Why Do We Close Our Eyes To Pray?
When it’s time to pray during worship, we all generally do the same thing – we bow our heads, close our eyes and fold our hands into our laps. But why do we do that? Like everything else we do in the name of worship, our prayer habits deserve scrutiny in light of the Word of God.
In the Bible, people of God prayed in a variety of ways.
Some prayed standing. Jesus commanded, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25). This prayer position even has a name that goes way back – it’s called the “Orans” position, Latin for “praying.” In this position, the people of God lift their hands toward God (and Paul says to make sure those hands are holy before lifting them, 1 Timothy 2:8). The worshiper might also “look toward heaven” in his supplication (John 17:1).
Sometimes the worshiper might instead choose to kneel. Jesus prayed this way in the garden during His greatest anguish, Luke 22:41-44. When we kneel, we might not be in the mood to look above. The Publican in his humiliation kept his eyes down while praying for mercy in Luke 18:13. Some might even choose to close their eyes when they’re feeling this way.
But at other times men of God would fall all the way to the ground during prayer, as Jesus did later in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord was too overwhelmed in spirit to get any higher, Matthew 26:38-39.
There were also times when the people of God sat to pray, as we generally do. David sat before the Lord to wonder out loud about the mercies and blessings of God in 2 Samuel 7:18.
So what is the right way to pray? Well, it depends on what we are trying to express before God. When we are speaking intimately to our Father about our lives and His plans, we might look towards the heavens. We might feel the need to plead upwards one day, and fall on our faces before Him the next. Sometimes we might need to have a seat, while other prayers could not express the right message without prostration.
There are many ways Christians pray, and there are just as many reasons for the variety. I suppose most of us feel like closing our eyes denotes respect and concentration. Some have told me that closing their eyes is too distracting. So they shouldn’t do it. Some aspects of prayer, however, cannot be missing while we’re communing with the Lord.
Christians do not let their minds wander during prayer. It is the responsibility of each Christian to make the prayer meaningful and reverent. God’s people work hard to do so, not letting anything distract them – a poor prayer by the leader, crying babies, heat, busy lives – nothing interferes with their conversation to their God.
Christians do not forget the “amen.” The amen is the agreement of the congregation to the sentiment of the prayer (1 Corinthians 14:16). It should only be absent when we disagree or do not understand.
Christians do not pray thoughtlessly. My mind wants to wander during the prayer, and my best weapon against it seems to be repeating the prayer to myself, or rewording it into my own thoughts as the leader prays. I’ve heard others quietly “amen” or “yes, Lord” the individual sections of the prayer to keep themselves engaged. Either way, congregations of God’s people find a way to make the prayer their own.
Christians pray with full participation. They don’t believe the person speaking is the primary pray-er. Everyone is fully engaged, pouring out their emotions and requests to their Father. They may even be adding their own individual thoughts and requests up at the same time. And when each person has finished, they feel like they have just given of themselves to their God.
So when you pray, go ahead and sit with your hands folded if you must. Bow your head silently and close your eyes if necessary. But be sure that your heart is wide open before the Maker.