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A Day with God

A Guided Personal Retreat of Prayer and Reflection

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

The power of the whole church in prayer -- what better thing can happen in a congregation, whether that congregation is in turmoil, want, need, peace, whatever its circumstance.  Everyone knows the personal spiritual benefits of spending time with God, especially in a retreat.  But how does one get an entire congregation to go on retreat?  Yet it is possible to teach that God is with us at every moment in every day, whether we are at work, at school, at home, at play.

I developed the following Guided Personal Retreat for a congregation in Florida in 2000 as part of their faith renewal during an interim ministry.  A particular day was named, November 2, as a Day with God, a day when the entire congregation would be involved in prayer and reflection.  The Guide and a cover letter were mailed a week in advance of the appointed day.  On the day itself, the pastors of the parish offered opportunities for group prayer and reflection in a two hour period, repeated in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening to compliment the individual "retreating" with the Guide.  I commend this work to you as a blessing for your parish's spiritual life.

OPTION:  Let me also suggest that the five parts of this guided retreat could easily be configured over five days for "A Week with God."  There certainly is enough material in each section to consume a whole day in reflection and prayer.

 

 

The Cover Letter

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Dear People of God:

In this packet you will find the materials for the “Day with God: A Guided Personal Retreat of Prayer and Reflection.” Thursday, November 2 has been set aside for the members of our church to be in prayer following this Guide.

Before you get to Nov. 2, read through the “Introduction to the Day,” so that you get an idea of how to make use of what is enclosed. At the same time, you may wish to scan briefly all the sheets to get an overview of how the day will flow and what additional items might be helpful to have nearby. You will notice that the “Day with God” begins immediately upon your rising in the morning, so have the Guide handy for your opening prayer to start the day. Once you begin the day, keep the Guide close at hand, taking it out with you if you go to work or other activities, in order to follow the prayers and readings as you are able throughout the day.

In addition to the personal devotions that are part of this Guide, your pastors are offering Group Devotions in the Adult Learning Center for those who would like to come together in prayer and meditation. Three times are being offered: in the morning from 10 a.m. to noon, in the afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m., and in the evening from 7 to 9 p.m. The same devotion will be used at all three sessions.

I am excited to be a part of an entire church in prayer. I hope each of you are too. May God bless us abundantly in our praying and in our reflecting, blessing us individually and blessing us as the Church of Christ in this place.

The Lord be with you +
The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel

 

 

A Day with God

A Guided Personal Retreat of Prayer and Reflection

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel

 

Introduction to the Day

This guide is intended to provide you with an opportunity to set aside time to be with God. You may use it all, from beginning to end, or you may only be able to use it in part, depending on how your day goes. Using as much as you can will enrich your spiritual experience all the more. Here you will find prayers, scripture readings, instructions for certain actions, meditations, and consideration guides to assist you in your meditations. All are designed to increase your awareness of God in your day and in your life, as well as to teach you how to listen to God and simply be with him.

The materials have been put together for use at home, at work, alone or with someone. Although the prayers and readings may be done with others, reflecting, meditating, listening to God is something that will be done within the quiet of one's own thoughts. And yet the quiet of one's own thoughts does not necessarily require silence in your surroundings. Quiet and silent time is good and helpful, and everyone is encouraged to find some time for this. But God goes with us throughout our busy days too, and our thoughts can turn to him within the quiet of our own thoughts at any time of the day. It is here, in the quiet of our thoughts, in our pondering and reflecting, that we not only find God and feel God's presence, but also hear God speaking to us. How does this occur?

Let me give you some instructions for reflecting and meditating. Our prayers and our ears are prepared through God's own Word. As you read that Word today, look for certain words or phrases that stand out for you, that strike a chord in some way. It may only be one word. It might be a phrase or sentence or the idea contained in the entire passage. Themes drawn from the reading follow to assist you in focusing your thoughts for meditation.

If you are at home, relax into a comfortable chair and allow that word, phrase or idea to wander through your thoughts. Do not hinder the direction it takes, but follow its path. If you find your thoughts wandering into other areas of concern or worry, place that concern in God's hands and leave it there. Then come back to your word or phrase and begin again. Sometimes closing your eyes helps. If you fall asleep, do not become flustered, but see it as a natural part of your God-given day, returning to your reflecting upon awakening.

