Prayer is a relationship. Growth in relationships requires time, commitment, revelation, honesty and openness to intimacy. Prayer is easy in the sense that God already loves me endlessly, and always will do so. So the divine element in the relationship is totally secure and known.

What is a Retreat?

The word retreat means: to withdraw, to be alone for a while. Can I take time out from the frenetic activity of everyday life, so that I may have time instead to be present to the Lord and to myself? This Lenten Retreat is a personal invitation from the Lord to me. He is my faithful companion. He invites me - but do I have time? He desires to converse with me - but will I stop, be still and listen? Will I risk leaving the world of surface chatter, to encounter him in sincere conversation and in moments of nourishing communion?

Right here and now, in this present moment in my life, with all my joys, worries, anxieties and fears, Jesus knocks at the door of my heart. He waits with courtesy. There is no forced entry here, just the invitation, ‘Come apart and rest awhile’ (Mk 6:30). Will I listen to this invitation? The choice is mine!


Lent derives from the Old English word Lencten, which simply means the season of spring. It is that time of year when, in the Northern Hemisphere, snows melt, days lengthen and new foliage begins to bloom. Nature is alive again! The winter sleep is ended. Just as nature awakens to growth and new life, each Lent issues a renewed invitation to us to awaken to the mystery of life, the mystery of God, the mystery of love.

The call to discipleship lies at the heart of the gospel and the season of Lent beckons to us once again to ‘rend our hearts, not our clothing.’ The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving foster one purpose: that we might bare our hearts before God, and pray that whatever falseness is within us may be removed.

Lent calls us to return to the truth, to re-connect with and centre on Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection. Pondering his life, we look not solely on our personal lives but on our interconnection with the lives of all our brothers and sisters and all creation. Lent causes us to stop and ask: Where have I been missing the mark? Where have the connections with self, others, creation and with Jesus become severed? What choices led to this disconnection? Where am I being called to return to the Lord? Lent brings a fresh invitation from Jesus, to put my feet into his footprints and let him lead.

As I begin my Lenten pilgrimage I ask myself: For whom do I walk? In whose service am I living? I pray that this retreat will bring me into deeper communion with the depths of God’s love for me and for the world.

Planning the Time

I try to work out a schedule that best accommodates my particular life situation, a period for prayer that best suits the rhythm of my day, and I will try to be faithful to it.

I may be able to set aside a whole day when all else can be put aside. Or I may find it more feasible to spread my retreat over a number of days. Whatever way I choose, I let my one desire be to meet the Lord and to grow more like him. Teresa of Avila says that prayer is “going in, staying a while, and knowing when to come out”!

A time of retreat is a moment of great grace: the Lord is waiting to be gracious to me. I am invited to come to know him more intimately through a renewed daily encounter. Prayer, if I am open to God, will change me. Can I pray that I may radiate the depth of his love in my daily living?

When we pray, we pray for the world. Each of the six gospel readings point towards some aspect of divine love revealed in Jesus. They will support you as you pray and reflect in the company of Great Love. Recalling little Paul in the story we began with, may they help you to remember again what God is like! What matters most in making this Lenten retreat is meeting the Lord.

What Helps

Use of Symbols/Music/Art
Symbols, such as an icon, a painting, a crucifix, candle, or incense can help to create a prayerful atmosphere. These are aids to prayer. I use them only insofar as they help me to be still, to focus and be present to the One who is forever present to me. The candle slowly burns, symbolising my heart’s desire for God. The smoke from the incense rises upward like my prayer.

Posture in prayer matters: the whole person prays. So I bring all of myself, my physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual self, to prayer. The body prays just as the spirit prays. Attention to my body is important since this is the place where real encounter happens: it is a temple of God (1 Cor 6:19).

With my hands open and relaxed, I wait in hope-filled anticipation. The door of my heart lies open to the One who says to me ‘I will come in and sit with you, and share a meal with you’ (Rev 3:20). I slow down, remain there, alert and aware of how intimate God is towards me. I hear him say to me: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I am constant in my affection for you” (Jer. 31:3).


Prayer is a relationship. Growth in relationships requires time, commitment, revelation, honesty and openness to intimacy. Prayer is easy in the sense that God already loves me endlessly, and always will do so. So the divine element in the relationship is totally secure and known.

Prayer may be likened to an artist’s studio. All that God desires is that I sit and allow him to paint his likeness in me.

Jesus’ own prayer was a time for allowing the Father’s love to wash over him. Teresa of Avila says that prayer is ‘nothing less than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who knows and loves us. (Life 8:5)

All the raw material of my life matters to God and has its place in prayer. Authentic prayer comes from the depths of our lives. We can share with God what is happening in our lives, whenever and wherever. What matters most is that we meet the Lord, watch him, listen to him and speak to him.