A Time for All Things





Alex Tang



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A Time for All Things

There must be times in your life that you yearn for more of God than
your schedule will allow. We all have. We are tired, stressed by our
jobs, crowded by friends and burdened by obligations. We have abundant
but are too busy for it! Even good obligations and commitments
can turn toxic to our soul. Christian author, Madeleine L’Engle
resonates within us when she writes in A Circle of Quiet that “(e)very
so often I need a OUT; something will throw me into total
disproportion, and I have to get away from everyone- away from all
those people I love most in the world-in order to regain a sense of
proportion.” However this is more than just a need to get away. There
is also a need to get to (somewhere). And in our case, the need is to
get to the presence of God. In other words, we need to go to a
spiritual retreat.

“Spiritual retreat,” explains Emilie Griffin in Wilderness Time, “is
simply a matter of going into a separate place to seek Christian
growth in a disciplined way. Retreat offers us the grace to be
ourselves in God’s presence without self-consciousness, without
masquerade. Retreat provides the chance to spend time generously in
the presence of God. In such time, God helps us to empty ourselves of
cares and anxieties, to be filled with wisdom that restores us.”

Jesus himself sought times of quiet and solitude. The evangelist Mark
tells us in middle of a busy schedule, “(v)ery early in the morning,
while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to
a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to
look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is
looking for you!"” (Mark 1:35-37). This is not an isolated incident
for Jesus. After his miraculous feeding of the five thousand,
“(i)mmediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on
ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving
them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:56-46).

The evangelist Matthew too made a similar observation of Jesus: “After
he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to
pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23). Luke
too remarks on this peculiar characteristic of Jesus: “Yet the news
about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear
him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to
lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16). It appears that the more
his fame spreads, the more he is in demand as a teacher and healer,
the more Jesus looks for a quiet place, to be away from the crowd that
he serves. And what does he do when he is alone? He prays. He commune
with his Father. As soldiers in battle in the frontline need to be
rotated back to the rear to rest or team sportspersons have time out,
Jesus after every spiritual battle needs a retreat; a retreat, not in
the sense of a setback but in the concept of a timeout. It is in his
Father that Jesus finds rest.

It is more than rest that Jesus receives in his retreats. He also gets
wisdom. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his
disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated
apostles…”(Luke 6:12-13). These twelve men will transform the world
and brings God’s plan of redemption to another level. The wisdom comes
from being in the presence of God. To achieve this type of wisdom
needs trust.

For us, a spiritual retreat requires trust in the Holy Spirit. A
retreat is not like a church camp, a conference or a vacation- where
activities may be planned in advance and we know the agenda (mostly to
have a good time, hopefully to learn something). In a retreat, we do
not know what God has in store for us, but we are willing to take the
risk to find out. We participate in confidence that the Holy Spirit is
entirely trustworthy and will never lead us to harm.

There is a need for us to persist in Scripture reading, journal and
prayer even though the silence and solitude frightens us. In a group
retreat, there is a strong temptation to flee the presence of God into
the company of friends where it is safe and comfortable.  To engage in
idle group gossip takes our attention from having to be silent before
the Lord, and the discomfort of the work of the Holy Spirit on our
souls. However it is to our good that we persist. The Psalmist says,

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust."

  Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.

  He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:1-4)

It is in a spiritual retreat that you have the time and opportunity to
discover who you are, and to whom do you belong to. That is wisdom

A Retreat Prayer,

Father, we approach You with great expectations and fear. We have high
expectations in this encounter with you. Yet we are fearful because in
Your light and holiness, we may discover things about ourselves that
we are not comfortable with. Help us to discover and face the truth
about ourselves. May the Holy Spirit works powerfully within our
hearts, minds, and souls. May we rediscover ourselves in new ways and
give us the strength to be transformed to the likeness of Your Son.
Give us more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Father, we ask for a more intense revelation of Yourself to us in this
retreat. We want to know You, know more of You and to love You. Help
us to break the many false concepts of You that we have developed over
the years, some of which we have made into idols. Help us to know You
as revealed in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Give us the grace to follow you. The road ahead is hard and rugged. We
are afraid, O Lord. We are afraid of pain and suffering. We are afraid
of things that you may ask us to give up. We are afraid of illness,
loneliness, dryness, despair and constant stress. Know our weaknesses
and be gentle with us. Forgive us in our failures when You test us. As
you make a saint of St. Peter, make a saint of us, we pray.

Most of all, Lord. We ask that you will show us the splendour of what
you have given us: our life in You; a life lived here on earth with
Christ. We ask that you show us and lead us into simplicity of life
and of heart. Lord, help us to know you in our daily life, to know you
in the breaking of bread, in song, in fellowship, and in the cleansing
of our hearts by penitence and prayer.

In the Name of Your Son we pray.


“Isn’t it time for you to go for a spiritual retreat?”


A Time to be Doing, A Time to be still

Dr Alex Tang
























































































|posted 27 October 2008|



"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  


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