Friday, May 29, 2009

Inner~View #66: Transforming Power of a Personal Prayer Retreat

Come Away with Me by Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Come Away with Me

Pray! Magazine's Guide to Prayer Retreats

by Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Cynthia Hyle Bezek editor of Pray! Online ...

Phil ~ In the past, most retreat guides dealt with how to plan for a church group's annual get-away; a weekend filled with games and sports and activities. How is this guide different?

Cynthia ~ The retreats you’re talking about are usually intended for horizontal fellowship, so a church can have focused time to get to know one another better. And that’s great, and there’s a genuine need for that. However, if we need focused time to deepen our human relationships, how much more do we need focused time to deepen our most important relationship of all, our relationship with God? That’s what my book is about: taking intentional, extended time alone with God to nurture your relationship with Him.

Phil ~ Is a personal prayer retreat only for persons who have reached the burn-out stage in their ministry?

Cynthia ~ No. Personal prayer retreats are for all of us who want to enjoy personal, intimate connection with God. I think of my relationship with God in the same way I think of a marriage relationship. No marriage relationship will be deep if a husband and wife only communicate on the run or in the middle of the bustle of life. They need focused alone time to really hear each other and grow to know each others hearts. It’s like that with God. If we really want to know and enjoy Him, to hear His heart and to let Him care for ours, then we need to spend quality and quantity time with Him. I really don’t believe there’s a short cut.

Phil ~ What does it mean that a personal prayer retreat is a "gracious invitation"?

Cynthia ~ I called it that because I believe God longs to give us the gift of rest and refreshment and deep connection with Him. He won’t force us to enjoy Him, but He yearns for us to experience Him in ways that refresh us, re-create us, restore us, empower us, and fill us with His very Self.

Phil ~ Many of us who desperately need to retreat are afraid we could not sustain a weekend or a day or even an hour of praying ...

Cynthia ~ That’s a huge fear. And yet without exception, everyone I’ve encouraged and coached about taking a day (or more) with God has unanimously come back telling me how quickly the time passed, and how they had no idea they could spend that much time with God—and really enjoy it. Sometimes this fear comes from what I think is an incomplete view of prayer. Some folks think prayer is all about us talking to God, mostly telling Him our needs and requests. Well, I can do that for about 45 minutes and then I’m done. There’s only so much listing of requests I can do. But when you realize that prayer is about relationship—about talking and listening and sharing and celebrating and dreaming and rejoicing and resting and just being companionable—a whole new way of relating with God opens up and time with God just flies.

Phil ~ How might some of the methods you mentioned in your book help us spend an extended time in prayer?

Cynthia ~
  • Singing, listening to music—Worship songs and hymns give us words to express our love to God. Have you ever had the experience of finding a birthday card that expressed your feelings about a loved one better than you ever could? Songs can do that for us, helping us to express what’s truly in our hearts toward God but in words we may not have been able to come up with ourselves.
  • Writing or speaking prayers—For those of us who struggle with distractions, writing or speaking aloud our prayers can help. When we write or speak we force our thoughts to come out single file. These practices help us to find focus. Writing our prayers has the added benefit of providing us with a record of our conversations with God which is of great benefit down the road when we want to remember and reflect on where we’ve been and where God has brought us. On the other hand, speaking our prayers helps us to be more conversational and relational in our talks with God, something many of us could benefit from. In either case, I suggest that you pause for two or three minutes after you’ve written or said something to allow God’s Spirit to speak back to you.
  • Reading noted authors (current or classic) on prayer- I hesitated to make this suggestion because some people might be tempted to spend their entire time reading instead of connecting with God. So, having said that, yes, reading others as they talk about communicating with God can be helpful, but I encourage you to read just short amounts, maybe a chapter, or even less. In my view, the purpose of reading during a retreat is to get a thought or idea that will stimulate our own conversations with God. For example, I like to read Henri Nouwen. I might read a few paragraphs from him and then talk to God about something he said, like how God views the balance of my life in terms of alone time and time with others. Or I might read A. W. Tozer and talk to God about my hunger for Him. Or I might read an article that tells me about prayerwalking and then go out and take a prayer walk. But the idea of reading is to stimulate something in me that will respond to God in new ways. If we only read about prayer but do not pray, we have missed the objective.
  • Walking, dancing, kneeling—The Bible gives us examples of many different prayer postures, including these three and more. I enjoy experimenting with these during my alone times with God. For me it’s about involving my whole self in my prayer—my spirit, soul, and body. Something about lying prostrate before Him or yes, even dancing, opens me up to Him and makes me feel close to Him. I think He enjoys me losing my inhibitions and letting “all that is within me praise the Lord!”

