The following article is featured in Christianity Today’s December issue. To learn more about Lutheran Hour Ministries or their Daily Devotions, visit their website.
A breeze rustles your hair. The sound of the water trickling over rocks floats on the silence like a lullaby. Your eyes drift closed as your breathing finds a quiet rhythm. The stress of the day melts away.
Finally, you think.
Then your smartwatch buzzes. Followed by an email notification. Which leads to a phone call from home. Retreat, it appears, is a luxury few can afford.
While a multi-day silent sojourn might not be feasible in the immediate future, the growth that accompanies retreat remains accessible. After all, numerous studies suggest that dedicating just a few minutes each day to spiritual practices can alleviate stress and foster a strong sense of well-being.
Instead of postponing your spiritual journeys until a gap appears in the schedule, you can experience the benefits of daily retreat at home, work, school, or wherever life finds you.
The Significance of Rituals
“One of the most important features of rituals,” writes psychologist Rebecca J. Lester, “is that they don’t only mark time, but they create time.”
Lester explains that rituals help define “beginnings and ends” in our lives. Take rites of passage, for example. From first birthdays to graduations to weddings, rituals move individuals through various states of social existence. Then when those rites can’t be observed, like the missed ceremonies during the pandemic, people likely feel unmoored.
The same can be said for spiritual practices. Rituals like daily prayer or Bible reading offer the opportunity to ground our days. As we steward our hours in meaningful ways and gain awareness of the when, we discover more of who—and Whose—we are.
Embracing Ancient Wisdom
Rituals shape the way we interact with time but also with our spiritual ancestors. Long-held Christian traditions, such as observing the liturgical calendar, practicing silence, and engaging in communal recitation, not only encourage present spiritual growth but tether believers to the past.
When we turn to the psalms in moments of reflection and worship, we build a bridge between millennia, spanning all the way back to the Children of Israel who found solace and strength in these sacred verses. And when we pray the rosary, a meditative practice that involves the repetition of prayers while reflecting on key moments in the life of Jesus, we walk alongside believers dating back to the Middle Ages who took comfort in the ritual and recitation. Embracing these spiritual practices deepens our own connection with God while also inviting us to join a timeless chorus of faith.
Sisterhood and Scientific Support
At the very heart of daily spiritual practices is the desire and opportunity to draw near to God as he draws near to his children (James 4:8). Scripture reading and prayer cultivate that connection to God as they facilitate spiritual well-being, personal growth, and other relationships.
Friends Darlene Lind and Darlene Peterson have experienced this as they listen to Lutheran Hour Ministries’s Daily Devotions. Peterson doesn’t have access to a computer, so Lind calls her every morning and plays the audio devotional over the phone. “We are both aged widows, and we feel these devotions strengthen our faith and friendship,” says Lind.
Practically, this kind of soul care also produces positive mental, emotional, and even physical outcomes. Studies have shown that prayer leads to a lower heart rate, reduced muscle tension, and slower breathing. Psychologists also say that prayer can reduce a person’s sense of isolation, anxiety, and fear.
Those like Lind and Peterson who engage in regular spiritual practices tend to display higher levels of resilience, experience more positive emotions, and have a higher immune response. These moments of daily retreat, it turns out, offer so much more than rest.
Can You Afford Not to Retreat?
Whether you plan to spend a week in the woods talking to God or you only have a seven-minute commute to spare, times of reflection and prayer, however brief, can help nourish your soul and grow your faith.
Lutheran Hour Ministries offers Daily Devotions that can facilitate moments of spiritual retreat throughout your week. Blending ancient wisdom and contemporary relevance, these devotions include Scripture, prayer, and reflection questions, all of which can be listened to as audio or read as text.
To read more from Lutheran Hour Ministries, check out the December issue of Christianity Today.