“Worship is the adoring response of the heart and mind to the influence of the Spirit of God. It stands neither in forms nor in the formal disuse of forms; it may be without words as well as with them, but it must be in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24). “
-Richmond Declaration of Faith, 1887
In our hectic age many of us have lost the art of true worship. We sometimes feel awkward in a time of corporate silence. We find it easier when things are carefully pro- grammed, when something is “going on.” Yet Friends have consistently emphasized the value of silence, not as an end in itself, but as a means of hearing the voice of God, speaking either directly to the individual heart or through the vocal witness of a sensitive fellow-worshipper .
The purpose of this pamphlet is to help the reader apply some of the wisdom of Biblical truth and Quaker experience to the specific task of worshipping God today. Our immediate concern is to enrich the times of “open worship” in our Meetings by pro- viding practical suggestions to the individual on “what to do” during those moments when we wait in silence before the Lord, each one seeking to be sensitive and obedient to the Living Christ in our midst (Matthew 18:20).
May the following suggestion be used of God in ushering in a new age of faithfulness, ministry and service for all of us.
-Friends Elders at Berkeley, 1971
-“Center down” first of all in reverential silence. “Centering down” means letting God cleanse the mind and heart from all distracting thoughts, worries or cares, asking Him to take out of our minds anything that would prevent us from hearing His Voice.
-“Wait upon the Lord.” Listen for God’s voice within your heart. Seek to be quiet, totally surrendered and attentive before God. Then permit your yielded heart to be led to a thought, an impres- sion, a passage of Scripture, a prayer, a hymn, a specific concern, or to what- ever else the Spirit directs you.
–Communicate with God the desires of your heart. If joyful, praise and thank Him, inwardly, silently, in true commu- nion. If guilty, confess your sin and estrangement to Him. If anxious, ask for His guidance, strength and peace. Partake of the spiritual substance of Christ Himself. (John 6:53-54)
-Be aware of others around you-their yearnings, their petitions, their needs. Be aware that Christ is speaking to them as well. You may be led to pray earnest- ly either for the whole worshipping community or for some particular individual.
Vocal Ministry That Is Helpful
It is important to heed the Scriptural admonition: .‘Let all things be done for edification. ” (I Corinthians 14:26) There are varieties of gifts and varieties of minis- tries but all are designed by a common Lord for mutual help, instruction, encouragement and challenge. Types of vocal witness which have proved helpful are :
–Spontaneous words of joy, praise, thanksgiving to and adoration of the Lord.
–Simple words of witness or testimony -sharing the workings of God’s Spirit in your own life, perhaps even acknow- ledging a need, a trial, a dry spell or a persistent doubt.
-Honest confession of sin can have a humbling and healing effect on the whole congregation. However, caution should be exercised to avoid disclosing information which could be detri- mental.
–Words of exhortation or encouragement -speaking perhaps from some Scripture passage or personal concern, propheti- cally declaring God’s specific message for His people.
-Prayer that arises out of the needs and wants of the worshipping community.
–A portion of Scripture, selected on an inner impression from the Spirit, and read clearly and effectively.
–A hymn or song-singularly appropriate for the moment, which can be sung with profit either by an individual, or by the entire congregation.
Keep on listening when someone breaks the silence with vocal ministry .Someone else’s voice may first appear to be a jarring interruption to your own train of thought, but listen hard to what God might want to say to you through that which is spoken. Be sensitive as to how God wants you to respond, either vocally or in silent prayer and thought.
Knowing When To Speak
One of the hardest things to learn is when you ought to speak, and when you ought to keep still in a Quaker Meeting for Worship. How irreverent to indulge in mere chatter or to rise quickly to utter words when God has not spoken. How tragic, how- ever, to be disobedient and silent when God has commissioned you to deliver His message in the power of the Spirit! Hence, above all else, seek to be obedient to the Living Lord, determining ahead of time neither to speak nor to refrain from speaking.
During Meeting for Worship:
-If you feel like speaking, surrender again your impulse to the Lord, saying, “Not my will, but thine be done. ” If it is only your will that prompts you, God’s grace will enable you to remain seated, with profit both to yourself and to others.
-However, if after an attitude of surrender you still feel the prompting of the Spirit, that inner necessity to speak (sometimes with emotional “butterflies,”) by all means be obedient to the Lord. Rise and share at once the message that God has given.
–Stand up when you speak or pray. -Face the congregation.
–Speak audibly and distinctly.
–Let God’s Spirit discipline your mind; let your words be few and full; speak directly to the point without equivo- cation or wandering.
“When the call comes, there should be no ‘quenching of the Spirit, ‘ no ‘contempt for prophesyings’ on the ground that the offering is small, but instead, a willing- hearted, humble-minded obedience. Faithful use of a gift brings increase; unfaithfulness leads to the withdrawal of the talent entrusted to us not for neglect but for service. “
-‘Advices on Worship and Ministry ” 1899
“. ..however varied may be the individ- u.zl needs in any company of worshippers there is common to all the need to hear the voice of the Lord, the prophetic word that comes with power from God to awaken the sense of sin, to heal the soul, to inspire the vision and hope, to challenge the compla- cent, to persuade the fearful, to convince the doubter-in a word, to win men and women for Jesus Christ. “
-Robert Davis, 1933
“Endeavor to express yourselves audibly and distinctly, and guard against all tones and gestures inconsistent with Christian sim- plicity. Speak with reverence, as in the Master’s presence. Beware of using unneces- sary preambles and of making additions towards the conclusion of a meeting, when it was left well before. “
-‘Advice on Ministry,’ 1928
“What it is that constitutes guidance in ministry, and the means by which it is to be sought and found, is a difficulty with many. Some are afraid to speak in a meeting for worship, because, though they know something of the love of Christ, they do not seem to have any experience of a call that is undeniably supernatural. Others may be too readily taking their own thoughts and feelings as a warrant for obtruding them on others. Our natures differ greatly. ..To some it seems that God speaks, as it were, by the earthquake and the whirlwind; to others it is in a very still small voice. There are strong impulses which make the heart beat and the body tremble; there are, on the other hand, faint whispers which we need to be on the alert to hear. Both may be equally the voice of the true Shepherd, calling us to follow His leading. ..
“To find the right words for a gathered company, whether of vocal prayer or testimony, we need to wait for that sense of call that comes to us from God through the fellowship of hearts that are bound into harmony by the flowing through them of the tides of His living presence. Hence, whatever may have been on our minds before hand-whatever thoughts we may have worked out under the sense of help from God-must be held loosely, with perfect willingness to refrain from uttering them if the right time has not come. “
-London Yearly Meeting, 1911