Start your sabbatical with a retreat, not a holiday. This initial retreat will help set the tone of your sabbatical. In order to pray well, you need to prepare to pray. Think of this retreat like as slow journey away from the temptations and distractions of the active life. Here are some ideas to help you make a start:

  • Sleep, for a week or as long as needed—this will give you physical rest
  • Spend a day without a watch; attune to natural rhythms
  • Prepare and eat simple meals; do not be overly concerned about taste
  • Cut down the use of communications technology
  • Identify your patterns of media consumption and set limits
  • Keep a journal

As you slow down and minimize noise in your life, you may begin to feel empty, bored, or edgy. Persist in your intention; you will reap the rewards later. This initial period of detachment from distractions prepares you to cultivate an appetite for spiritual things. As you notice movements of your heart, the following simple prayers may help:

  • Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1).
  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (also known as the Jesus Prayer).

Both these prayers are practiced by Christians who desire to pray continually, as instructed by the Apostle Paul (1 Thess 5:17). They are not magical incantations nor mindless mantras, but a simple means to cultivate attentiveness to God and to the inner state of your heart. Your perspective on the little events of daily life will begin to change as the Holy Spirit influences your thoughts. These prayers are addressed to God. You are therefore inviting God’s presence into situations as they unfold every minute. A bad day may cause you to pray more, and at the end of it, you may rejoice that you have never prayed more in a single day.

Your posture towards the other—the person you speak to, who gives you direction, annoys or ignores you—changes when you know the ultimate love of God. The reassurance of God’s love gives you freedom from constantly reacting to the other. Instead, by calling upon God through prayer, you become the presence of Christ for the other. At the same time, you recognize your posture (as someone in need) before God. You also begin to see God’s love for the other and the other’s need for God. Without being conscious of it, you are allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through you to love, to forgive, to bless, to discern good and evil.

The retreat at the start of your sabbatical allows you to stop and withdraw from endless activity to rest and cultivate personal disciplines. It shifts your attention from worldly distractions to prayerful attentiveness towards God. Some practices you find helpful during your retreat can be toned down and adapted to daily life over the course of your sabbatical.

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