Long breaks can be a great time to focus a little more on listening, praying, or taking a nice long read in the Bible. We’ve interviewed a handful of folks and have gathered a variety of tips and practices.
Angel, bank examiner
The most recent and impactful extended quiet time I have had with the Lord was at a Summer Project retreat. It was blocked out in the schedule (so we didn’t have a choice!). But that was okay because such concentrated time with the Lord changes my life every time I do it! We were at a retreat center, so it was very secluded, scenic, and quiet. I journaled, walked, prayed, listened to worship music, and knowing me, cried some.
Thinking about the experience makes me wonder why I don’t do it more, but it is because lesser things in life just seem SO URGENT. God’s patience and mercy and gentleness do not force me to drink living water, and my prone-to-wander heart sometimes makes me forgetful of where true life is found.
Clay, chemical engineer
Every time I have spent extended time with God, I have been outside. Which I find kinda funny because generally outside and I don’t get along. For me, finding a shady spot and being surrounded by and feeling the things God has created makes a difference. Being outside keeps me from getting distracted.
I generally start off reading a little more Scripture than I normally would, but most of the time is spent in prayer. I have a long, long list of things I know I need to be praying for, so I finally get it all out to God. I also usually have some decisions to make, and so I pray, read Scripture, and talk to God while pro/conning the decision. I have come away feeling pretty confident in each decision made this way. Afterwards, I always wonder why I don’t do this more!
Jessica, grad student
I usually do different things to help focus my time depending on the time of day. If I’m trying to get some extra time in the evening after a long day at work, I’ll get cozy in my bed, make a cup of tea, light some candles, put some worship music on and write in my “gratitude” journal, spend some time in the Word, have a personal time of praise and worship, and write some verses in another journal (and make them look “fancy”) while meditating on them. If it’s during the day, I’ll go to a coffee shop or park and read, journal, prayer-walk. While I’m reading, I usually listen to some instrumental music, and when I’m journaling or walking, I might listen to some worship music with words.
When I lived in DC, my roommates and I went on a prayer retreat together in a farmhouse in Virginia. Several of us were praying through some big life decisions. (I was praying through moving to OKC.) One of the nights we each picked a different worship song and spent time individually finding scripture that supported the verses/chorus/bridge of the song. Then we all came back together and shared what we found. It was a great way for me to spend time in worship (but also spend time in the Word) and was a great reminder of the truth we sing when we worship. It was also just really fun to share with friends and hear what everyone else found!
Suparsh, 4th year med student
One of the most fruitful times for me to get extended time alone with God came at a retreat. We were given free space to just pray and reflect for a couple of hours. I took that time to go sit quietly by the pond with my Bible, a journal, and a reflection sheet that was given to us. (I left my phone in my room to avoid distractions.) During that time, I initially just sat quietly and let thoughts come to me and then used the reflection tool to dive into the Word and develop those thoughts with the Word of God and pray/journal about those thoughts/ruminations.
In college, I went on a Catholic retreat because my friend was too nervous to go alone. They had a time where they just sat in the chapel for adoration and took communion, and people could enter confession when they wanted. I didn’t really do those things but the mandated quiet time was great, and I enjoyed the setting (especially because some birds had snuck up into the rafters and helped to keep me grounded!).
Another time, on my own, I signed up to pray during the international day of prayer. I pulled some of the graveyard slots, and it was really a challenge to be still and in prayer for that long. Most of the time, I was just on my knees and in silence, but when I started to struggle with words, I turned on some worship music and kinda prayed through songs.
Kent, medical student
I spent three days backpacking in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado, with my buddy Devin and maybe 10 other guys back in 2016. I didn’t really go into it with the intention of having any kind of spiritual experience. But with having no cell service, bare minimum food (tortillas with tuna and instant mashed potatoes), and perfect silence (except for the sounds of nature), it was hard not to admire the beauty. Also, going on a trip like that causes you to bond with people quickly.
The hiking itself was also significant. At one point, we faced a narrow, icy patch that dropped off to a steep and rocky area below. I was wearing smooth-soled running shoes, and I thought to myself, I might actually die if I fall! I broke down the first night and cried because I was very much out of my comfort zone, but we couldn’t turn back. My trust in God increased as He carried me through it, and I had a moment where my friend prayed over me, and it was really special.
Chauncey, church planter
While teaching high school English, I drove down to Mount Scott with a lawn chair, a Bible, and a journal. I hiked up part of the mountain and found an open spot with a great view to sit and get time with Jesus. I used a simple handout (“Come with Me”) to guide the time. I remember falling asleep for the first hour and a half (“He gives his beloved sleep”), then woke up and read, prayed, and journaled.
Ryan, college recruiter
A thing I like to do is sit in my favorite chair, drink coffee, and pray through the Scriptures. I also like praying through Scripture memory verses. Sometimes I’ll listen to the Bible for long periods of time and then dialogue with God about what most stuck out to me. Other times I just like to ask a question, state how I’m feeling, or make a comment about things going on in my life, and then I wait for the Holy Spirit to speak into that. More often than not, he reminds me of a story or verse from the Bible, and then I start to dialogue with God about that story.
Tools You Can Use
Come With Me (Anonymous)
“Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place.” —Jesus, Mark 6:31
Recognize that you are accepting an invitation
Consciously slow and still yourself
Acknowledge that it is just you and Jesus–alone
Begin to enjoy Him and His presence
Invite Him to guide this time
Reconnect with Him
Of those things that hinder this reconnection, repent
Enjoy His forgiveness and sweet love
Give Him your hurts, confusions, disappointments, failures
Give Him your gratitude, praises, worship
Free yourself to rest
Let Him speak
Note what He says and shows, what you feel and experience
Let the Word guide you into His word
Give thanks, celebrate, in whatever ways you would
Let the stillness have its way
Give Him your heart again, and then . . .
Follow Him back out into the world.