Waiting And Resting In The True Silence
Three Essays From Friends Bulletin
newcomers to Quaker worship repeatedly ask: “What do you do in silent
meetings?” Even some long-time attenders remain doubtful. In this pamphlet we present
answers from three Friends, all writing from a universalist perspective. The
pieces first appeared in Friends Bulletin for September, 2001, and they are
used here by permission, along with a brief introduction from Bulletin editor
The authors are all
West Coast Friends. Margery Post Abbott, a member of Multnomah Monthly Meeting
in Portland, Oregon, is well known for her ministry among Friends and for her
books and lectures. Readers of Universalist Friends will recall her essay on “Identity,” which
appeared in Number 30 (Spring, 1998). The full text of her talk at
Intermountain Yearly Meeting, of which the present piece is a condensation, has
also been published by the Wider Quaker Fellowship. Lanny Jay is from the
Redwood Forest Friends Meeting, and W. Norman Cooper from the Ojai Meeting,
both in California.
We are especially
indebted to Anthony Manousos for his cooperation and help in preparing this
Rhoda R. Gilman
by Anthony Manousos
When I first attended Quaker meeting in Princeton, NJ, I was
deeply impressed with the awesome quality of silent worship. The Stillness
seemed all the more impressive because we met in an 18th century
meetinghouse in the midst of an old-growth forest. The only sounds were the
crackling of the fire in the old stone fireplace, the occasional creaking of
oak floors, and birds chirping and breezes blowing through the trees. It was as
if we had stepped backwards in time, or rather entered into timelessness.
The silence was impressive, but the vocal ministry left
something to be desired. Hardly anyone spoke. And when someone did, it was
usually a brief message lacking in eloquence. I began to wonder if it might
make sense for me to attend the early-bird Quaker worship service at 9:00 AM
and then slip away to the nearby Presbyterian church, which had an
intellectually challenging and dynamic preacher. That way I could have “the
best of both worlds” – the quietism of the Quakers, and the eloquence of the
As I sat in the silence pondering what to do, an inner Voice
spoke – or rather whispered: “Do you wish to know Me, or do you wish to hear
sermons about Me?”
It was clear what I needed to do. I needed to learn how to
“rest in the True Silence” and to stop judging vocal ministry by merely human
standards; I also needed to avoid sermons until it was clear that I was being
led to them by a Higher Power, not by a desire for intellectual stimulation.
In the following three articles Friends reflect upon what
meeting for worship has meant to them. In her keynote address to Intermountain
Yearly Meeting, Margery Abbott speaks of worship in terms of “brokenness” and
healing. She describes how language and theological assumptions can be hurtful
and how we need to be “tender” towards others seeking to live in the Truth. She
helps to translate old Quaker concepts into contemporary language and concepts.
Reflecting on the essentially ineffable quality of Quaker worship, Lanny Jay
invokes a Hindu practice – the mantra – as a way to center the mind. Norm
Cooper focuses on the unexpectedly liberating experience of Spirit-led vocal
“A TENDER, BROKEN MEETING”
by Margery Post Abbott
“A Tender, Broken Meeting” is one
way 17th century Friends described what we might call a “Gathered
Meeting” or even a “Covered Meeting” – a time when the Eternal Presence was
felt strongly in the midst of worship, connecting everyone in the room in a
deep fellowship before God. This experience was transforming and often
difficult to face as individuals saw their own failings reflected in the Truth,
as well as experiencing love, hope, and unity.
Early Friends had a distinctive language of faith which was
rich and full. They have taught me much about the work of the Light in my own
heart as well as what it means to be a Friend. What follows addresses the
language of faith and some of what it can teach us about growing in Spirit,
enriching our lives and making us beacons for hope in the world.
LISTENING TO WORDS
Words are so full of meanings which are dependent on their
context, the speaker and the hearer. In our Meetings, when we attempt to speak
about the Holy One and our spiritual lives, the process becomes even more
complicated. We may find individuals who look to Judaism, Buddhism, or the
Christian Testament for their inspiration. Others see themselves as Wiccans or
Universalists or agnostics.
What we encounter in Meeting for Worship is beyond all
words. Yet words are essential to our human communities. We all know how words
can shut down communication as well as open up rich connections. Words can
point to possibilities or they can harm others. All too often we do not know
how words truly affect the people we are speaking to.
