Welcome and Practicalities
Welcome to this year’s Lent retreat. A retreat offers a chance to take a step back from the pressing concerns of daily life, to reflect prayerfully on the current state of your relationships, with God, with the people around you, and with the world. The season of Lent, during which we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, is a great opportunity to make such a retreat.
To help and guide our prayer this year, we are reflecting on what it means to journey into the wilderness. Throughout the Bible, the wilderness is a place of preparation; a place of overcoming temptation; a place that God leads many people to, including Jesus before he began his public ministry. The retreat will give us an opportunity to reflect on moments of wilderness from the Old and New Testaments, and also the desert places in our own lives.
As you pray with the material presented here, we hope that you will encounter the Lord in a new and profound way and that that encounter may have a transforming effect in your own life. We also hope that you’ll come to a deepened awareness of God at work in your life.
We start with some practical suggestions that might help you if you haven’t made a retreat like this before, or act as reminders if you have.
The first thing to consider is: how long do you feel that you are able to devote to each session of the retreat? It’s good to decide this in advance, and try and spend the same amount of time on each reflection. Don’t give up too soon if you struggle with the prayer, or continue too long if it seems to be going well. The material presented in each session lasts about 15 minutes, but you might want to take more time than this to prepare yourself, or to revisit ideas that arise from the retreat throughout the day. If you want extra resources to further prepare yourself for the prayer time, there are breathing and stillness exercises on the Pray as you go website and app.
You might give some thought to what time of day is best for you to pray. Everyone is different, some people prefer to pray at the beginning of the day, others in the evening, and others as a break in the middle of the day. It’s also important to think about where you are going to pray this retreat – the aim of this retreat is to enable you to pray anywhere you want – on the way to or from work, out on a walk, at home, or with others. Try and work out what is best for you.
Finally, ask yourself what you are making this retreat for. What are the gifts and graces you hope to receive from God during these times of prayer. Make sure that you start the prayer by asking God for these, or for whatever else God wants to give you.
Before you begin, just become aware of God welcoming you to meet him in this way, and of all those around the world who are praying this retreat alongside you.
Lent recalls the forty days that the gospels tell us Jesus spent in the wilderness, immediately before he began his public preaching. He spent his time there praying and fasting, but it was also for him a place of overcoming temptation. The wilderness was a place he would return to later on, when he was in need of rest and quiet. There is also a long tradition in scripture of seeing the wilderness as a place to meet God, away from the distractions of everyday life. In this retreat you are invited to find a place, a time, when you can free yourself from distractions, meet God, and rest in his presence.
We’ll look at the different ways in which men and women in the Old Testament and the New approached the wilderness, and what they found there. We’ll see how they responded to the God they met in those quiet places; and we’ll make our own responses to that same God, who continues to invite his friends to take time out simply to enjoy his presence.