Thursday, March 24, 2005

Eyes Closed?

Just this week started my new gig as the Chaplain for the Victorian Christian Schools Basketball squad, which is awesome fun. So far my complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with the game hasn't yet come through-which is good!

At the end of the day I was asked to close in prayer (something I think people presume I'm better at doing cos I'm a minister!) so I was in the middle of the court and asked everybody to join with me in prayer. For a lot of them who are accustomed to this, they just shut their eyes and bowed their heads.

I often like to not close my eyes when I pray, and I noticed a lot of kids did too. It did make me wonder as to why it is we're even expected to always close our eyes during prayers, and whether we should ask kids at school to or not? It was funny, cos I made eye contact with a few of them whilst I was praying and they gave me this 'what are you doing with your eyes open?' look.

I wonder what image of God we portray when we always ask people to close their eyes? Are we telling them that God is only out there and beyond, not here and present also? Last year on the final VET retreat I asked them to keep their eyes open whilst we prayed, as a bit of a way of acknowledging that God is amongst us, can be revealed to us through the other people in the room. To acknowledge that we are the closest thing to God that many people will see, and that God often works primarily through his people, and is not just a big impersonal deity. Dunno what the kids thought, but I liked it.

18 comments:

mase said...

i tried that eyes open thing for a while. and i got that 'look' sometimes too. after a while, i found i could just concentrate better when i closed my eyes and i found it easier to focus on God directly (even tho he is in the people around me). interesting though, considering eyes shut during prayer probly goes back way way way long ago.

Digger said...

Yeah it totally would go back to the year dot, I think its just a natural way to pray. I too often find it distracting, so usually pray with my eyes shut, but its an interesting exercise to do.

Garth said...

If I'm doing a prayer walk..well I tend to keep my eyes open for OHS purposes, plus I also get stimulation for more prayer that way. I think that shattering stereotypes is a good thing so if they caught you out...well and good!

gavin richardson said...

i would think of shutting my eyes does one of two things. 1. it replicates me in a posture of falling at the feet of God with eyes closed, weeping in some ways, in a humbleness. 2. it (as some of you have led too) helps to shut out the things of the world that keep me from God, so therefore i can truly focus on being with God. however, i too alternate praying with my eyes open. it feels like to me to pray without ceasing to open myself to the dialogue with God as i walk nature, view the people in rush hour.. and in more formal group prayer it gives a feeling of watching the flock (in certain terms). alas, i too am sure though closing your eyes goes way way back.

Simon said...

Another interesting aspect of prayer is what you do with your hands. We have just completed a bible study on the hands. I found it very interesting that the hands can play such an important role when praying. eg the laying on of hands or holding hands up to heaven.

I'm guessing many of us don't really understand the spiritual impact of physical things that happen on earth. There certainly seems to be a spiritual impact when people pray and lay hands on one another. I wonder if there are spiritual implications for opening or closing eyes during prayer. It's probably not all that relevant...just some idle ramblings from me.

For me, I take the teachings of Jesus on prayer as covering the things that are important when praying (see Matt 6:5-8). It seems to me that not doing "showy" prayers is important (which is why praying in private is recommended) and so is the old Senior Mase K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple saint).

Digger said...

Yeah true that Garth, I think eyes open for a prayer walk is a definite plus! I love doing them, and am hoping to be doing more in the future.

Yeah thats an interesting point Simon, i've also been thinking about different postures of prayer, particularly looking at some of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Things such as making the sign of the cross, kneeling, lying face down for prayer, plus a whole bunch of other ones that have a great deal of meaning, which we perhaps miss out on.

Thanks for your comments too Gavin, hope you enjoyed my blog!

I'm with ya on the making a show of prayer, its just stupid, and so not what its about.

¿johnman¿ said...

Yeah it can be good to pray either way, eyes open or closed. I tend to pray with my eyes open now have been for a while, don't really have probs concentrating so. And yeah do close my eyes sometimes, mainly more that it just happens sometimes when i am praying than doing it on purpose.

Christop said...

I was thinking today about how normally when we sing to God, we have our eyes open.

Simon said...

thanks for that photocopy article Digs - an interesting read, although not sure I'm agreeing 100% with it. Made the train trip to the footy more interesting though :)

Digger said...

The way Collingwood's playing at the moment I reckon sitting there having a read would be way more interesting than watching the footy!

What exactly didn't you agree with?

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who can close one eye and unnaturally leave the other completely open. She should try that while praying...

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