I’m not sure of the historical basis, perhaps another person here can expand on that. However, I do know that prayer is done differently in various cultures. I’m pretty certain that our style of prayer is just that, a North American style of prayer. For example, I know of Christians in the Middle East who pray with their eyes open and hands open, similarly to how Muslims pray.
A teacher of mine once told us to practice what he called “eyes open prayer” and I’ve done that ever since. It makes sense to me that I would look at people that I’m praying with, that as I’m praising God I’d look at the people I’m praising God for.
This is just speculation, but my initial thoughts are that our style of prayer has been influenced by individualism (i.e. closing your eyes “nobody but you and God) and theatrics.
The inside reflects the outside and the outside reflects the inside. Looking at how we physically pray can be a good indicator for what we actually believe about prayer. The best way to find out what people actually believe is to watch their actions!
What does everyone else think?
This is a great question. Haha I have no idea. I did a Google search on it and most of the answers had to do with concentration in one form or another.
Personally, I don’t close my eyes when I pray unless I’m tired and have my eyes closed already or unless I’m wanting to just meditate on His goodness.
Every reference I can find of Jesus praying when others were present always starts with, “He lifted His eyes to Heaven…” From my lay-person point of view, I would say, “close your eyes, and bow your head” came in from the perspective of “I am unworthy, I am a peasant…” that harkens back to a time when peasants were not allowed to look into the eyes of their master. This, to me, is a toxic mindset that has the propensity to create this idea that you are unworthy to speak to God, which has far reaching ramifications in your life and spiritual journey. Understanding my identity and what God thinks about me is crucial to healthy living. Just my thoughts…