Do We Need to Close Our Eyes When Praying?

Do We Need to Close Our Eyes When Praying

Last updated on November 30th, 2019


Everyone raise your heads, open your eyes, and let us pray. Doesn’t sound too familiar does it? This probably does. Everyone bow your heads, close your eyes, and let us pray. But do we need to close our eyes when praying? Would you ever pray with your eyes open?

Why do we close our eyes and bow our heads to pray?

It’s possible it could be based on examples in scripture. Let’s observe some verses. 1 Samuel 1:13 states, “As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk.” Here we see one physical description. Lips moving in prayer. Is this prescriptive? It’s an example of someone we have praying, but still, it’s only a description of what they were doing, not necessarily a command of what to do.

Another example we have is Jesus. Matthew 26:39 states, “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Note that Jesus fell to his face before he prayed, so he bowed in prayer. And with his face down, would it be unlikely his eyes were open? Possibly. But again, this is just a description. Though it being an example in scripture, should you take it as a command?

1 Timothy 2:8 states, “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Here we see an instruction to pray lifting up holy hands. One has a stronger case in saying this is prescriptive versus the other two examples. But I know one can ask if it’s really necessary for one to always raise their hands in prayer? And what about the people who can’t raise their hands at all, are their prayers invalid? Surely not.

Can I pray with my eyes open?

So we have these descriptions one can debate if they’re prescriptions. I imagine there’s other examples I didn’t include, but I’m not aware of any verse that states to close your eyes to pray. So do we need to close our eyes when praying? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Perhaps the main point however you communicate to God, eyes open or closed, hands raised or clasped together, mouth moving or silent thoughts, the important thing is that you’re directing your attention and petitions to God.

Peace to all those who are in Christ.


19 thoughts on “Do We Need to Close Our Eyes When Praying?

  1. I’ve been thinking about the “eyes closed” thing too. Another example of a prayer in scripture is Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8 beginning at verse 22) where it says Solomon stood and “spread forth his hands toward heaven”. It says nothing of him closing his eyes. Maybe doing that has become a tradition in the church because it helps people concentrate or keep from being distracted. I don’t know.
    Anyway, good post!

  2. For a while, I was meeting regularly for coffee with a missionary from my church. We met outside a Starbucks, enjoyed coffee, sharing God’s influence in our lives, and watching people go by. He liked to pray with eyes open, looking around, smiling and laughing, and seemingly included me and the world around us in his prayers. It was like we were sitting there talking to the Father who had joined us! Quite amazing.

  3. Nice write up… But I know for a fact that people pray with eyes closed to avoid distractions … You know the eyes is the window of the heart , not saying you cannot be distracted even with eyes closed but some people it easier for them to keep their thoughts In check and focused .. as for bowing down and lifting hands it might not be a necessary but I know people feel connected when they flow with their heart and demonstrate them with their body gestures and demonstrate a certain degree of humility … God bless you all God’s people

  4. You do have a point. I do a lot of praying with my eyes opened. I seldom shut my eyes to cut off distractions. This I believe was the initial intention of whoever made shutting our eyes while praying a doctrine for all to follow. But biblically speaking I haven’t come across any scriptures that instruct us to do so or to take any other positions while praying. I am a living witness though of the fact that we can have intimate discussions with God with our eyes open.

    1. Hi Iteoluwa. Thanks for your comment. Perhaps that could be the case. I’m not sure how it all started. But yes, no instructions whatsoever to close our eyes. We see people take postures of bowing, moving lips, and one statement that seems like it instructs raising holy hands as a part of prayer, but all in all, perhaps the most important thing is that we’re communicating our thanksgivings and petitions to God regularly. And that’s wonderful that you’ve had intimate discussions with God with your eyes open.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  5. The exterior posture of the body tends to display the interior disposition of the soul… Head down, eyes closed has the emphasis on humility (see the publican and Pharisee) and the apophatic. The “orans” posture traditionally emphasizes vulnerability and helplessness, in addition to being a natural expression of joy.

    The truth is out there and doesn’t change… It’s our task to conform ourselves to it, but just because that’s an ongoing process for each of us should be no cause for surprise or for despair! It’s the person who never changes his mind who shouldn’t have a public platform…

    1. Hi Christian Renaissance Movement. Thanks for your comment. That is the first I’ve heard of the information you related in the first paragraph. It sounds really interesting and I’ll have to look into that.

      Indeed, it’s an ongoing journey getting to that truth and conforming to it. We’ll ultimately never understanding everything for sure until heaven I suppose. And I couldn’t agree more with your last statement. Unfortunately too many people who do have a public platform never change their mind.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  6. I pray a lot with my eyes open– like when I am doing dishes, and something hits my mind that needs to be prayed for, or when I am driving… it can happen randomly throughout the day. But that is what a relationship is like, isn’t it? Do we only talk to our children when they are in a particular physical position, or expect them to to us? No, and I don’t think our Father in heaven is any different– if prayer is talking to Him, I do believe He would like to converse throughout the day, even while in the middle of tasks, instead of putting it off to when we can sit still and bow our heads. Like Brother Lawerence, I find the things he said very inspirational. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi twogalsandabook. Thanks for your comment and also sharing that link with me. I think your analogies are excellent in context with this post, and I too think He wants to communicate with Him in our days whether it’s eyes opened or closed. It really serves us well to examine the traditions of the church we’ve been raised on with regards to the practice of our faith.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  7. “I’ve found that my mind has surprisingly changed to beliefs that a few years ago I would have been 100% against.”- I think that writing has a way of solidifying what we think or don’t think. It has a way of testing what we thought we believed or think we believe. It organizes our thoughts and theology. Poorly thought out arguments get thrown out and things we hadn’t thought about make more sense. Thanks for sharing it with us…

    1. Hi Blake. Thanks for your comment. I agree. My writing has made me more carefully come to an understanding that is carefully expressed in a very precise manner. And then again, others writing things to me in an even more precise manner has given me the challenge but also joy of thinking just a little bit more about what I understand to be something I should believe in.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

  8. I think praying is talking to someone, God. So how would I talk to a person? With my hands moving, looking at them, looking at something else but still engaged. I close my eyes to “look” at Jesus, since he is spirit and everything around me is material, I can be distracted. But when I’m outside in nature, I talk to God with my eyes open. He’s all around me so creation leads me to him rather than distracting me from him. I bow my head in reverence and sometimes I lift my head to heaven. I lift my hands to cheer at a ball game and I lift my hands to cheer my God, to proclaim who he is or to surrender myself to him. I love that you’ve found various verses that show different situations because I believe that is exactly how we come to God as beings meeting another being. Man has distorted scripture to suit his pride when he says we must sit, stand, kneel, lift hands, close eyes, etc. That’s like saying what specifically we have to do to have a conversation with a friend or spouse. Kind of ridiculous, right? Thanks for your posts and for checking out my blog. I wish you all the very best God has for you, no matter how you pray. 😉

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think it’s plausible with different ways in which people were discussed or shown expressing their communication to God, one’s own choice of communication seems fine. May you have the best from God as well in all the ways you pray.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

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