For example, a friend of mine once told me about having had
a transforming mystical experience. This experience was such a strong
in-breaking of the Spirit into her life, and the potential change so
significant, that she sought the help of her Meeting. She was deeply hurt and
left the Meeting with a broken heart when no one could understand what she was
saying and no one was willing to simply listen.
I had the opposite experience, that of tenderness. When God
broke open the hard, protective shell around my heart and called me to
transformation, someone was present who sat with me afterwards, listened to me,
and gently spoke to my condition. Later, others agreed to meet with me
regularly as I learned words that might express something of the inward change
I knew – words which helped birth the Spirit in me and create the ministry I am
The women who sat with me each had their own language of
faith and included one evangelical Christian. As I found my own way, I came to
know that their languages were not mine. However, by our willingness to be
tender towards one another in the Spirit, we each came to terms with the
difficult words, as well as the helpful ones, that the others used. This
experience thus became a valuable process of healing and growth for all of us.
Within our unprogrammed Meetings, as we speak of our faith, we inevitably learn
that we believe things that others experience as truly painful or difficult to
hear. My concern is about finding words to express our faith and the ways we
might heal and grow as individuals and as meetings.
Confronting fears and misconceptions can be a lifelong task.
To listen fully to other Friends speak about who they are requires that we be
open to being changed ourselves. To be open at such a fundamental and
vulnerable level as that of faith is frightening in itself. Few of us welcome
the prospect of change.
The change in me involved personal friendships, regular
confrontations with the living faith of other Friends, and God’s arm around me
showing me another way to be. The process will be different for each of us.
We profess to be open to every person finding their own
relationship with the divine. In reality, we all too often have an unspoken
agreement that Christian language, in particular, is not acceptable.
We have good reason to be respectful of those among us who
have had painful experiences in the church of their childhood, but we too
rarely know how to help heal those wounds. We show respect for other faith
traditions but are often uncomfortable with the fact that much we admire about
Quakerism came from people who knew Christ Jesus risen and alive in their
Coming to terms with Christian language is, however,
valuable in our unprogrammed meetings. So many of us have people in our lives
who are evangelical Christians and find it difficult to talk with them. Others
were hurt by childhood experiences in the church. When old anger from these
wounds spills out at the wrong time, it can and has been destructive to our
Learning to hear Christian language within Quaker tradition
is a three-step process. First, is to become aware of the meanings used
elsewhere in the church and let go of old feelings about the way these words
are sometimes used or misused. Second, is to consider how early Friends used
these terms and what useful concepts they might bring to us today. The third
step comes as we integrate this understanding into a recognition of which words
we can simply hear without rancor and which words can be useful in service to
our community – healing old wounds rather than simply leaving raw scars.
A FEW WORDS WHICH POINT THE WAY TO GROWTH
The old Quaker doctrine of Perfection says much to me. This
kind of perfection is not about doing everything exactly right. What early
Friends knew as perfection was really a process of becoming whole: of learning
that each one of us is dearly loved by God and can grow in our ability to love
those around us, enemies as well as friends.
Early Friends offer other words which help me to speak about
the process of becoming whole so that God’s unconditional love might shine in
us and through us.
* Be still and cool in thy own mind - wait, attend
* The Seed
* Taking up the Cross daily
* The New Creation
* Retirement and opportunities
* Broken and tender meetings
Together, these words teach us much about being healed and
whole so that we might come to live more fully in the world but not of it, and
with humility let go of our self-identification with the materialistic values
of the world.
BE STILL AND COOL IN THY OWN MIND – WAIT, ATTEND
We can learn to listen for the still, small voice of God
within, whether we are speaking of meeting for worship or our all-too-busy
daily lives. Early Friends had several ways of expressing this kind of
listening with the inward ear and
seeing with the inner eye: Be Still and Cool in Thy Own Mind - Wait, Attend.
The reminders are
constant in old writings: stop your own headstrong attempts to control your
relationship with God. Rather, wait upon God and trust the Inward Light, the
Inward Teacher and Guide, to lead, sometimes by unexpected means and using
These words of early
Friends grew out of their deep knowledge of the Bible. They are words that
might open our hearts and beings to the Truth which both embraces Christianity
and extends well beyond Christianity.
If I were a Yogi, I
would seek samadhi, or transcendence. If I were Buddhist, I would work to
achieve Nirvana. But I am not. I am a Quaker, a Friend. Thus I seek to be
perfect: to be whole, to love fully as I am loved. Thus, I seek to truly know
and respond to “that of God” in myself and in each person I encounter.
