Why do we close our eyes when we pray?
I always thought, and perhaps I heard somewhere, that it was our way of blocking out all of the distractions of the world to focus our attention wholly on God while we pray. And perhaps that is one truth of it. But the older I get, and the more I pray, the more I understand that it's more than that.
Sometimes...sometimes, I close my eyes when I pray because I just can't do it any more; I need rest.
God's is a comforting presence and sometimes, like a small child, I just need to let Him wrap me up in His arms and hold me so securely that I can't help but finally let go. I need to sink into Him a little, the way I sink into my bed when I crawl under my covers. I need everything to just stop hurting for just a minute, to just stop aching, to just stop wondering, to just stop questioning, to just...stop, and I need to rest.
Have you ever had those moments?
It's a hard way to pray, this prayer that comes from both stress and surrender. At the very same moment I'm trying just to breathe, I'm also trying to get all my words out before they escape me. I'm praying frantically because my need for rest is so great and at the same time, trying to embrace that very rest. It's like the prayer itself is pulling me in two opposite directions - the act of praying, the act of resting.
Daughter, He whispers, do you not know that prayer is rest? And that rest is prayer?
It's hard for me to grasp, but in my heart, I know that it's true. Prayer is rest because it is the place where striving ceases. As much as I want to get prayer "right," as much as I'm prone to worry about the mechanics of my prayer, I know that at its heart, prayer is simply where I lay it all down. Prayer is where I stop trying so hard and admit that life is what it really is.
And rest? Rest is prayer, and I know this, too, because rest is trust. It's a declaration of faith - that I know that right here, in God's presence, in God's arms, I am well. I am okay. Maybe it's not the prayer that my mind thinks I need to be making. Maybe it's not all the words that I think I need to say. Maybe it doesn't feel like praying at all, but it's what I desperately need. Just to be. Just to stop and to rest and to be. Just to be with my God.
So sometimes, I close my eyes when I pray. Because I just can't do it any more.
I need rest.