Last year I went on a spiritual retreat during Holy Week. It was the first time in years I had set aside time to be still and know God. For four days, I was completely unplugged—no cell phone, no laptop. Except for the two or three short guided group conversations throughout each day, it was just me, my Bible, and my journal.The first day I tried to quiet myself and get my brain into prayer mode. Instead, I fell asleep for several hours and woke up in time for dinner. After dinner, I tried again to focus on God. I read passages of Scripture, hoping to experience a moment of illumination—something, anything, to help me know for certain that God was with me. I tried writing my prayers in my journal. This helped me stay focused, but still, divine revelation eluded me. I wanted a special kind of awakening. Weren’t retreats supposed to lead to enlightenment and give my faith life a boost?
On Day Two my experience started to shift. The retreat paced between brief devotional readings, group discussion, and plenty of solitary time with God. During our discussion times, we explored the days leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and death. When Jesus whispered, “I thirst” while he hung dying on the cross, I envisioned not only his physical need for water, but also his overwhelming need to quench all the sin of the world that keeps us from him. The next day we worshiped together and then walked the perimeter of the sanctuary to view the art that highlighted Jesus’ final days. A contemporary interpretation of La Pieta showed Mary cradling Jesus’ dead body in her arms. As I stood before the painting pondering this mother’s broken heart for her son, I felt the magnitude of her pain. I realized anew that my salvation had been bought for a price. This realization led me to deep repentance and reflection of whether I was living a life worthy of the price Christ had paid for me.
I share this example with you to illustrate a point: Prayer comes in many forms. There is no one right way to pray. In today’s technology-driven culture, we have myriad ways to stay connected. So too with prayer.
For me, time to meditate and pray at this retreat helped unlock a spiritual creativity, which led to deeper, more honest communication with God. This kind of benchmark experience isn’t the norm for me. Rather than waiting for an occasional breakthrough like this, I rely on regular conversation with God, especially while driving to and from work. What are some ways you’ve learned to “pray without ceasing”? How do you incorporate meditation into your relationship with God?