Phil ~ Do you think some have expectations that are too high? We assume we must have a burning bush encounter with God or our retreat was a failure ...

Cynthia ~ That’s a great question. I think it depends on your expectations. If your expectation is to get an answer to a huge question, like should I move across the globe or marry this particular person, then you might be disappointed. If you expectation is to have God speak to you in skywriting, you might also be disappointed. But if you expect to relax with Him, draw near to Him and have Him draw near to you, allowing Him to do that however He chooses, then you will not be disappointed. I never have been. Sometimes my retreats have been powerful and dramatic, but far more often they’ve been “still small voice” times. Either way, I come away encouraged, having spent time with my Father who loves me so well and always knows just what I need and how to give it. I think the key is to let Him lead. You can go with your agenda if you like, but then, first thing when you get to your retreat, offer it to Him. Say something like, “Here’s what I’d like to do with You, Lord, but You know best. So will You lead this time and express Your love for me however You see fit?”

Phil ~ What suggestions would you give to an "I'm too busy - I'm not ready" pastor who might consider spending an hour or morning in prayer in their office or a nearby location?

Cynthia ~ I’d borrow from Bill Hybels and say “You’re too busy not to pray.” And I wouldn’t say that in order to produce guilt. The fact is, the busier we are, the more we need God’s wisdom, strength, and empowering. He did not make us to do ministry on our own steam. And on-the-run praying doesn’t provide all of God that pastors need to bring to the demanding situations they face in ministry every day. I really believe time away with God is a gracious invitation, a gift, a necessity—not a luxury. And I can’t prove this, but I think it is like a tithe. If I give God from the firstfruits of my time (even as I do from my income) He has always been faithful to make the rest spread as far as it needs to go. So bottom line, I’d challenge pastors to trust God, take the time, and see if He won’t make the rest of their time more fruitful than if they hadn’t set apart time to relax with and enjoy God.

Phil ~ The Pastors' Prayer Group I am involved with has taken several one-day retreats. Could that be a good way to get one's feet wet; going with a small group as a first step?

Cynthia ~ Absolutely. If people can get away with a group and have a great experience with God—one in which the time flies by and they never knew they could spend so much time so enjoyably with God—then they will gain confidence and tools they can use on their own personal retreats with God.

Phil ~ Cynthia, please write a prayer you hope everyone will pray you as they read along with you ...

Cynthia ~ I’d be glad to. Father, You know us so well. You know our need for deep, connected relationship. And You know our need for rest, refreshment, and restoration, especially in our busy, hectic lives. It’s so cool that You invite us to have these needs met in You. Would you please help us to accept Your most gracious invitation? Would You help us trust You for the time we need to deepen our conversations with You? And for each of my friends who reads this prayer and takes You up on Your offer, would You meet them deeply and surprise them with the delight and richness of “wasting time” with You? You are so kind to us, Lord. Help us to receive Your kindness and to be changed by it. In the name of Jesus who made our relationship with You possible, Amen.

===>Click headline to access information or to purchase Cynthia's book, Come Away With Me . . .

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MyPrayerTeam can by Your Prayer Team


Every praying pastor needs a team of people who support him/her in prayer ...

Build your own Personal Prayer Team that communicates quickly & easily

  1. You and a friend pick one day a week to pray for each other over the next 12 months;
  2. You each set up your own free, personal prayer site and enter your prayer requests and answers to prayer, as well as your prayer schedule with your partners;
  3. Then, on every prayer day, an email delivers your partner's current prayer requests;
  4. After you've prayed, simply click the AMEN button to send an encouraging follow-up email.

With 7 partners, someone could be praying for you everyday, as you pray for him or her. Learn More or Register

Sponsored by Global Partners Ministries, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Prayer that Encapsualtes the Gospel

"Not a method or technique, this prayer is truly "an abridgement of the entire Gospel" as Tertullian said in the late second century.

