This is not a rant or meant in a 'mean spirited' way, it is simply an observation.
It was several years ago that I noticed some unusual changes in the way we speak to God. In a service one night where a friend of mine (who happens to be much younger) was leading and praying, something sounded a little different in his voice. I could not put my finger on it, but in my mind I knew something was different. So, I opened my eyes to make sure all was well in the room. Much to my surprise I discovered that my 'preacher-friend' was praying with his 'eyes-wide-open' and surveying the crowd as he voiced the pray and spoke to God. Now I know that you don't HAVE to close your eyes to pray, but I was literally 'startled' because I had never observed a 'spiritual leader' who didn't. It's amazing what you remember in moments like this.
Coach Mangum was our elementary school principle and did double duty as he drove the to high school and taught us in 9th grade civics. Also, he was our Sunday School Director at First Baptist. I remember a discussion one day in 'one of his classes'. (Yes, Supreme Court forbid, we spoke of spiritual things in school). Coach was telling us about his praying and he said, "We should bow our heads in reverence to God and "I" close my eyes." It was obvious that we didn't "have to" close our eyes, but he impressed on us (well, at least me) that in closing our eyes, we could close out the world and focus our thoughts on the one to whom we were talking, God.
In recent days I have thought much about the first experience of observing the 'eyes-open' prayer and have made it a point to see if this was a 'one time' event and person OR if this was
and is a modern day movement from the younger sect. Shockingly, well at least it is to me, I have observed many younger ministers leading in a worship service and talking to - hmmm - God, while staring at us. In fairness and on balance, I did witness someone almost my my age (old codger age) doing the same thing. This brings up another part of this observation.
This part of my observation is that, for the first time in my life, I have some people in my life who cannot seem to look me in the eye when they talk to me. Have you noticed this in your life? Is this a growing phenomenon? Some look over my head so that all I see in the bottom of their chin, which is a big unnerving. Others will look at the door, out the window, or simply into space, instead of me. Now they talk to me or at least seem to, but it doesn't 'feel' like it because without the 'eye-connection' it seems as if there is NO connection. This brings me back to the 'EOP' (Eye-Opened Praying).
As I have already written, I know one can pray without closing their eyes. That said, Coach Mangum's teaching still challenges me to close my eyes that I am not distracted and can focus on HIM. Conversely, it would seem that IF I am going to do this EOP, that instead of surveying the crowd, I might want to do as King Solomon did, and raise my eyes toward HIM and look at the one to whom I am speaking. It makes sense to me.