Silent worship, open worship, listening prayer and unprogrammed meetings are all essentially terms for the same type of worship. It is a time that people meet together to listen to God and to hear His message through themselves and others… People generally gather together without saying much. For a while they may just sit, listening (praying) to God. If someone feels led, they may speak a short message or testimony, they may sing a song or request that a song be sung, or they could just read some Scripture aloud. Generally, though, most of the service is spent in silent listening… Depending on how the Lord leads, there may be a few minutes of silent prayer, or several people may share what the Lord put on their hearts.
The Lord said [to Elijah], “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (I Kings 19:11-12). If you want to hear God speak, most of the time He speaks with a still, small voice. We need to be listening to Him so that we can know His will in our lives.
Prayer is not a one-way channel. Prayer should be a combination of talking to God and listening. However, most Christians today have lost that idea. They look at prayer as a time to make requests to God and give him thanks for things he’s done for us. These are valid parts of a prayer; we just need to remember that it is very difficult for God to speak to us if we are the ones that are always talking.
When we have open worship as a corporate body, it allows us to strengthen each other by what God speaks through us. Open worship gives God a distinct opportunity to speak to multiple people though others’ testimonies and challenges. Open worship gives the opportunity for God to express Himself spontaneously, through whatever gift he may give the person delivering His message. These gifts could be in the form of songs, devotionals, testimonies, or even sermons.
Be sure to listen. God doesn’t usually want to yell to get your attention. He has given us the free will to choose whether or not to listen, and most of the time he will not force his message on us if we have not given ourselves to him.
from an article by Nathan James, written 2002
originally published in The Call