If you are at work, use your commuting time and breaks as quiet time if possible. During your regular work activity, make use of any opportunity to reflect upon that word or phrase or idea, following your thoughts wherever they may go. The notes above about wandering into other concern apply here as well.

For all people, at home or at work, allow the day to go as it goes, with all its natural interruptions. See the whole day as a gift from God, interruptions and all. Consciously return to your reflecting again and again. Whether for seconds or minutes is of less importance than returning to your pondering and being conscious of God's continual presence. Talk to God at any time and frequently throughout your day, just as you would talk with anyone. This can be a single thought, like "What do you think, Lord?" or "Thank you for being here," or "I like that, Lord" - each thought sent like an arrow heavenward. Being with God does not require asking for anything.

When is it that you will hear God speaking? When you discover insight through your pondering; when you find your thoughts not simply being your own, when you find comfort in God's nearness and the new thoughts that come to you through him. As you go from section to section, if you find your thoughts returning to a previous meditation or insight, then follow it. God must want you to spend time there. You see, God is in your thoughts, as Christ promised: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."    John 14:26

 

 

I. Morning - God's Relationship with Me

Light a Candle

If possible and desired, light a single candle, votive light or oil lamp, and keep it with you during your times of prayer, reading and reflection. As you light the candle, you may speak aloud or in thought, "Light of Christ, shine in me," remembering Christ's own words: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."     John 8:12

 

Say a Prayer of Thanks for a New Day

We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all danger and harm. We ask you to preserve and keep us, this day also, from all sin and evil, that in all our thoughts words, and deeds we may serve and please you. Into your hands we commend our bodies and souls and all that is ours. Let your holy angels have charge of us, that the wicked one have no power over us. Amen.     Martin Luther

 

Water - Remembering My Baptism as I wash for the day

As you follow your regular morning routine of washing for the day, consider and remember your baptism as you touch the water. You may remember the event or you may not. But its specialness in your life is not determined by your memory as much as by what God did for you in that event: "Child of God, you are mine, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." Ponder these words as you wash. As you are moved in your thoughts, you may wish to make the sign of the cross with wet fingers using the words that invite God's presence into your day, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

 

Reading from Scripture during or after Breakfast - God's Relationship with Me

The Psalmist writes: "O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you."      Psalm 139-1-18

 

Meditation and Reflection during the morning

Take whatever quiet time you have now to begin meditating and reflecting on the reading. But then continue that reflecting as you go through your morning activities. Listen for God in the insights of your thoughts. Feel yourself in God's presence as you ponder.

If you need assistance in focusing, then reflect with God on one of these:

          A God who knows you even before you are conceived.

          A God who carefully "knits you together in all your parts."

          Being formed by God by his own design, for his own purpose.

          Being so loved in all your parts, made by him, claimed by him in baptism.

          Being God's child "forever."

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II. Lunch - My Relationship With God: Faith

 

Light a Candle, if possible and desired, for your prayer and reading, using the words, "Light of Christ, shine in me."

 

Prayer at Midday

God be in my head, and in my understanding; God be in my eyes, and in my looking; God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; God be in my heart, and in my thinking; God be at my end, and at my departing. Amen.   from the Old Sarum Primer


Speak your Faith in the words of the Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, Godís only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
 


Reading from Scripture during or after Lunch - Faith

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.    Matthew 6:25-33


Meditation and Reflection during the early afternoon

Take whatever quiet time you have now to begin meditating and reflecting on the reading. But then continue that reflecting as you go through your early afternoon activities. Listen for God in the insights of your thoughts. Feel yourself in God's presence as you ponder.

If you need assistance in focusing, then reflect with God on one of these:

          The promise that is contained in this sermon

          The total trust in God that Christ gives in both example and teaching.

          That faith is trust in God's promises.

          That faith means dependence upon God when we would rather be independent

          That faith's dependence upon God means letting go of worry and control

          That God cannot lead or guide until we are willing to follow in faith and trust

 

 

III. Mid-Afternoon -
My Life in God's Church, God's Church in My Life


Light a Candle, if possible and desired, for your prayer and reading, using the words, "Light of Christ, shine in me."

