucer and how, if you just pour that tea out into another teacup, it will be empty, right? 

But if you are pouring from a teapot into your teacup and it fills your cup, and then that cup starts overflowing onto the saucer, that’s what true giving is, it’s giving from your overflow. 

And so if you find yourself with an empty cup, if you find yourself feeling burnt out in your relationship with the Lord, especially if you’re really serving him and you are in a field where you’re serving, or you’re just actively serving in your church, a personal prayer retreat might be just the ticket for you. 

What To Take

So let’s talk about the practical side of a prayer retreat. I’m gonna talk about things that you can take, where you might have this prayer retreat, and then we’re gonna go over an agenda for your prayer retreat. 

So the first list of things that I wanted to share was things that you might want to take to your prayer retreat. Some things that you might wanna pack are your Bible, a journal, definitely like a pack of tissues

I don’t know about you, but whenever I really get in some personal time with the Lord, I’m always needing tissues, they’re even here in my prayer room. And I also would recommend that you have a worship playlist that you include on your phone or tablet that you can take with you. 

For my prayer retreat, I actually take a movie and I’m gonna explain this a little bit more in the agenda. It’s not just any movie, but it is a specific planned movie that I watch during my prayer retreat. And then you may also wanna take some snacks unless you’re planning to fast during your retreat. 

Just because you’re planning a personal prayer retreat doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re gonna be praying from the time that you get there until the time that you leave. You can have different things planned out that really break up the time. 

Where to have your retreat

So the next is to decide where you’re going to have your prayer retreat.

Now there’s a couple of options that you have.

For me, I went to a hotel that was a little bit away from my hometown. I wanted to be away enough to not have to worry about the regular tasks and things that happen on a day-to-day basis.

But you could also just set up a prayer retreat at home whenever your kids are gone.

Maybe if your husband has to be outta town, you could send your kids to the grandma’s or to a friend’s house, and then you can have that time to have a personal prayer retreat.

Another idea that you can do is you can swap homes with a friend for the day. So if you have a friend and they really need a personal prayer retreat as well, you can say, “Hey, for this Saturday, I’ll take your kids. “You go and have your personal prayer retreat. “And then the next Saturday you take all the kids “and I’ll have my prayer retreat.” 

It doesn’t really matter where you have your prayer retreat.

The biggest thing is that it is void of any distractions.

So the reason why I decided to go to a hotel near my home is because I didn’t want the idea of laundry in the dryer or dishes undone, or that junk drawer that needed organized. I didn’t want all of those distractions to be part of my thinking, I just wanted to be alone with the Lord. But there are options if you can’t afford to go to a hotel.

Your Personal Prayer Retreat Agenda

So just because you’re going on a prayer retreat doesn’t mean that you’re going to be praying from the minute you get there until the minute that you leave. 

There are things that you can do to break up that time that will help you to have direction and really just having an agenda for what you wanna do. 

So I wanted to share my personal prayer retreat agenda, and I have a download for all of my subscribers this month that is actually a prayer retreat guide that you can download, and it gives you ideas, it gives you a sample agenda, and it gives you kind of a time breakdown, but then it also has a blank sheet that you can list your own agenda, gives you a list, all those kind of things to help you in your prayer walk as well. 

So make sure that you download that, it is in the description box, or you can go to ashleyvarner.com/free and click on the prayer retreat guide. 

The biggest tip that I can give you whenever you are creating your agenda is to have a purpose. 

Whenever you’re going, have a reason for your prayer retreat. 

Like I said earlier, it could be that you need wisdom for a big decision, you wanna fill your cup, maybe there’s an area of your life that you know isn’t quite right and you just want to restore that area in your relationship with the Lord. 

So the agenda that I used is about 6:15 pm I arrived at the location at the hotel that I was gonna be staying at and I set up. So I would recommend that you wear comfortable clothes, but not your pajamas, because we all know as soon as you put on your pajamas, it’s over, right? 

So I want you to be comfortable, but make sure that you’re in a position and in an outfit that is conducive to your prayer time, that’s not gonna make you fall asleep, but is also going to make you comfortable and feel like you can move around. 

So that took about 10 or 15 minutes, and then I turned on some worship music and just worshiped the Lord. 

The reason I did this is because I wanted to put my focus on him before anything else, before I laid out my request before him, before I did anything or asked anything, I wanted to put the focus on him and really just worship him. 

After my worship time, I spent some time in repentance. 

Repentance is actively giving the Lord things in your life that you know you’ve been doing wrong and asking for forgiveness. 

Asking the Lord to show me things in my life that I wasn’t doing correctly, and just knowing those things that weren’t pleasing to him, and then spend some time cleaning out my heart, giving the Lord my heart and saying, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 

This is an important step that I think you don’t wanna skip. A lot of this agenda, you can kind of tweak and fit to what you are specifically doing, but repentance is something that I really wanna recommend that you don’t skip in your prayer time. Nothing is going to put your heart and mind in a place to hear from the Lord like repentance. And if there are things in your life that you haven’t repented of, it can actually be a deterrence and a hindrance to your prayer time completely. 

After that time, it was about 7:45 pm and I had some prayer journaling. 

