Christ always retreated to a quiet place – away from the multitude – to pray. He sought solitude with God apart from the earthly distractions that penetrate our everyday lives, to commune heavenward with His Father. This has become an example for us to follow , to retreat into ourselves, by ourselves, surrounded by nothing but peace and quiet, to be alone with our heavenly Father. We do this so we can talk to him in prayer. Christ has left His peace with us, if we would seek Him. “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives it.”
For many this peace is not easy to find. Too many disturbances in our lives beset us and it is easy to be sidetracked by the exigencies of the moment. How can we escape into the desert and not be tempted by the evil one, who is always in search of a prey to carry out his wicked, wily work. Even when one ascends the mountain, there the devil can find a way to show us all the glories of the world from our illustrious heights. He would lure us with deceit to betray our trust in the Lord.
There is a safe way. Be strong in the Lord and beat a retreat into His sanctuary, His place of prayer. Hold steadfast to His Word. Let Him be your shield and buckler and be prepared to say “Get thee behind me, Satan. Do not provoke the Lord thy God.” We have to resist the devil at every turn. He searches out our weaknesses and we find ourselves in company with those with whom we wish to be in good standing. Despite our best efforts we are led on a downhill path, repeating what we know should best be left unsaid, or doing what we know should best be left undone. If, however, we are truly faithful, God will find a way of escape from our temptation and so give us a chance to redress ourselves.
To beat a retreat into our inner selves helps us to look more closely at those areas that need improvement. This act allows us to question our behaviour with the desire for reform. God is just and merciful and will see into our repentant heart a will to overcome base instincts. A retreat into a quiet place of the heart will allow us to meditate on His Word. It will position us into a path of holy thinking and reflection on things divine. We then strive to do less what we want and move in keeping with His desires.
Our prayers in our retreat will keep us focussed on the life of Christ. It will point our minds to the Cross and to how Jesus prepared Himself for it. He prayed until sweats of blood oozed from His body, so intense and fervent were his prayers. While the disciples slept “Could ye not watch with me?”, he continued to pray that if the bitterness of the cup could not be taken away from Him, let it be not His will but God’s will. And so Scripture was fulfilled.
Our retreat is not to take us out of the world. It is to bring us refreshed, renewed and revitalized to carry out the work of our Father. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Once we are in the world, we can see what needs to be changed and corrected. We must by our example demonstrate the Christian life. When we come out of our meditative retreat, after having communion with our heavenly Father, he gives us better insights to deal with everyday problems. We leave behind anger, irritability, aggressiveness, ill-temper, so that others wonder at our calm responses in the face of downright rudeness or hostility. Conflict and warfare meet with peace and understanding. There are of course times when one has to stand up for what is right, but this can be done without belligerence and hate. The peace that surpasses all understanding should always be at the forefront of our thoughts; it will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)