Open Worship With Friends
In our worship, we hear from each other, from the Bible, from the message of the pastor or a guest speaker, and from the music we offer in praise to God. But for part of our time we set aside all other plans and concerns, and give our full attention to the Holy Spirit. We call this “open” or “unprogrammed” worship.
This kind of quiet prayerful attention comes naturally to some of us. You may begin with a prayer, “God, I love to be with you among your people.” Or with Scripture: “You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” You remember the promise of Jesus to be with us when we gather. Then you are ready to wait in trust: God knows what you need … and what we need as a community.
It’s not quite so easy for others. If you’re naturally restless, you’re not alone! Follow the advice of Douglas Steere, and think of how you might prepare to meet a deservedly famous leader or teacher: Mother Teresa, say, or Martin Luther King, Jr. You might stop at the doorstep and adjust your jacket or brush your hair. In the same way, take time to anticipate this meeting with the One who gave you life. There’s no hurry. Don’t feel guilty about stray thoughts–just quietly “brush” them away and return to the Center. If the thoughts persist, maybe you need to take them with you to lay at God’s feet: “Lord, this is what keeps gnawing at me; please help.”
And, if today, for some reason, you can’t quiet your soul, simply rest in the silence. Let the rest of us carry this responsibility for today, and just wait in trust. God’s word for you today may come through someone else.”
Sometimes the Holy Spirit ministers to us in complete silence–an outer silence in our meeting room and an inward quietness in your heart. But today you may receive a word or idea that seems to be alive with God’s love, direction, and wisdom. Does it align with God’s character as revealed in the Bible? Does it shine light on some problem you’ve been wrestling with? Are you called to a new commitment?
After open worship ends, you may wish to write down some notes, or talk with an elder or one of our pastors. Maybe the word you have received is not just for you. The Holy Spirit may be asking you to tell the rest of us what you have been given. Stand up if you can, or simply begin speaking. Speak your full message, but no more. If it seems incomplete, let it be so: someone else may have the rest of the message. This is not a time for announcements or opinions; the time remains dedicated to waiting on the Holy Spirit. But, on the other hand, don’t wait until the message is “perfect.” Some of us may sound as if we’re experienced at speaking in unprogrammed worship, but all of us tremble inwardly when the Spirit speaks through us. Remember: as soon as you stand up or start speaking, others are upholding you in prayer.
A pastor or worship leader will end the period of open worship with a simple prayer, and our meeting with God will continue in another form.