My curiosity as to why we close our eyes when we pray prompted me to look for answers in the scriptures. And to my surprise, I find no biblical precedence for it – not one!
In most Christian gatherings, we close (or are told to close) our eyes during prayer sessions.
Even when it’s a private/individual prayer, we tend to shut them by default. However, have you ever asked yourself or anyone why that’s the case? Do we simply do so because of the that’s-how-it’s-always-been- done factor?
First, we should understand that every spiritual activity believers engage in must be biblically substantiated. As believers, we don’t do band-wagon or simply go with trends. Instead, we pattern our conducts and practices based on what is prescribed in the Written Word. When, how, where and why we engage in spiritual activities are informed by our knowledge of the bible. The same rule goes for prayer; the activities we carry out in the process of praying; the positions we strike and the mood/mode we assume. Our prayer habits deserve scrutiny in the light of God’s word.
JUST A TRADITION
My curiosity as to why we close our eyes when we pray prompted me to look for answers in the scriptures. And to my surprise, I find no biblical precedence for it – not one! The only explanation I could advance on the subject is that, somehow, way back in time, the practise came to be a tradition of the church. That tradition must have begun in the distant past in the history of the church and has come to be generally accepted as the standard mode for prayer.
Meanwhile, the term ‘tradition’ refers to a ‘long-established action or pattern of behaviour that has come to be accepted by members of a group and has been handed down from generation to generation’.
Do we then disregard the practise because it’s simply rooted in tradition and doesn’t have a basis in the scriptures? Not necessarily. For all it’s worth, not all extra biblical traditions sustained by the church are bad. In fact, some church traditions, when well incorporated tend to strengthen and enliven a system.
However, according to Stephen Bearle, ‘tradition is strengthened by understanding it, engaging and entering into dialogue with it’. Since we can’t establish a biblical precedence for the practise/tradition, we should investigate it to see its necessity and significance.
MEN STRIKE DIFFERENT POSITIONS IN PRAYER
As we earlier pointed out, there is no biblical instruction for believers to close their eyes while praying. Jesus spent time teaching on prayer but didn’t instruct that we close our eyes while praying. However, from the scriptures, we observe that men assumed various positions while praying. For instance, we see that men prayed standing (Mark 11:25), lifting hands (1Tim 2:8), sitting (2Sam 7:18), hands outstretched (1Kings 8:54), lifting up the head (John 17:1), kneeling (1Kings 8:54), lying flat (Matt 26:38-39)…
PRAYER:WHAT IS IT?
Since we are discussing an action we perform while praying, it’s not out of place to briefly examine the concept of prayer itself. Such examination will help us understand the relevance or otherwise of eye closing in prayer. First, know that prayer is a spiritual activity; it’s man communicating with God. In prayer, we make requests, express desires, change the course of things, fellowship with God, make power available for situations, and get trained spiritually. Basically, when we pray, we are in communion with God for different reasons. The question is must we (always) close our eyes when we do so?
REASONS ADVANCED FOR THE PRACTICE
A number of bible commentators seem to advance that the practise of closing one’s eyes while praying can be traced back to what the etiquette was in ancient times, when a subject comes before a king. During that period, when appearing before a ruler, you dare not look him in the face. Instead, you close your eyes or at best – depending on your status – look downwards.
Since God is known to be the king over all kings, these well-meaning folks simply decided that such display of ‘reverence’ should also be evident while communicating with Him hence, praying with eyes closed. We however know such explanation does not hold water. This is so because we serve a God who wants a relationship with us. He is not only our father but also our friend.
What kind of friendship demands that a friend be in a state of fear to communicate with another friend? Interestingly, God instructs the believer to come boldly to the throne of grace. There is no fear in love. Of course, our God is worthy of all honour. However, closing of the eye doesn’t necessarily imply that we are in a state of reverence. We reverence Him from/with our hearts.
One fantastic explanation suggests that since God lives in a spiritual/supernatural realm, one cannot approach and see Him in this physical world, especially with eyes opened. Hence, the need to close the eyes in order to disconnect oneself from this world and try to be a part of a virtual world where they can find God. No other explanation can be more ‘interesting’ than this.
First, God is a Spirit. Also, those who worship and minister to Him do so in the Spirit. It’s amusing to think one can manipulate the sense organs in order to catch a glimpse of Him. Moreover, one who thinks God has a special abode somewhere in space, in the supernatural realm needs to upgrade his knowledge of God.
God has taken residence in the heart of the believer. The body of the man who is saved is the temple of God – that’s where God dwells. Such a one therefore doesn’t need to assume a particular mood or close his eyes ‘in order to be where God is’.