Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
The only chance we have to “pray continually” is to pray with our eyes wide open. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to be praying while walking around downtown (or driving a car) with your eyes closed. Would you?
But this isn’t the verse that convinced me it’s biblical and critical to pray with our eyes wide open.
There are actually many verses and passages in Scripture which point towards prayer being an active, every-day and eye-opening practice. The scenario that did it for me was the story reported in three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) surrounding a discussion Jesus had with his disciples regarding his true identity.
Jesus finally had his disciples alone, away from the crowds and is intent on teaching and preparing them for what is to come. This event takes place in Matthew 16, Mark 8, and Luke 9. And it’s the story of Jesus asking them who people say the Son of Man is, followed by, who do you say I am?
This is when Peter declares Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God, to which Jesus responds with a declaration of his own about Peter being the rock upon which his church would be built. We all get that as the main point. Equally as significant came his pronouncement that the “gates of Hades” (any power associated with death or any other opposing force) would never be able to overcome it (the church).
Let that sink in for a moment. The church, as limited, lukewarm and weak as it may seem will be triumphant. We have Jesus’ promise. The universal church will prevail and be a significant force for the Gospel until the end of time.
Back to the practice of praying with our eyes wide open.
Matthew’s account tells us they were in the region of Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked the questions about his identity (Mt 16:13). Mark adds, “On the way he asked them (Mk 8:27). Luke gives us even more context: “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him he asked them…” (Lk 9:18).
So it could very well be they were actively engaged in walking and talking and praying – with their eyes wide open.
No one can say with certainty what actually happened, but based on all three accounts, a reasonable understanding is they were walking in the region of Caesarea Philippi in private (apart from the crowds) as Jesus was engaged in prayer with the Father. And it was the Father who, in prayer, prompted Jesus to ask that question.
After all, Jesus often said the Son does everything he sees the Father doing and doesn’t say anything unless it’s something he’s heard spoken by the Father. (See John 5:19, John 8:28, John 12:49.)
Take also the feeding of the 5,000. Before multiplying the bread and fish and feeding the people it says in Matthew, “and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” Likewise, Jesus gave thanks before feeding the 4,000, too, quite possibly with his eyes looking up to heaven.
Sure, there are times when Jesus went to a solitary place to pray, and he may very well have closed his eyes when doing so. And so should we (Mt 6:6). But if we are to rejoice, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances we also need to be alert and mindful there are many times and reasons for open-door and eyes wide-open praying.
Riding the bus to work? Look around. Most of the people around you are passing the time on their smartphones. What if you got a prayer going instead? I don’t mean, “Ladies and gentleman, may I have your attention, let’s pray.” I mean what if instead of joining them in getting lost inside your apps and on the Internet you spent some moments in prayer with the Father inside your head – eyes open or shut?
You’re on the move now, walking to the office. And instead of plugging your ears with music or the latest news or sports update, you’ve got a prayer going.
I’m reminded of a time, walking to the bus stop in the morning and as usual listening to something through my phone. I looked up, saw another bus-rider approaching the stop and for some reason decided to pull the earbuds out to offer a “Good morning, how are you doing,” greeting. Without hesitation she told me her mother had passed away a few days ago and was dealing with all the details and grief of her loss.
God is so incredible. I believe he had me pull those things out of my ears to pay attention, to interact with another human being, and silently offer a prayer, with my eyes (and ears) wide open.
Are you ready to pray with your eyes wide open today?
Maybe it will have to do with something you recently read in the word and prayed about behind closed doors; and the Holy Spirit, bringing it to your attention while you’re out in the open leads you to pray.
Maybe it’s about that sin problem you have, or your out-of-work daughter who’s a single mom and also struggling with teenage rebellion.
Maybe you could offer a prayer for your pastor? Ask the Lord for his blessings of encouragement and guidance. A prayer like the kind the Apostle Paul requested for himself is in order here that “words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
Maybe you want a deeper spiritual connection with God and your church? Pray according to Paul’s example of the prayer he wrote to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:15-23).
Unsure of what to pay for or how to even pray? Follow Jesus’ recommendation: pray the disciples prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
Maybe you’re facing a difficult situation at work. Instead of worrying about it perhaps you could pray about it as you drive, bike, bus, BART, or walk into work.
Whatever it is, whatever the situation, people or the circumstances around you – think of your heavenly Father, rejoice and pray with thanksgiving.
Above all else, pray from what’s in your heart. In a sermon on “A Prayer for the Overwhelmed,” from Psalm 142, Pastor Troy Dobbs of Grace Church mentioned that God is not so concerned with what’s on our prayer list as he is with what’s on our heart.
Jesus’ compassionate heart often led him to offer thanks and prayers to God during the course of his public ministry. He healed the people who came to him from far distances. He then looked upon them with compassion because they’d been there a few days without food. And he looked up to heaven, gave thanks, and gave them what they needed for the journey back – food in the form of bread and fishes. (Mt 15:29-39)
Look around. Keep your eyes open. Rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all that you do. After all, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
And, It just might make a huge difference and impact for you, and those around you in desperate need of our Savior’s help and love.
Finally, consider this from the Apostle Paul:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lords’s people. Ephesians 6:18
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