I usually pray with my eyes shut. Shutting out awareness of the world around me helps me focus and centre without so many distractions. I like to pray in the garden, down at the wild end, and if I don’t shut my eyes, I end up day-dreaming about the trees or the grass or the birds or the fence that desperately needs mending.
I remember Ishmael once saying that you should pray with your eyes open when saying grace, in case your brother steals your sausage, and it’s good advice. And I find it can be helpful to look at someone if I’m praying for them/with them. But, on the whole, I pray with my eyes shut.
Today I was reading an interview with Jurgen Moltmann in Third Way magazine. Among several challenging and interesting comments, he said that:
“To pray means to open one’s eyes and watch what is happening, what is coming, the dangers and the opportunities.”
Perhaps if I shut out the world around me in order to pray and hear God, I limit my prayer and it easily becomes all about me. If I pray with open eyes – and open hands – it connects me with God and with the world God loves and saves. The trees, the grass, the birds, and the people all matter. Standing to pray with open eyes and open hands is prayer that’s ready to act, ready to participate in God’s deliverance, like the Hebrews eating Passover dressed for their escape from slavery to freedom.
At a lunchtime meeting today there was some prayer and I joined in with my eyes open and it did help me feel connected with the people I was praying with. I think I will try more of this wide-eyed prayer and see how it goes.