Be still, and know that I am God
Waiting worship begins in silence. Each worshipper comes to meet with God. As soon as the first person arrives it is time to be quiet. As you arrive, enter quietly with as little distraction and noise as possible and find a place to sit near others.
Start by praying silently. Ask God to quiet your heart and mind so that you can experience his presence. Invite him to help you empty yourself of everything and fill you with his presence. When you have offered yourself to God for this time of worship, then it is time to begin “centering down”. Centering down is a mental and spiritual quieting process that we do make ourselves available to God.
To center down, you simply try to stop all the streams of thought that are running through your mind. Just stop them. Seek to be released from all the concerns and responsibilities of the week and simply enjoy God’s presence. Some people find it helpful to relax and close their eyes. Some find it helpful to have a pad of paper on which to write things down that they do not wish to forget. During this time, we seek to empty ourselves and leave behind consciousness of concerns and thoughts that are not prompted by our Lord.
Some find it useful to focus attention on a particular spot or item in the room. Some people will read a passage in the Bible (such as Isaiah 40:31 below). I have seen some who knit quietly. You will find your own approach to emptying yourself in order to be filled with God. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to experiment and discuss with others what you experience. (Discussion should be after the time of worship is over).
Expectations… over time, we grow to more easily enter into God’s presence. Even so, some report that it may take them nearly an hour – most of the time of a typical meeting for worship! Sometimes we find it difficult to find a place of peace in his presence. It helps to practice in times of quiet – perhaps even while riding to work. It is a good discipline to make space for God.
When the group is together in silence experiencing the presence of God, then the meeting is said to be gathered. Times of powerful gathering can be rare; but sometimes a group can grow to have this experience often. Out of gathered worship, some may be led to speak. Other times the group is silent before God. Allow God to lead; we respond to him.
It is usually best not to come expecting either to remain silent or to speak. Instead, make yourself available to be led by God. Of course, if God leads you to prepare some thoughts before the meeting, you should obey. But keep in mind that he may or may not lead you to speak even if you prepare.
If you are led to speak, please be obedient to speak, but speak only because you are led – not just because a thought comes to mind or because the silence seems awkward. Rest on what you are thinking of saying for a time. If you speak, stand where you are and speak clearly so others may hear. One person speaks at a time. Speak simply and briefly without seeking recognition. Don’t worry about being eloquent or making a speech. Just stop when you are done. The goal is to hear from God and speak if he leads you to speak as a part of the gathered meeting. It is good to build on what others say, but it is not usually appropriate to respond verbally with disagreement or agreement. You do not need to turn to look at them or look up as is customary in a discussion (though it is OK to do so). Your focus is on God; not the speaker. Let the Lord guide you in listening to what is spoken. It is rare to speak more than once in a meeting.
What does one do if another speaks inappropriately? Expect the church elders to deal with the situation or to speak with the person privately. Pray. Know that God is able to take care of the situation. Remain with the Lord and let him guide you.
Traditionally, the meeting is over when someone designated as leader shakes hands with those around him or her. Afterwards, some may remain in prayer or thought. Others may talk quietly – but please be considerate of others around you. Sometimes people will adjourn to discuss or engage in a sort of debriefing of their experience. Encourage those who spoke words that God used in your worship. Encourage those who are learning to worship in this way, especially those who are young.
Stay with it. Worship in this way of waiting upon the Lord is a learned skill that develops and changes over time. It is a powerful, life-giving way of knowing God’s presence.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.