From walking shoes to a journal to your favorite pillow—what to pack.
Posted in , Oct 16, 2017
Regular prayer retreats have refreshed my prayer life for decades (for example, see my post on 10 good reasons to take a prayer retreat.) But the first few times on retreat, I was flying by the seat of my pants, so to speak, when it came to what to pack. I took the wrong stuff on my first prayer retreat and took too much on my second. Over time, though I learned that—whether I had carved out a few hours or a few days—some things were always good to have with me. Here’s a short list of what I consider necessities:
1. A Bible
It seems obvious, I know, but some people assume that because they’re going on a retreat with a church or at a monastery, Bibles will be plentiful. They probably will be, but it may not be a translation you’re familiar with, and you may not be able to carry it around with you. So take your favorite Bible.
"If we can get Guideposts inspirational stories into the hands of people who may not have a devotional life, they can share the true-life stories of how God works in the world. The joy of Guideposts is their free, donated magazines to my hospital. --Rob C., Director of Pastoral Care.
2. A journal
You may never write in a journal. But you may want to take a journal or notebook (and a good pen) with you anyway. You will probably be surprised at the ideas, solutions, thoughts and questions that arise in your mind once it disengages from the noise of the world.
3. Music and headphones
Some people connect with God far better through music than through, say, silence or printed words. So take music with you—but include headphones, because some retreat centers ask you not to play music, even in your private room.
4. A water bottle
You may have 24/7 access to coffee and tea during your retreat, but a refillable water bottle will come in handy in any case.
5. Good walking shoes
Many retreat centers offer attractive paths and hiking trails. You may not be in the habit of taking a walk, but having the time—and footwear—to do so can be a boon to your prayers.
6. A good book
You know that book you’ve intended to read but never got around to it? Take it with you on your prayer retreat. I suggest a devotional or spiritual volume, such as A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God or John Ortberg’s God Is Closer Than You Think.
7. Layered clothing
Whatever the weather forecast for your retreat is, it is likely to change. Even if you stay indoors for the duration of your retreat, you probably won’t have control of the thermostat. Packing layers helps to make sure that the weather or temperature is not a distraction.
8. A camera
You probably have a camera on your phone. If not, pack one. You may be surprised at the photo-ready sights that greet you on your retreat.
9. A pillow or blanket
Check the information your retreat center provides, but keep in mind that even if they provide pillows and blankets, you may be more comfortable if you bring your own.
10. An expectant heart and mind
The most important equipment for your retreat is an open, expectant, grateful mind and heart. Even if you forget everything else, those items will make your retreat truly life-changing.