The following is a prayer progression developed my dear friend, Jeff O’Connor. He led his church leadership team through this progression at Be Still Retreats and we have since adopted it as a guide into intimacy and inventory with God when withdrawing:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NKJV

Breath Prayer:

  1. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Prepare to pray the Psalm in 5 consecutively diminishing sentences.
  2. Either aloud or quietly to yourself, say the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
  3. After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
  4. After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know.”
  5. After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still.”
  6. After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be.”
  7. When ready, pray, “Amen.”

Seasons

Read the following scripture passage slowly, letting the words sink in.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Many times in our lives, change is perceived as loss. But that is not the full picture- in nature or in our lives either. It is necessary and good to undergo change. And it is not only necessary and good, but it is also inevitable. Whether we realize it or not, and whether we embrace it or not, seasons change. Because of that, it is wise to approach God from the perspective of the season we are coming out of, in the middle of, or heading into. What was needed from us 6 months ago may not necessarily be what the Lord is asking of us today.

With this in mind, slowly work through these questions with the Lord.

  • Lord, in this season of my life… what do I need to release?
  • Lord, in this season of my life… what do I need to forgive?
  • Lord, in this season of my life… what do I need to grieve?
  • Lord, in this season of my life… what do I need to welcome?
  • Lord, in this season of my life… what do I need to receive from you? From those around me?
  • Lord, in this season of my life… what are you teaching me? Forming in me?

Deferred Maintenance

The natural progression of things is not progress at all, but regression; decay, rot, unhealth, erosion, and a general falling apart are the natural end to inattentiveness. This house is proof of that. What most likely began as a beautiful example of human craftsmanship and ingenuity now looks like the kind of place children would be terrified to go near after dark! And all because it has been subjected to forces of nature without any intervention.

The thing about this house is it didn’t get this way overnight. It’s not as though at one point it was beautiful and inspiring, and then the next morning the owners woke up and it looked like this. No, there was a long, slow process that produced the result you see in this picture. Most likely no noticeable difference could be seen from one day to the next. But the cumulative effect or deferred maintenance stares us in the face. This is a great picture of the reality of our own hearts and lives.

Jesus said that this drift from health to unhealth happens not just out there in nature, but actually affects our lives too. And what’s more, He says the source of the rot and decay is not “out there” but “in here” (**points to chest**). It begins in our hearts. Our hearts have been corrupted and infected by the curse of sin.

Mark 7:21-23 NLT “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” That means that left to our own devices, without intervention from outside of ourselves, the condition of our hearts, minds, bodies, and lives will drift towards exactly the same picture we see here.

As we look to our own lives, we can drift in the same way. We can drift towards negativity and sin in ways that typically come to mind- anger, jealousy, pride, lust, fear, etc.- sins of omission. It’s written in James 4:17 NIV “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” So there can be good that is left undone in our lives that is sin- encouragements left unspoken, giftings left undeveloped, grace unapplied, truth unshared, etc.

With these thoughts in mind, ask the Lord the following questions:

  • Lord, what has been left unattended in my life?
  • Lord, what has been neglected in my life?
  • Lord, what have I been apathetic about in my life?
  • Lord, what have I been passive about in my life?
  • At the same time, Lord, are there things You want me to be ok with leaving unattended in this season so I can attend to what’s most important (choosing to prioritize)?
  • Lord, are there things I’m feeling guilty about or obligated to do that You want me to let go of? Are there other people’s expectations or priorities being put on me?

Repentance

  • If there is anything that surfaces that you need to confess to the Lord and repent of, take a few moments to do that- and REST in His FULL FORGIVENESS.

Connection

When you look at this stand of poplar trees, you are seeing hundreds of trees in one area. Fun Fact: Those hundreds of trees are actually one organism. It’s true. A stand or group of poplar trees, while appearing to be a collection of trees, is all interconnected through a vast web of root structures underground. Not one of these trees is independent of the others. They are constantly relying on one another, sharing with one another, connected with one another.

It’s a great picture of how we’re meant to live. We are not actually designed to live as lone wolves- single trees. We are meant to be interconnected through the vast web of roots known as the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” And it’s in the context of this connectedness that we are called to live out Jesus’ instructions in John 13:34-35 NIV “A new command I give you: Love on another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

But leadership can be incredibly lonely. On the one hand, many times we are surrounded by people constantly, on the other we can feel like none of those people truly knows us. They may know parts of our lives, but not all of us. It’s incredibly important that we live in community the way God designed us- in the image of the Trinitarian God- so that we are fully known, not only by God, but by other human beings as well.

And at the same time, relationships can be difficult. They require time and effort, grace and humility. But this isn’t some sort of pro’s and con’s list of whether relationships are worth it or necessary- they are both necessary and challenging! But we are not meant to live in isolation- God intends for us to have deep and meaningful relationships. If you find yourself in a season of loneliness- take heart! Call out to God for the kinds of relationships He desires for you to have.

  • First, take a moment and write down the relationships you have closest to you- those you are connected to. Thank God for them.
  • Lord, what do you want me to do about the loneliness I feel?
  • Ask God to provide you with the friendships He intends for you to have, or to grow the relationships you already have.
  • Lord, what are the relationships You are asking me to invest in during this season of my life?
  • Lord, what do You want that investment to look like?
  • Lord, what is the next step for me to take in order for these relationships to flourish? Is it a phone call? A text message? Scheduling our next time to get together? Leading in vulnerability?

Still Waters

Take a moment to read Psalm 23, slowly, soaking in the quietness of the waters in front of you.

Psalm 23 NIV

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.”

The Lord is our Good Shepherd, and He leads us to places of refreshing and provision. Rest in that today.

At the same time, many times we feel the opposite of quiet waters in our lives. We feel blown around by raging seas and gusts of wind. Read the following story of Jesus.

Mark 4:35-41 NIV

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

  • Lord, where do I need You to calm the storms around me?
  • Lord, where do I need You to calm storms inside me?

Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

  • Lord, what am I currently longing for?
  • Lord, what desire do I have that I am afraid to name to you?
  • Speak/name your desires before the Lord.
  • Lord, what does my soul long to say to you?