Jim Sleeva, Indianapolis, IN — These times of prayer often occur when a crisis enters your life and forces you to make a decision. There are other times when we reach a plateau in ministry and no matter how successful or busy we are, we are still dissatisfied and experience deep hunger and crave something more in God. This type of extended, set-apart prayer is essential for God to give us greater vision of who He is and His purpose for our lives. Prayer retreats can be enriched with reading His Word, listening to sermons, and just simply meditating. I have utilized several prayer retreat methods, and have found that a quiet place in a church works very well. I have also discovered that long road trips provide not only a geographical change, but also a different perspective on life. The unfamiliar surroundings and altered routine help me see life through another lens.
Wendell Elms, Lufkin, TX – My longest prayer time was approximately four hours without interruption. This particular prayer time was prompted by a challenge I faced within my congregation. One simply cannot obtain answers to spiritual problems from secular or educational resources. Prayer is the life-blood of pastoring. It is the oxygen of our calling. Prayer is relationship. Without relationship with God one cannot fulfill God’s will for their life, and one cannot know God without being in relationship with Him. Spending time together builds the foundational relationship upon which everything spiritual is built. The anointing is derived from prayer. Without the anointing we will be reduced to sensationalism.
Rufus Parker, La Crosse, WI – In scripture, Jesus often rose early and went into a solitary place and prayed. He taught this same principle to His disciples. The ministry is taxing and Jesus exemplified that one must come apart and rest a while. Just like the disciples, we as ministers need to get alone with God not only in prayer, but also in learning. There have been times that I have locked myself away in the church all night just to be alone with God. These times allow God to restore our strength and provide encouragement. Every minister has to learn the value and importance of spending time with Christ and seeking His face for their direction. This should be a part of every pastor’s training development for his younger ministers. There are so many voices in the world today, and we need to be able to discern His.
Rich Thomas, Madison, WI – When I feel led to pray for special answers, or something of that nature, I almost always couple prayer and fasting for one to three days. I have been at several all- night prayer meetings; however, those have not been the most beneficial for me personally. I have been on several longer fasts but for the most part they have been one to three days. I strive to be faithful to prayer at least one hour a day and fast one day a week. This consistency has been beneficial in many ways. Quarterly, our church schedules three days of prayer and fasting. This year our church went on the 21-day Daniel fast with amazing results.
Marshall Newble, Milwaukee, WI – As in the days of the prophet Joel, I believe it is vital that we also engage in a personal solemn assembly. The word for “solemn assembly” in Hebrew is “atzerah.” This is a biblical term for a sacred gathering for concentration unto the Lord for spiritual increase, provision and protection. This also includes little to no laborious work as well as abstaining from normal or daily fleshly pleasures. Joel chapter one and two specify a fast accompanying this special time. I personally set aside each Monday of the week as a day of concentration, prayer and fasting unto the Lord. I have even included a statement on the church website concerning this endeavor in order to minimize the amount of interruptions on this particular day.
Ben Weeks, Lake Park, GA – It is no accident that the most powerful and effective preachers are those who spend much time in consecration. Setting aside several days each year in prayer and fasting allows me to re-establish my priorities, receive fresh inspiration and oftentimes specific direction for our local church. It is sensed by others when you communicate what God has given to you personally or revealed to you out of Scripture during those special times in His presence. The anointing does not happen in a moment. It is not an event that only takes place in the pulpit. The anointing is a way of life which flows out of a lifestyle of surrender and sincerity. An anointed prayer life will produce an anointed preacher.
Stephanie Gallion, Indianapolis, IN – I have been involved in several types of prayer retreats ranging up to 21 days of prayer and fasting. Some were 24-hour prayer times, others a complete retreat away from the noise and still others a time spent in my personal “closet.”
Normally, these times come from needing direction or an answer during a difficult season. Most often, I find myself wanting to push away outside distractions in order to hear a clear Word. When we spend time in fasting and prayer our perception changes and we are able to view situations through a more spiritual lens.
I never fail to receive what I’m needing from the Lord during these times. “Seek me and ye shall find me…” God responds to our desire for Him. It never fails. He will always answer. He will always reveal Himself. Direction, peace, a Word, a song… all this and more can come out of a personal time of prayer with the Lord.
I believe it’s imperative for every minister to set aside a time for personal prayer retreat. And not only every minister but every Christian. Every saint of God. Life gets busy, overwhelming and consuming. I think it’s important to discipline ourselves in order to clear ourselves of the voices and influences around us. There are some things that only come out by prayer and fasting.
With great sacrifice comes great anointing. Develop this discipline early in your ministry. There are situations that require a boldness in the spirit and a commitment to crucifying our flesh in pursuit of His will and His voice. This can only come through a time of personal prayer and fasting before the Lord.