The waitress placed a large bowl of salad in the middle of the table and handed plates all round. Spence and I chatted with our friends for another few moments, while the waitress poured tall glasses of water, then we bowed our heads, closed our eyes and thanked God for the food we were about to eat and the friendship we could enjoy. It was a common blessing, something that is as ordinary to Christians as breathing. As we dished up the salad, our friend Bob said, "We should have prayed like they do in China." My first thought was, how could it be so different? Then Bob explained."You can't bow your head over there. You can't close your eyes. When the people say the blessing over a meal, in public, they look at one another as though they were having a normal conversation, but instead of talking to one another, they talk to God." I was amazed at the need for such caution. But Bob assured me it was necessary. "Over there, you pray with your eyes open, in more ways than one."
We can be thankful, here in North America, that we don't have to be afraid to bow our heads and close our eyes in public. But perhaps there is something of value to be learned from the need to do so.
Pray with your eyes open. The phrase has stayed with me, and it has occurred to me how meaningful and exciting, praying that way could be. Perhaps you've already done it. Perhaps you stood on the edge of a mountain and looked out on an unending scene of beauty and praised God. Or you looked into the eyes of a new-born baby and gave thanks. Perhaps you watched the destruction and devastation of war on T.V. and prayed for peace. Or drove past an accident on the highway and prayed for those taken away in an ambulance. Or perhaps you walked down the street one day and suddenly started praying for everyone you saw.
Praying with your eyes open. It's not a bad idea, not a bad habit to cultivate. The Apostle Paul exhorted the people of Thessalonica to do just that when he said, "Pray continually" (I Thess.5:17). There are times, of course, when our praying should be done in a way that takes us away from the distractions of external things, but praying with our eyes open will make us aware of what's really going on around us. It can put us in touch with what God is doing and make us a part of it. Too often we miss it. Our eyes are open but we're not seeing, we're not being touched by what's around us.
That is God's intention, after all, that we be His servants on this earth, servants who see and respond in prayer and in action. Pray continually. Pray with your eyes open. Try it. You might get to like it!
Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and freelance writer living in Alberta Canada. Her devotional book, The Spur of the Moment has been endorsed by Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and others. To order, and to view more of Marcia's writing, see her web site - www.vinemarc.com
Copyright Marcia Lee Laycock, 2000, 2001,2002,2003,2004