Living the Lord's Prayer

The Way of the Disciple

By Albert Haase, O.F.M.
Foreword by Gerald L. Sittser

book cover

Contained in the Lord's Prayer is a complete picture of our life with God. Covering topics ranging from our view of God to our most intimate human relationship to how we treat the world around us and the people in it, the Lord's Prayer is a trustworthy guide for spiritual formation and a compact handbook for holiness.

In Living the Lord's Prayer, Father Albert Haase follows the lines of this greatest of all prayers, showing how the ideas have been understood by great people of faith in the past and revealing how they are useful for our spiritual formation today. With Haase's counsel plus the wisdom of this great cloud of witnesses that includes Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Thérèse of Lisieux and others, you'll discover how God can use this prayer to shape your very soul.

Including true stories and reflection questions for individual consideration or discussion with a spiritual director or small group, Living the Lord's Prayer will teach you to live--rather than simply say--the Lord's Prayer, and thereby to walk in the way of a true disciple.

Book Excerpts

PDF Foreword »
PDF Preface »
PDF 1. God as Father »

Download a Book Look about Living the Lord's Prayer.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pray. Then Preach on Prayer ... Sermon Transcripts

Brown, Steve - The Real Lord's Prayer

Improve your own sermons by reviewing some of the best from the Preaching ... receive access to the full outline and complete sermon. The Real Lord's Prayer by Stephen W. Brown Text: John 17 Topic: Why it's significant that ... We should be encouraged by the fact Jesus is praying for us. Keywords: Prayer, Jesus Introduction: John 17 is the true "Lord's Prayer." Jesus had a deep relationship with the Father. Jesus lived a ...

Buchanan, Mark - The House of Prayer

Improve your own sermons by reviewing some of the best from the Preaching ... to receive access to the full outline and complete sermon. The House of Prayer by Mark Buchanan Text: Mark 11:12-19; Mark 11:20-26 Topic: Where ... Christian Life; Daily bread; Dependence on God; Faith; Faith and prayer; Forgiveness; Fruit; Fruitfulness; Holy Spirit; Holy Spirit; Fruit of; Knowing God; Miracles; Prayer; Prayer, believing; Prayer, power ...


How prayer brings authority An article by Richard Foster What is it about prayer that links it to preaching? Why would a person like Martin Luther ... thing, but talking to God for men is greater still"? In touch with God Prayer gets us in touch with God, causing us to swing like a needle to the ... We discover serenity, the unshakable firmness of life orientation. Prayer opens us to the subterranean sanctuary of the soul where we ...

Hybels, Bill - The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Prayer Retreat ~ "SOP" for Every Praying Pastor

Dear Phil,

I just finished reading a survey by a highly recognizable Divinity school. The goal of the survey was to secure an appraisal on the state of the church in the United States. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to read the survey if you’ve been over at the Pastors Retreat Network Facebook page lately. We’ve posted a link to the survey on our Facebook page. We posted the link not because we consider the survey authoritative, but rather because of the dire picture that is painted in the survey results.

We realize that trying to get an accurate reading on the state of the church is somewhat like attempting to nail JELL-OÒ to the wall; hard to achieve perfect results.

It is important for us at Pastors Retreat Network to keep our finger on the pulse of the church. When your mission is to strengthen pastors for the sake of a strong church you are compelled to stay on top of what is happening in the church across the country.

One thing we’ve learned by listening to pastors coming through our retreat sites is that “stress” within the pastorate is at an all time high. Pastors are feeling pressure from within their churches, from their families and from within the communities they serve.

One method that we use to keep an eye on how pastors are doing is by monitoring our reservation calendar. It seems that the more difficult the ministry conditions, the faster our reservation calendar fills up. Last year, 2008, Pastors Retreat Network served more than 600 pastors at our retreat sites in Wisconsin, Texas and Ohio; a very full year.

The important thing to realize when considering all this reporting and data gathering is that the bottom line behavioral indicator is that time with God is absolutely crucial; pastors who make time for Sabbath rest and for extended times of prayer always seem better equipped to minister to the needs of their family, congregation and community.