The phrase “that of
God in everyone” is widely used today, but I’ve heard many people express
frustration with it. To speak instead of “the Seed” makes clear an expectation
of growth. The Seed within is to be nurtured and attended to or else it risks
becoming stunted or even dying. As Isaac Penington so vividly described, the
Seed sends forth tender shoots like young, green corn. Yet no matter how
carefully we may sit and watch, the shoot does not seem to grow. The growth
becomes clear only over days and weeks and months.
Early Friends saw
this growth as “becoming more like Christ.” We may more often speak of
“becoming more fully ourselves.” But, I like the earlier way for a couple of
reasons. One is that I know Christ as an eternal source of love, truth, energy,
hope and renewal. And second, my own experience of growth has taken me in
unexpected directions and touched on potential I had no idea was present. I had
in the past sought to “become more fully myself” only to learn that my concept
of myself was too limited and the result was stifling rather than freeing. Only
when I let go of my own concept of who I was, was I able to truly come into
TAKING UP THE CROSS DAILY
acknowledge that suffering is endemic in this world. The First Noble Truth is
that suffering, pain and sorrow are part of this world, a suffering which also
includes impermanence, insubstantiality and imperfection. But this is only an
acknowledgment so that we might not be trapped by and in our ignorance and
pain. Only then is true liberation possible.
Early Friends also
saw clearly the pain and suffering in the world, knowing how easily we can be
trapped in this. In the Cross, they did not see some abstract, distant
sacrifice to atone for our sins. The Cross was a measure of God suffering with
us and for us, lifting our pain and burdens so that we might be free.
To take up the Cross
daily was once an essential part of being a Friend, a part we all too often
forget. To share the pain of the world consciously with Christ is part of
growing in perfection and living a life of faithfulness. The Cross also
symbolized the struggle of the “creature” or “the flesh” – the self-will – the part of us which resists the leadings of
the Light. So, in some sense, to take up the Cross is similar to the Buddhist
desire for self-emptying and knowing that neither pain nor desire need control
God’s way in service of others is integral to the way of the Cross. We most
often speak of this way in terms of our testimonies to peace, simplicity,
integrity, equality and community. The inward experience holds Truth as it
becomes reflected in the way we live and the way we treat other people, all
creatures, and this ball of earth we live on.
No matter what our
circumstances, we always have a choice to let generosity flow and to notice the
joy present in even the most difficult situations. The Cross is thus about
renewal, hope and the cycles of life.
THE NEW CREATION
One of George Fox’s
great openings came when he “rose up through the flaming sword” into the
paradise of God, and “all creation had a new smell.” With this, he rejected all
the old teaching that we are trapped in sin until some future coming of Christ.
We can know and live in God’s New Creation here on earth. When we attend to the
Light, when we nurture the Seed within, and take up the Cross, we can come into
unity with all creation and with God.
In this New Creation
– which is sometimes referred to as the
Kingdom of God on earth, or the City of God – people will live in peace with one another, without being dominated by
greed, envy, fear or hatred. The world celebrated in the Sermon on the Mount
will become a reality.
testimonies, our business method, our worship, and the way our meetings are
organized all grow out of this experience of the New Creation realized among us
Do we take time away
from the press of society, the demands of peace and justice concerns, the
obligations of the workplace, and even our family? The word retirement can call
us to a time of refreshment, not the end of our work. This may be as simple as
a period of meditation in the early morning or before we go to bed. It may
involve reading to our children from books we find inspiring and which speak of
the Holy One shining through into the world.
part of life includes times of retreat – personal retreats especially where one can take a day or a few days
alone, in the quiet, to renew inwardly. Similarly, when I take time to write in
my journal at the start of the day, or sit quietly and clear my mind, the whole
day goes much better.
Simply taking time
to hold a centering word in our hearts or finding “opportunities” to worship spontaneously
with others in the midst of the on-rushing flow of our days can offer
surprising perspectives and give us a chance to shift gears and become more
transparent to the Light.
TENDER AND BROKEN
Journals often described worship as “broken” and “tender.” When hearts were
tender, people had been open to the work of the Spirit among them. Meetings
were rich when many were “broken” – when the demands of human lust, greed, fear and selfishness broke and
gave way to the leadings of the Light.
