Have you already wondered why we close our eyes when we pray? I remember the first time I prayed. As a Christian friend of mine led us into prayer, I didn’t know what to do, so I automatically closed my eyes. Obviously, closing our eyes can be a good way to find the inner quietness we need to meditate on God’s word and talk to him silently or out loud. But sometimes, closing one’s eyes to withdraw from this world can be so effective that the world makes the most of it. I remember that, a few years ago, some Christian Union students were robbed of their mobile phones when they were praying in a McDonald’s in Paris – so next time you close your eyes to pray in a public space, beware!
According to some articles I’ve read online, church history doesn’t say much about closing our eyes when we pray and, as far as Scripture is concerned, “we encounter silence as well”.Indeed, when we read the Bible, we learn a lot about whom we should pray (the Father in the name of the Son by the Spirit) and how to pray (with faith, humility and perseverance for example). And of course, some passages seem to indicate that people including Jesus himself closed their eyes when they prayed (see Matthew 26:39 and Luke 18:13). But other than that, there doesn’t seem to have any explicit requirement that we should close our eyes when we pray – please let me know if you find Bible passages suggesting otherwise. In fact, several texts seem to suggest that it’s perfectly appropriate to pray with our eyes wide open.
In the book of Psalms for instance, the book of prayer par excellence, we read that one of the psalmists lifts up his eyes to the mountains and eventually finds the help he needs in “the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth” (Psalm 121:1). If “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), it’s not hard to imagine how the amazing sight of God’s glorious creation helped the psalmist to find his comfort in him. In the New Testament, before raising Lazarus from the dead and before praying for his disciples, Jesus looks up (John 11:41) and looks “toward heaven” (John 17:1). Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus’s eyes were open but again, it’s not hard to imagine how the Son drew his strength and inspiration in the physical sight of heaven, where the Father reigns.
So even if closing our eyes seems to be our spiritual default setting, there doesn’t seem to be any reasons why we can’t pray with our eyes wide open. What good news for those who, like me, enjoy praying as they walk or as they drive! But also for the visually impaired who don’t have to be able to see with their physical eyes to see God with the eyes of faith.