Contemplative Eyes and Continual Prayer

by Gerald May*

*Excerpted from his article, “Prayerfulness at Work” from Shalem’s News, Volume 29, No. 1-Winter, 2005. The full issue may be viewed here.

eyesDuring your personal prayer/meditation times at home, or at other prayer times during the day, try experimenting with letting your eyes be open. If you’re used to closing your eyes for prayer and meditation, go gently. At first, just let your eyes be partially open, not focused on anything. See if this seems to interfere with your inner sense of presence and openness. If it does, keep gently experimenting with eyes closed, eyes open. See if you can recover your prayerfulness with your eyes open. Remember times in the past when you’ve felt very prayerful with eyes open: in nature perhaps, or in worship, looking at a loved one, gazing at the sky, etc.

Keep experimenting with this until it becomes more comfortable. Then let your eyes come naturally open, looking around and at different things in your environment. If you lose your sense of presence, close your eyes again and keep experimenting with the transition until it feels more natural to have your eyes open. The idea is to let yourself be free to be prayerful regardless of whether your eyes are closed or open. Prayerfulness with eyes open becomes important, of course, if you want to be prayerful as you’re working on different tasks. And if this is indeed what you want, don’t forget to pray for it!


I am still working on this one, but love the feeling of it. When I meditate/pray, I shut my eyes, breath deeply….shut out the world. I love this idea of feathering out the prayer regardless of eyes open or shut, to live the continual prayer.

What is your experience?

September 09, 2013 by Shalem Institute 4 Comments
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M C galloway
M C galloway
10 years ago

Thank you for sharing this. I am always growing in my ability to be with God and with people at the same time. For me detachment is a real key and staying in forgiveness.

10 years ago
Reply to  M C galloway

Staying in forgiveness, yes!

Carl Riedy
Carl Riedy
10 years ago

I immediately thought of my labyrinth walks. Eyes open gazing at the center, settling into prayerful meditation. Eyes closed in the center, searching for the Spirit and the energy to face the challenges on the outside of the labyrinth. Eyes again open on the journey out while looking back to the center and then outwardly to the world, seeking the Spirit’s grace to perform the ministries that lie ahead, regardless of how big or small.

10 years ago
Reply to  Carl Riedy

So true. Great example, Carl. Thank you.


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