 

Prayer in the Afternoon - during a break or around 3 pm

Almighty God, you have knit your holy people into one fellowship of believers in the Church of Jesus Christ. Send now your Holy Spirit upon your Church that your living word may fill us with love and joy, deepen our faith, unite us in our calling and inspire us to share the Good News in the world around us until every corner sings the glories of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen      tlw


Reading from Scripture - God's Church

St. Paul writes: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.    1 Corinthians 12:4-27


Meditation and Reflection during the late afternoon

Take whatever quiet time you have now to begin meditating and reflecting on the reading. But then continue that reflecting as you go through your late afternoon activities. Listen for God in the insights of your thoughts. Feel yourself in God's presence as you ponder.

If you need assistance in focusing, then reflect with God on one of these:

          My Church as the Body of Christ

          Yourself as an important part of that Body of Christ

          All the members as important parts of that Body of Christ

          The head of the Body, Jesus Christ, giving meaning to all parts of the Body

          What it means for God to place you in a Body where you may not like all its parts or decisions

          What is God's purpose in calling you into this Body?

 

 

IV. Evening Meal - My Part in God's Plan


Light a Candle, if possible and desired, for your prayer and reading, using the words, "Light of Christ, shine in me."

 

Prayer at the Evening Meal

The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. Amen      Psalm 145:15-16


Reading from Scripture during or after the Meal - God's Plan

St. Paul writes: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.     Ephesians 1:3-14


Meditation and Reflection during the late afternoon

Take whatever quiet time you have now to begin meditating and reflecting on the reading. But then continue that reflecting as you go through your evening activities. Listen for God in the insights of your thoughts. Feel yourself in God's presence as you ponder.

If you need assistance in focusing, then reflect with God on one of these:

          That God not only creates, but gives purpose, according to his will.

          That if God has a plan and purpose for everything, then I must be part of that plan.

          That God's plan for me is also God's plan for his Church: "Gathering all things in Christ."

          What is my part in God's plan?

          What is my part in God's Church?

          What is the Church's part in God's plan?


V. Before Retiring - Spiritual Cleansing


Light a Candle, if possible and desired, using the words, "Light of Christ, shine in me."


Prayer of Confession

The following is an opportunity to make confession before God, drawn from your own prayer, thoughts and insights from this day with God. The words are excerpted from the Lutheran Book of Worship rite of "Individual Confession & Forgiveness," p.196f, in which a penitent meets privately with a pastor. Pray this section recognizing God's presence with you in your own words and in the words of the pastor as they appear below.

Penitent: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin.

I confess before God that I am guilty of many sins. Especially I confess before you that.... (Make your confession before God. Then end with:) For all this I am sorry and I pray for forgiveness. I want to do better.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Pastor: Do you believe that the word of forgiveness I speak to you comes from God himself?

Penitent: Yes, I believe.

Pastor: (The pastor lays both hands on the head of the penitent and says) God is merciful and blesses you. By the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I, a called and ordained servant of the Word, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Penitent: Amen


Reading from Scripture following Confession and Forgiveness

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him."      Psalm 103:8-13


Water again - Return to Baptism with your final washing for the day

Martin Luther tells us that every confession leads us back to the baptismal font wherein we were originally washed free of our sins. As you began your day remembering that singular event in which you were joined to God and the Body Christ, so again return to the freshness and cleansing that water brings you as you make your final wash for the day. Consider as you touch the water the freedom that forgiveness gives you. Consider the great gift of love that comes from God who freely adopted you as his own in Baptism and forgives your sins when you ask for it. As you are moved in your thoughts, you may wish to make the sign of the cross with wet fingers as you did at the start of the day.

 

Final Prayers before sleep

Once you have completed all your preparations for bedtime, then say your ending prayers for the day, which might include the following. You may say them standing, kneeling, or already tucked in bed.

          Lord's Prayer

          A Prayer for myself - Thanksgiving for faith

          A Prayer for God's Church

          Prayers of personal concern for others

 

Close with the following prayer:

We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have this day so graciously protected us.... By your great mercy defend us from all the perils and dangers of this night. Into your hands we commend our bodies and souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels have charge of us, that the wicked one have no power over us.   Martin Luther

 

Use a Prayer Word to drift into sleep in God's arms

Now, extinguish your candle, climb into bed, and turn off the light. As you begin to relax into sleep, choose a prayer word that reminds you of God - Love, Jesus, God, Lord, Father, perhaps even a favorite short phrase from scripture, "The Lord is my shepherd" - any word or combination of words that brings God immediately to your mind with all grace and comfort. Begin repeating that word(s) over and over, perhaps with each inhale and exhale. See God within that word or phrase and within your mind enfolding you into his arms as you gently fall asleep.