Sitting in the silence is not an easy thing. Anyone who has
tried it for long can attest to the huge range of thoughts which come
unbeckoned. In the silence we can give in to negative thoughts or we can
nurture the Seed within, allowing the Spirit to release the power which anger,
or pain, or fear, or bitterness holds over our lives.
In meeting for worship, it is sometimes all too easy to be
offended by a spoken ministry. As we come to be tender, we are more aware that
messages in worship may not be for us personally, but may be very meaningful
for someone else. Even at the moments when a person may not be speaking from
the Spirit, we can quietly accept this and let it pass without it damaging the
time of worship. We can focus on listening for the voice of the Infinite in the
silence and in the people around us. The Light may break into our hearts as we
listen and our lives take on a new texture. A hard layer of resistance or fear
deep inside might break open in the silence, allowing new growth.
When we are whole, we are not as easily threatened by words
we disagree with and we have less need to control what happens around us. We
can hold ourselves and the world more lightly and more joyfully. We can come to
be present to the moment, and learn to allow our minds and bodies to be
responsive to the Source as well as our hearts and souls.
ON BECOMING BROKEN AND TENDER MEETINGS
I recently had lunch with a woman who has not been active in
my meeting for several years. She spoke more softly this time, but I could
still hear the bitterness she felt when people criticized her for speaking
about her love for Jesus in Worship. The wound is slowly healing, but she is
not yet ready to return to meeting. Yet I also miss a man who was part of our
meeting when I first came to Portland, then resigned his membership because our
meeting was “too Christian” in his eyes and had no place for his atheism.
The language of faith can be the most difficult language a
person can learn. It can open us to others in a way which leaves us vulnerable,
or we can hide behind it as if it were armor, or even use it as a weapon of
attack. When others use difficult language, we can respond in anger or we can
be challenged to understand more of other people, ourselves and God.
Can we learn to be at least bilingual? This is one of the
challenges for all Friends today. If someone asks you: “Are You Saved?” What is
your response? Do you get angry and declare “How can you ask such a
question!!!” Do you take some deep breaths and empty your mind? Are you present
to that person and what they are saying? I have had people ask me that question
quite seriously, concerned for my soul if I don’t accept Jesus. But I have also
had people ask it in a broad manner, wanting to know if I am right with the
universe no matter what my faith. And I‘ve had people ask me that to tease me
and see how I respond.
“Are you saved?” and the phrase which I like to use, “How is
the Spirit with Thee, Friend?” are both honest questions growing out of
personal faith. How they are asked may indicate priorities in a person’s life,
but when we type-cast people because of this, or give rote answers, we only
show our own lack of trust in the Spirit.
So what does it mean to be perfect? to be whole? to be
healed? to know unconditional love and come more and more to love
unconditionally? This is the unusual kind of perfection which early Friends
were convinced was possible
* It is a state of being attentive to the Spirit, the Inward
Guide, Teacher, and Comforter.
* It is a transforming process of nurturing the Seed within
your soul. This Seed will bring forth fruits of patience, truth, love, joy,
peace, generosity, faithfulness and self-control.
* As the Seed grows, old wounds are healed and old pains
lose their control over our lives. We may then come to willingly take up the
Cross. As we face the sometimes overwhelming and horrible realities of the
world with the support of the Unseen Power that guides us, we then have the
power to choose to live in ways so that we will not inflict more suffering on
others and we will ease, as we are able, the injustices and pain which others
face. In this we live out of that deep, eternal peace within our souls and
convey hope to the world.
* In attending to this Seed within, we come to live out
God’s New Creation here on earth, a place where peace is possible, justice is
known, mercy is abundant and humility governs.
* In our work and
the huge demands of our busy lives, can we stop from time to time for periods
of retirement? As we pay attention to our own well-being, and place our hopes
and fears in the hands of the Spirit, we can be refreshed and renewed to
continue our work with new energy and a clearer perspective.
As more and more of
us grow into wholeness, we become more tender towards one another. The hard
shells around our hearts are broken by the Holy One and we come to find
community, support and right relationships with each other and with the Source.
As we grow in the Spirit, we come to know ourselves as part of a tender and
THE MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP
by Lanny Jay
There is a school of
thought which holds that one’s mystical experience of the Divine is not to be
expressed in words, for words cannot do justice to transcendent experience, nor
should the recipient of such experience presume to share with others a gift
which she or he has received from the Source of spiritual enlightenment.
