The roots of the traditional Quaker theology of worship are found in George Fox’s experience of the Inner Light—that sense of the divine and direct working of Christ in the soul. He came to believe and subsequently taught that the same experience is available to all. The purpose of worship, therefore, is to wait in silence and then respond to the presence and power of God.
The worship of the Friends is rooted in silence. The people wait upon the Holy Spirit, who in the silence moves them in worship, where they meet God.
Quakers have historically rejected symbolism, the observance of special days, and other ceremonies and forms as human inventions. They regard such ceremonies and forms as unnecessary when individual believers can experience the Spirit of God directly. In addition, they believe avoidance of such externals protects believers from the idolatry into which humankind so easily falls.
Quaker or Friends meetings inherit a tradition of silent worship, which allows no room for congregational music or the arts. In some churches, however, particularly in the Evangelical Friends branch, many aspects of free-church worship are finding their way into Friends services.
The silent meeting for worship is the most visible element of classical Quaker worship. Worshipers assemble without leader or program, stilling their minds and focusing their attention, waiting to sense the presence of the Spirit of God and then to respond as they are moved in their own spirits.