In this time I had a prayer journal out and I started just being grateful for things. 

Last year I completed Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God” Bible study, and one thing that she talked about when she was teaching on the shoes of peace is that gratitude will always come before peace. And so I wanted to spend some time really giving the Lord thanks for the things in my life. 

After I journaled all the things that I was grateful to the Lord for, I wrote down each need that I had on a piece of paper. 

After I wrote down the things that I was grateful for in my prayer journal, I started thinking about specific needs that I had of the Lord. 

I wrote down each need at the top of a page in my prayer journal. I didn’t write anything else, I just listed the need at the top of the page. I left the page blank on purpose. 

After I did that, I took some time and watched a movie. Now, like I said, it kind of seems silly to take a movie to a prayer retreat. But the movie that I took was “The Passion Of The Christ”, and this is a movie that really helps me to focus on the Lord. It is an adaptation of what happened to Christ in the last hours and day of his life. 

If you really wanna keep your focus on the Lord and on his plan for your life, the direction that he wants you to go in, then you have to start with knowing what it was like to be there, experiencing the pain that he suffered for you, knowing the sacrifice that he made for you. And “The Passion Of Christ” is definitely the best example I can give to actually feel like you were there. It is very graphic, it is a really gut-wrenching movie, but at the end of the day, you’ll leave being so grateful and thankful for the sacrifice that God has made for you. 

After the movie was over, it was about 10:30 pm or so and I began to read my Bible to some instrumental worship music. 

Like I mentioned before, one of the things that I recommend that you take is a worship playlist. So that might include worship music that has people singing and you can sing along, maybe it’s worship music that you already know that your church sings on a regular a basis. But I also recommend that you have a playlist of just instrumental music, and this would be music that is God honoring, but also has no words to it, where it might just be piano playing or something like that. 

If you want some advice for songs that you can choose or albums that you can choose, make sure to leave a link in the comments for me and I will try and share some ideas that I have for you. But during this time, while I was listening to this instrumental praise music, I just got my Bible out and began reading. 

If you’re not sure where to read, I would recommend the Psalms, maybe read in John, something that is going to just get your heart in the right place. 

And then after that, I had some restful sleep. I started the next morning just getting up whenever my body naturally woke up and preparing my heart. 

So you might be thinking, Ashley, you’ve spent all this time and you haven’t really prayed very much. The reason is because I wanted to prepare my heart to hear from the Lord. I wanted to come to my prayer time from a place where I have emptied out all of the sin in my life, I’ve repented, I’ve praised, I’ve given gratitude, I’ve gotten my mind in the right place. 

So after I just woke up naturally, at this point, this is whenever I sat down, I got my journal out and I started to pray for God’s direction.

I started to pray for direction with a verse, and the verse that I used was Psalms 31:3 and it says, “You are my rock and my fortress “for the honor of your name lead me and guide me.” 

I love this verse because it’s saying, Lord, for your sake, show me and lead me, and show me what you want me to do. Guide me into the place that you want me to go. See God wants to guide you, he wants to lead you. 

He wants to be the one that directs your life. And taking time in a personal prayer retreat is a way for you to say, “Lord, I want that too. “I want you to lead me and guide me, “and help me to take the right direction in my life.” 

So all of that time, all of the time I spent repenting, worshiping the Lord, reading his word, all of that was leading up to this time where I was presenting my request to God and praying for his direction. 

After I did this, I actually did another prayer journal exercise that I like to call inspired brainstorming. 

I write down everything that I feel like the Lord is speaking to me. And because I had been preparing my heart all this time, I was ready to hear from the Lord. I was ready to hear the Lord speak to my heart, and that’s really what I wanted out of this prayer time. 

I spent several hours, I would say at least two or three hours, just in this inspired brainstorming, where I’m writing out the things that I feel that the Lord is sharing with me. I’m having ideas and dreaming, and having a vision for my life that is divinely inspired by the Lord. 

Now about this time, it was about 11:45 am and I had already set up with the hotel to have a late checkout. I did this because I really just wanted to allow time for myself to hear from God. I didn’t know how the morning would go, I didn’t know the direction that it would take, and so I just wanted to give my myself as much leeway as possible to be able to follow the Lord’s direction. 

At this time, after I spent time really hearing from the Lord, I took some more time to have worship time with the Lord and just really let the Lord guide you in this time. It may be that you feel led to seek him a little bit more through worship, or listening to some teaching, or giving more Thanksgiving. 

It could even be that you spend some time stretching and moving your body and muscles to really connect your body and your mind together. 

After that, it was about 12:30 pm and I decided it was time to head home. 

Now this is your personal prayer retreat, and I want you to know that it’s not the end. Just because it’s the end of your prayer retreat, doesn’t mean it’s the end, because whenever you go on a personal prayer retreat, what you’re wanting is the outcome, right? 

You’re wanting to have the thoughts and the emotions that lead to new actions and new outcomes in your life. So you’re going to the Lord, you’re seeking him, you’re getting his direction and now it’s time to go out into the real world and live it out. 

Everyone’s personal prayer retreat is going to be different. So it’s important to remember that it’s all about where God is leading you, the purpose that you have in taking your personal prayer retreat.