Adhering to this school of thought, I have shared my mystical experience of
Quaker meeting for worship only with my life partner – with one other exception.
exception was a retreat weekend at Ben Lomond Quaker Center. One of that
weekend’s exercises involved drawing our experience of meeting for worship.
Using just two crayons, I dutifully drew the requested picture. As fate (read:
the Divine) would have it, as I explained my drawing to the small group, Madge
Seaver, who must have then been in her early 70s happened by. Hearing the
explanation of my picture, Madge shot me a look which said, “Friend, this we do
While I can’t know
for sure what was in her mind, I know that I knew that I was crossing a line
when discussing my drawing, and I have never forgotten being eldered by that
look she gave me.
In keeping with that
experience, here I seek not to delineate what the mystical experience of
meeting for worship has been for me or is for others, but only to share the
fact that many Friends have experiences, and do experience, meeting for worship
as an essentially mystical event.
To make out this
case, I turn first to George Fox, who, in one sentence, managed to instruct
Friends on how to approach meeting for worship and encapsulate meeting’s
transcendent nature. To have an experience of the knowledge and strength of the
Divine we need only, in Fox’s words, “Be still in thy own mind and spirit from
they own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy
mind to the Lord God, whereby thou will receive his strength and power from
whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms.”1
For Fox then, the
approach to worship was quite simple, while the gift to be found there is of
almost unimaginable consequence. In this understanding of meeting for worship
Fox was not alone among early Friends. Francis Howgill found that “There was
something revealed in me … so I waited, and many things opened in me … and then the perfect gift I received.”2
That Quakerism is
essentially mystical is not a new idea. For example, in a 1924 lecture entitled
“The Inner Light,” Gerald Kenway Hibbert told his Swarthmore Lecture audience:
Every religious system has its “Quakers” – those who turn
from the outward and the legal and the institutional, and focus their attention
on the Divine that is within. There is much fellowship between Friends and
mystics of other systems.…The
mystics of the world everywhere join hands. Their spirits leap together in a
flash of joyous recognition – in the great deeps they find their unity and
their abiding home3
Being mystics and at
the same time rooted in Christianity, Fox and other early Quakers identified
the Inner Light as the “Light of Christ.” Friends made this identification
because they perceived Jesus’ life as a life fully illuminated by the Inner
Light. Yet, from the earliest days of the Society of Friends, Quakers understood
that “the Light which was before the earth was”4 is neither
exclusively Christian, nor is it of one or another religion. Rather, “the true
Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” as the
sometimes-called Quaker Gospel puts it (John 1:9), is, according to Beatrice
“the free gift of God to every one of us, not only to
Christians but to every living soul. Each man, woman or child who sets himself
to obey the prompting of truth and love is making use of the Inner Light, whatever
name he may give it.”5
A pure principle
which unites mystics of whatever tradition, and an Inner Light which belongs to
no tradition but is available to all – or at least to all who wait upon the Divine in silence with open hearts
and attentive minds. Sound familiar? It was John Woolman, whose Journal attests
to his belief in a “pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart”
that waits in silent worship, who summed this all up when he wrote that:
There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human
mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is,
however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no
forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect
sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever they
Just as many Friends experience meeting for worship as an
essentially mystical event, so too, many Friends lack such an experience of
meeting. Robert Griswold, last year’s Brinton Visitor, suggests that an
“experience of the Light requires discipline – the discipline of waiting.” Yet
he also warns, “The Light isn’t something we obtain. It is something that
obtains us to its service.”7 And Chris Ravndal, a resident teacher
at Pendle Hill, warns that Roman Catholic contemplative traditions view
mystical experiences as potentially dangerous “gifts.” They are potentially
dangerous because, while given “of God for our encouragement or edification,”
these gifts “can distract us from the real goal, [as] what was given as an
encouragement to one who is actually spiritually immature can be taken as a
confirmation of spiritual superiority.”8
Whether posing danger to the “spiritually immature,” or
requiring discipline and then bending the recipient to its will, the mystical
experience of meeting for worship requires a deep centering of one’s mind upon
the Divine. To achieve this, I use a mantra. Not a mantra given to me by a
spiritual teacher or guide; rather, a self-given mantra which resonates with my
sense of the purpose of my life. A mantra which is mine and which, when
silently repeated during meeting for worship, has served me quite well. Some
Friends use a short Biblical passage or a Buddhist prayer to achieve the same
end with similar success.
