Silent prayer is a deep necessity for every church community, especially in times when something sweeps over us, when God’s wind blows over us, for it is important that we recognize what God wants to say. We need to hear his voice in the events around us and in our midst. We need to hear his voice in our hearts. And in times like ours, in the midst of the darkness that has descended on the earth, we need to see his light.
Silent inner gathering for worship is an essential part of our common life. That does not mean that we have to spend a certain length of time together during which we may neither speak nor sing. On the contrary, we believe that words of faith and love and deeds of faith and love are born out of the common silence.
When we are silent, we want to be silent before God. What we should silence is our own words, our own deeds. All that has arisen or may arise from our self-will should be laid down during silent worship.
We should be ready to put our trust in God. Then out of the gathered silence words may come from us, words that come out of the depths of our hearts, out of ultimate truth and truthfulness. When people can be silent together, words of ultimate truth can come out of this silence. When people can be silent before God and he speaks to them, they may be able to say words that are given to them that do not come from themselves.
If you have had a quarrel with a brother or a sister that leaves a tension between you, then these words of Jesus apply: “If, when you are bringing your gift to the altar, you suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift where it is before the altar. First go and make your peace with your brother, and only then come back and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23–24, NEB). Unimpaired unity is essential to the spirit of the church. And the prayer of the church presupposes that those who are met together are wholly united with one another and with the Spirit of the church. Should there be a tension between any members, it is the obligation of each one to resolve it straightaway at the very latest during the time the community is gathering.
The important thing is that we are united about the object of our prayer. Jesus says, “If two or three of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19–20). If two or three ask God for something to happen, it will happen. It is not the words we use that matter, but our unity. There is no need for many words giving an exact description; God needs no explanation from us. What matters is that the members of a church reach complete agreement about the object of their prayer before they join in calling upon him.
We need to ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts. But we should ask for what the Holy Spirit himself wants to do in the church – not, for instance, that any one member wishes to have this or that spiritual gift for his or herself personally. Rather, each one should ask the Spirit to pour out the horn of plenty over his church and to give what has been intended for each one since the beginning of time (1 Cor. 12:27ff.). Let us lay down all self-will and be ready to receive and use whatever gift is given us. Let us be thankful to be allowed to live in simple discipleship of Jesus without being led into temptation by great gifts. And finally let us ask that we all without distinction be given the gift promised to all members of the Body of Christ – the highest of gifts, which is love; that is to say, we ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.13:13).
Adapted from God’s Revolution (Walden, NY: Plough, 2021).