A Few Additional Tips

Fasting

I wanted to end with a couple of quick tips on kind of FAQs, questions that I get from women who have already been taking a personal prayer retreat or interested in doing one, and one of the questions that I get often is should I fast during my prayer retreat. 

Well, this kind of depends on a couple of things, medical issues, you know, not withstanding, you might consider how long your prayer retreat is gonna be. 

Now, I actually had planned on ordering some room service from my hotel, but I ate dinner right before I went to the hotel and it just felt natural for me in the process of my prayer time to fast. 

I found I wasn’t very hungry, I wasn’t focused on myself at all, and I definitely didn’t wanna break that special time that I had with the Lord to stop and eat something. 

So I actually ended up fasting the entire time that I had my prayer retreat, but that doesn’t mean that you have to. And because I had just eaten dinner before I got there, and I really just went until about noon, it wasn’t like I was fasting a huge amount of time. I was fasting just for, you know, maybe from seven o’clock in the evening until noon the next day. So it’s really up to you. 

Mainly it was just breakfast that I fasted, but if you wanna take snacks with you, go ahead and do that. If you wanna order food in, you can do that. It’s completely up to you.

Don’t confine yourself to one spot.

Another tip that I have for you is to not confine yourself to one place. I know that sometimes whenever we think of prayer in the traditional sense, we think of things like just kneeling at a chair or something like that, but let yourself move around. You can kneel, stand, walk around, any of these things to really just keep your mind focused on Lord and what he’s saying to you. 

So during the repentance part of my prayer retreat, I did plan on kneeling and I did that because there’s something about kneeling that says I surrender. 

The attitude that I wanted to have in the repentance part of my prayer retreat was an act and an emotion, an attitude of surrender. And so during that time, I did kneel. 

But whenever I was worshiping, I was walking around, lifting my hands, really seeking the Lord that way. 

When I was reading my Bible, I was either sitting in a chair or sitting on the bed in the hotel. And I just want you to know that you don’t have to be confined to one specific place.

Use tools and resources

Another tip that I have for you is to not be afraid to use tools and resources. 

If there’s a Christian book that you wanna read, if there’s even a Christian fiction book that you have a specific set amount of time that you wanna read during that prayer retreat, then go ahead and do that. 

Now, if you find yourself getting engrossed in books where you can’t put them down, then I don’t recommend that. 

But if you have Bible studies that you’ve used in the past or a sermon that you have heard that always encourages you, then make sure to grab that and keep it with you so that you can listen to it during your prayer retreat. 

The biggest thing that I have for you as far as resources go, is that if you don’t go with a plan, then you’re gonna end up searching through, picking random scriptures, looking and scrolling through sermons on YouTube and you end up not getting the benefits of a prayer retreat in the first place. 

So come with a plan. I know that there are certain sermons that I’ve heard in the past that always come back to me. And so whenever I want to experience that again, I know there’s one sermon in particular that I always go back to if I find myself in need of repentance or drawing closer to the Lord. 

If you wanna grab those sermons and have them ready, have a plan so that you’re actually benefiting from those resources, instead of spending all of your time trying to find the right resource to use. 

Go off the grid

Another tip that I have is to go off-grid. So what I mean by that is turn off your phone, right. You wanna make sure that your time is distraction-free. 

You don’t wanna be cruising on social media, you don’t wanna be taking a picture of yourself at your prayer retreat and posting it online, right. 

For a while, I thought that I shoot some B-roll of my personal prayer retreat to kind of put into this video. But then I thought, this is not the reason, this is not why I’m here. 

I wanna share with you what helped me, but I didn’t do it to share it on social media. I did it because I wanted to seek the Lord. 

And so for you, I don’t want you, you know, like taking a selfie and posting it, “hey I’m on my personal prayer retreat.” That’s not what it’s about. 

So make sure to turn off your phone, let it be put away, take that time to be with the Lord. I want you to give yourself the gift of time with Jesus, make sure that you take the time. 

It doesn’t have to be multiple nights, it doesn’t have to be at a hotel like mine was, it doesn’t even have to be as long as mine was, but be intentional to go to the Lord and to find that time to really seek him and know him on a deeper level. 

As we go through this series about the power of prayer, this is one that you can definitely put into action and experience that new fervor for Christ, that new love for him, a new direction that he wants you to take in your life this year. 

Plan Your Personal Prayer Retreat Workbook

I wanna make sure that you pick up the “Plan Your Own Prayer Retreat” workbook and guide so that you can start setting up an agenda for yourself. 

Personal Prayer Retreat Free Download: https://ashleyvarner.com/free
Power of Prayer Workbook: https://ashleyvarner.com/prayer

And I think that planning a personal prayer retreat in and of itself is something that gets you excited to go and spend time with the Lord. You come back ready and excited to live out your life for him in a way that maybe has been kind of stagnant before. 

I hope that this helped you. If you are experiencing kind of a rut in your relationship with the Lord, go ahead and try a personal prayer retreat. You won’t regret it. 

All right, that’s all I have for you today. Thank you so much and I will see you next time.

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- Ashley Varner

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