Yet experiencing meeting for worship as a mystical event is
not an end to be sought or a goal to be achieved. Rather, it is a means, it is
a path to knowledge and service (for knowledge is meaningless unless put to
use), and it is a way to serve without losing faith or burning out. For
Friends, the importance of knowing the mystical nature of our form of worship
is to be found in the community of worshipers and in their mutual support and
collective achievements. Thus, regarding the nature and significance of Quaker
meeting for worship, Robert Barclay could unapologetically declare:
As iron sharpeneth iron, the seeing of the faces one of
another when both are inwardly gathered into the life, giveth occasion for the
life secretly to rise and pass from vessel to vessel. And as many candles
lighted and put in one place do greatly augment the light and make it more to
shine forth, so when many are gathered together into the same life, there more
of the glory of God and his powers appears, to the refreshment of each
So, Friends, with my eyes closed and my attention focused
upon that deep place to which (all praise to Allah) my mantra regularly
transports me, I look forward to seeing your candle “augment the light and make
it more to shine forth.” And after meeting for worship, as the old Quaker joke
has it and Robert Griswold entreats us to remember, is when the service begins.
1 Faith and
Practice of Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Fiends: A Quaker
Guide to Christian Discipline, San Francisco, CA: Pacific Yearly Meeting of
the Religious Society of Friends, 1985 ed. p. 85.
2 Faith and Practice, p. 84.
3 Martha Dart, To
Meet at the Source, Pendle Hill
Pamphlet No. 289, p. 7.
4 George Fox, Epistle
5 To Meet at
the Source, p. 11.
6 Phillips P. Moulton, ed.. The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman, Richmond, Ind.:
Friends United Press, 2000, p. 236.
Griswold, “Authority and Discipline Among Friends of Truth,” Friends Bulletin, July 2000, p. 4.
8 Chris Ravndal, “A Friendly Approach to Centering Prayer,”
in Friends Bulletin, March,
2000, p. 16.
9 Faith and Practice, p. 86.
by W Norman Cooper
How vividly I remember the first time I attended a Quaker
First Day Meeting about thirty-live years ago. When I entered the meetinghouse,
I was given a typewritten sheet, which stated, “Do not speak unless God prompts
you to speak. Be sure to speak if God prompts you.”
I was later to learn that these simple statements summarize
the greatness and simplicity of a Quaker meeting. The main purpose is to find
unity in silence, which is only broken audibly by the prompting of God.
The purpose of a
Quaker meeting is not to provide a means for the sharing of one’s religious
views or for the pleading for support for some political cause. A Quaker
meeting is provided so that those attending may come together in divinely
Through the years, I
have come to find that God-prompted vocal sharing is not a long dissertation on
some subject. Rather, vocal ministry is more apt to be short so that those
present can return to their silence as soon as possible.
In silence, there is
unity and power. I remember an experience that occurred when I was working at
the Pasadena office of the American Friends Service Committee. There had been a
press attack on the pacifist stand of the American Friends Service Committee. A
meeting of the employees was called to see what should be done about the
situation. As the discussion continued, it became clear that there were two
quite different views as to how the situation should be handled. Each side felt
that it was right and argued for its point of view. Finally, the clerk of the
meeting said, “It’s time for the silence.”
God-prompted silence took over. Not a word was spoken. Out of the silence,
quite a different way of handling the situation came to me. Then I heard the
clerk of the meeting say, “I feel that the consensus of the meeting is…” and he
presented the exact solution that God had given to me. Amazingly,
in the silence, everyone was guided by God to this same conclusion.
This experience is
an example of how god-inspired silence works. Even though not a word was
spoken, the silence brought forth a solution. How alert we should be not to be
tricked into stopping the silence by sharing our personal religious or
political views. This does not mean that we should not give voice to our
God-inspired unfoldments. We need short God-inspired messages, but these should
be prompted by the silence gained in the meeting.
God does not speak
to us at our meetings through the “wind, earthquake or fire” or through human
reason, but through the “still, small voice” of the Spirit (I Kings
19:11-12). When this inward voice is heard by anyone in the meeting, he or
she should speak. Ideally, vocal ministry should always be the by-product of
listening to God’s still, small voice.