Wednesday, July 11, 2012


In the Christianity that reared me, the closing of eyes was a bodily habit that formed a central part of our expression of the faith. In prayer, heads were typically bowed and/or eyes were closed. In singing, the closing of eyes was a visible expression of union with God, or at least longing for that union. As with most things that one is given, I came around to questioning it.

It struck me as indicative of our introspection and individualism. We close our eyes to shut out everyone else in the room, to look within and there to find God. It can be almost a form of Christian solipsism, a period of time during which we inhabit only our minds because nothing outside of this inner life is truly real, nor does it truly matter. It is at this point that the word "distractions" might be used as motivation. But in the gathering of the people of God, this is a signifier of gross theological error. 

First, the people of God are not a distraction to our worship or our prayer. They are our partners, our fellow participants, members of the one body to which we all have been joined. If the visible, present, local church has become an obstacle to our relationship with God, then we have serious questions to ask ourselves.

Second, when we view the world around us as "distraction", we are in danger of diminishing our lived understanding of God as Creator. To see and hear creation is not a disturbance to our faith; it is to see and hear an expression of God that "pours forth speech". Our prayer and worship together must incorporate, in a very literal sense. Closing our eyes can thus be a distraction to the real nature of faith.

But of course none of that was or is the final word. The upshot is certainly not "Eyes wide open at all times." Upon further reflection...

Closing our eyes for prayer and singing can be used as a time to train our eyes so that when we re-open them we can see things afresh....We close our eyes in order to learn what it means really to see the world as redeemed by Jesus....Sometimes, though not all the time, we must stop our seeing so that we can adjust our sight and begin again to see things properly.

In short, we close our eyes so that they can be opened, in every sense of the phrase.

And because it makes things less awkward some times.

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