On the other hand, pastors who choose to continually push the “energy envelope” are the same pastors who seem destined to leave ministry because of burnout, exhaustion or unmanageable stress within their family.

We encourage pastors to set aside a day for rest and prayer each week; sound familiar? In addition, we stress the importance of making time for an extended time of retreat at least once each year. The pastors who leave our retreat center leave with a definite bounce in their step and a calm inner assurance that they can indeed live up to the calling that God has put on their life.

So before you get caught in the trap of more is better, be sure that you are creating a time for rest in your weekly and yearly ministry calendar. A spiritually healthy pastor that is well rested is much more effective than a pastor that has to drag themselves to the church every day.

If we can help you navigate your quest for a prayerful, restful ministry experience please feel free to call us or visit us online. We are here to serve you in your service to the Kingdom.

In His Grip,

Scott Papador

Scott Papador, Executive Director

Please click here to give your gift today! If you would prefer to send your support by mail, please use the address listed below. May God bless you as you support this important work.

Mailing Address: Pastors Retreat Network, PO Box 180455, Delafield, WI 53018 US

Contact Name: Scott Papador
Telephone Number: (414) 828-4893
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

You Pray Well. Can You Lead Others To Prayer Well?

August seems so far away, doesn't it?

As we look at our timetable for "Reaching the Summit," though, it seems like August is moving up on us very QUICKLY! We need to send deposits, book airfare, decide on menus, etc. As good stewards, we desire to base these decisions on educated estimates and not guesses. We are hoping you can help us out -- and in return, we have a gift for you!

We know that many of you intend to come to the Summit. Register by June 15 and you will receive a FREE gift when you arrive at the Summit. We would like to thank you with your choice of Fresh Encounters or PRAYzing! by Daniel Henderson, or Prayer Summits by Dr. Joe Aldrich.

If you are not a pastor, please forward this to your pastor and encourage him or her to come. Better yet -- provide a scholarship for your pastor to attend. You never know how this gift might change your church!

By registering early, you not only receive a free gift, you also have a better chance of getting an on-site room (click here for accommodation info). As we pray and plan for this Summit, we are so excited about coming together with you for these days of impact, encouragement, joy, and hope!

Daniel Henderson always says that it is better to hear from a satisfied customer than from the paid salesman, so take a look at how Prayer Summits have impacted one pastor and his congregation in Indiana:

Several years ago Pastor Mark Vroegop was exposed to worship-based prayer while attending a Prayer Summit. Mark admits he had reservations about attending the event, thinking that it would be boring to spend two days just praying. What he realized is that it was just the opposite. "We met with God," he says, "and it was the most free-flowing, Spirit-fed, Scripture-oriented thing I'd ever been a part of, and it grabbed was so right. I left saying, 'This is how church is supposed to be, and how can I bring it back to my church?'" Mark made taking this to his church a focus, and has since "infected" two churches with the vision of worship-based prayer.

In March, close to 100 people from College Park Baptist Church of Indianapolis followed Mark, their pastor, in a day and a half of worshiping God using Scripture and song. One woman summed it up this way: "God moved in a mighty way in the heart of my husband at the Prayer Summit. I am not sure what happened there, but he has already put in place some major changes in our daily lives, and he is prayerfully considering more. I am talking radical change to a very busy work schedule, planned times to witness to co-workers and neighbors, lifting me up in prayer and encouragement like never before, and even selling our house to downsize again. Please understand; I have been blessed to be married to a godly man for almost 20 years, but it is clear to me that he has grown closer to the Lord and the desires He has for his life through the Prayer Summit."

Mark was excited to share this experience with his people and looks forward to how they will bring the vision back to College Park. "I had four or five people ask if we would be doing this again," he says. "It has created an appetite for more, and to share with those who didn't attend. When you have met with God in a way that is meaningful and powerful, you want others to experience it too. Prayer Summits set people up for that. They meet God and want to tell others." Church bodies change when they begin to meet with God in a personal way. Mark is just one example of how the ministry of Strategic Renewal can impact a pastor and then an entire body of believers. College Park Church also holds Fresh Encounters once a month and a prayer and fast Wednesday once a month.

For more information on "Reaching the Summit," visit our website,, or call Lori at 916-489-4774. We are excited about what God has planned for us August 4-6. Don't miss out!

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