I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but in the Scriptures, people seem to pray with their eyes open. When you read the prayers of the Scriptures, do you picture the Biblical speakers with their eyes closed? I don’t. In fact, when the disciples’ eyes are closed, they generally miss the glory of the Lord (Matthew 26).
A quick perusal of the internet provided nothing but superficial reasons for closing your eyes when you pray. It seems to be an almost universal practice in Western culture but there does not seem to be any biblical precedence for it. That does not make it wrong, but it should cause us to ask whether we are not missing something when we close our eyes and bow our heads.
Let’s consider where this might have come from.
- It might have come from Jesus admonition in Matthew 6, “But thou, when thou prayest, eenter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
- It might come from dualistic beliefs of the neo-Platonists who influenced Christian thought in the early centuries. They believed the material/physical was evil, so in order to find true spirituality one had to cut off the stimulation of the physical.
- It might have come from the medieval practice of bowing one’s head and closing one’s eyes when speaking to one’s feudal lord.
I’m really not sure where the practice came from. In some senses, it is good because it does cut down distractions and in theory, it helps us focus.
But in reality, I lose focus when I close my eyes. I tend to drift far more with my eyes closed than I do with my eyes open. Even worse, I tend to fall asleep – especially if I’m trying to pray in bed either in the morning or in the evening.
Worse than letting you be distracted though, praying with your eyes closed means you’re not seeing things. Your eyes are not taking in what is really going on around you, and you run the very real risk of not seeing what needs to be prayed about.
In Jesus’ day, he said “If you have ears, hear what I have to say.” In our own lives, perhaps we need to also hear him say, “If you have eyes, open them to see what I have to show you.”