How to Seek God and Enjoy His Presence

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
Hosea 10:12

I want to challenge you to take an action step that will be one of the most rewarding of your life. Take your Bible, a journal and pen, and whatever you need for an overnight stay, and go to a Christian retreat, alone, for at least 24 hours. Two days is better than one. Leave your i–toys, laptop computer, or any other electronic gadgets home. Do not bring any books other than your Bible. The retreat you choose must not have a TV in the room. A location outside the city is best to remove all distractions so you can quiet your heart and mind to silent stillness.

Going to a Christian conference where they give you the afternoon off doesn’t count. Chances are they’ll give you an assignment, or you’ll run into people you want to meet with, or some other distraction will pop up.

Your mission is to focus solely on seeking God.

Set aside all requests for anything other than to ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you and speak to you. This includes asking for help in your marriage, work, guidance, help in any difficult circumstances, or even asking for freedom from any besetting sin. Do not remind Him of your trials, wants, or needs. He knows what you’re going through better than you do. Do not ask Him for a vision for the future or anything regarding ministry. Set aside all expectations.

The idea is to approach your retreat with a heart completely surrendered to whatever the Lord wants to do. Hand Him a blank page for the itinerary and allow Him to write in the schedule of events.

Perhaps your mind is being flooded with objections: “I can’t leave home that long… I’m too busy… A day alone with God? That will be a waste of time… What’ll my family and friends think? That I’m some sort of fanatic?… Go without a plan?? How will I know what to do??”

And then there’s the one the enemy always hits me with: “What if God doesn’t show up? What if He doesn’t speak to me?”

We have to decide what we want and go for it. If we want God, we will probably have to fight our way through the doubt and fear attacks of the enemy, our own questions and doubt, and maybe even the “concerned” looks of others.

You can be sure that 24 hours alone with the Lord is the last thing the enemy wants; catching fire for God means more damage to the gates of hell. The enemy knows what you may not—that entering the presence of the King could arm you with more spiritual firepower (faith, deep love for God, humility, filling of the Holy Spirit, and more) than you’ve ever had before.

God has His perfect timing in mind. If you’ve been trying to schedule a retreat and obstacles keep coming up, the Lord probably has a different time in mind for you. Don’t get discouraged and keep pressing forward.

I can tell you from experience that no matter what you have to do to make your retreat with God, it’s worth it. The Lord has shown up every time I’ve sought Him at a retreat alone. The joy of encountering Him is like nothing else. Are you ready to go for it?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Let’s say you’ve arrived at the retreat. You get nervous and fidgety; doubts arise. Thoughts of work, family, and the responsibilities back home storm your mind.

The first battle is to quiet your mind so you can hear from God. I suggest you start by asking the Lord to silence all other thoughts but His, and then ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. Then wait.

As you wait, focus on letting the butterflies clear from your head. Release any thoughts you’ve been running with, and refuse to grab new ones. This takes time and effort. I find it helps to walk outside and take in God’s creation. Nature reminds me of the Lord and that He’s brought me to this place to rest and hear from Him. It also helps me to relax mentally and physically.

In time, the Lord might bring an idea to your mind… words from a verse, the name of a book of the Bible, something you read or heard recently. Maybe He wants you to start writing in your journal. He could want you to write out a prayer to Him, or just pray out loud. It’s also possible He might want you to sit still and listen. Perhaps the desire to praise Him bubbles up from within.

Roll with whatever the Lord gives you. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it (Proverbs 3:5–6). If nothing comes, don’t force it; be content to wait.

In one instance, God had been putting a certain verse in front of me through various ways in the days prior to the retreat and then brought it to me again while I was there. It didn’t click with me until I stumbled upon the verse at the retreat that this was His message to me.

Another time, He led me to a book at the retreat library that contained a warning of future suffering and a challenge to endure. Just weeks later, one of the hardest trials of my life began, one that would last for several years.

At each retreat, the Lord has had a different message for me. It always amazes me when He speaks into an area of my life I needed Him to minister to—especially when I wasn’t aware of the need.

Going to a retreat alone is a raw act of faith that God will show up and has a purpose in mind. He has taught me that when I set everything aside and focus on Him, He will be faithful to draw near as He’s promised in His word (James 4:8). He rewards our obedience to seek Him and put Him first with more faith, intimacy with Him, and other unexpected blessings along the way.

A question might arise as to whether you should fast when you’re there. It’s not a requirement. God has spoken to me every time whether I’ve fasted or not; I don’t think it will impede Him if you don’t fast—unless He called you to fast and you didn’t in disobedience. If He hasn’t called you to fast, don’t worry about it. Seeking Him is the main thing.

I try to spend a night away with the Lord at least once every three to four months. It keeps my head on straight and encourages me to be consistent in making God first, which, once I’m back in the rat race, can get easily lost in the shuffle if I’m not careful.