09032015_BonnieGray_James4

When you don’t feel like praying, how can you still savor God’s presence? I’d like to share one of the best ways that helps me experience God’s presence when I find it hard to pray.

The funny thing is, I discovered it unexpectedly while talking to my sons Josh and Caleb before they even made it to kindergarten.

One of the most challenging tasks as a parent is asking a two-year-old to pray.

“Caleb, close your eyes.”

“No!”

“We’re talking to Jesus now. Come, sweetie, close your eyes.”

He wiggles. Shaking his head.

We pray anyway.

“Amen.”

My five-year-old-son Josh asks, “Why do we have to close our eyes anyway?”

I stop to think. Of course, we pray in all different ways: sitting, standing, walking, singing, driving too.

Why do we pray with our eyes closed?

The best thing I can think of in the moment is this: kissing.

“Do you notice something, Josh, when Daddy and Mommy kiss?

We close our eyes . . . to let our souls breathe.

I didn’t say this to Josh at the time, but we also close our eyes:

  • when we cry and tears run down.
  • when we bite into a crisp strawberry and savor summer sweetness.
  • when we laugh so hard our belly aches and we can’t remember when we last did.

When we want to remember a tender moment and lean into a friend’s embrace, we release ourselves in that moment.

To stop. And let our souls breathe.

We set our hearts free.

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click here to download this Set Your Heart Free Printable

Closing Your Eyes. Savoring God’s Presence.

We can still savor God’s presence even when we don’t feel like praying.

One way I do this is by the simple act of closing my eyes — whether for a fleeting moment or longer.

I breathe, “Oh, God,” and close my eyes. Without any words, I am stepping into God’s presence.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” {James 4:8}

*I whisper his Name, “Jesus, you know me,” and close my eyes to lean into the arms of Him who loves and understands me.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way [including the difficulty of prayer], just as we are — yet was without sin.” {Hebrews 4:15}

I sit in a moment of silence in stillness, as my heart’s cry for God’s comfort. I rely on the comfort that God hasn’t left or forsaken me. Even in my silence.

“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” {2 Timothy 2:13}

I circle my thoughts to one prayer: God is praying for me.

I open my hands as a physical expression of prayer, as I sink into the couch or lie on my bed and close my eyes.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” {Romans 8:26}

When you don’t feel like praying, all is not lost. Jesus doesn’t hold it against you. In fact, He is carrying you close in His heart — whispering with eyes closed — more tenderly than we may dare to believe.

He is praying for you and for me.

Question for you: How is God encouraging you in prayer? Share how you’re experiencing God’s presence in simple, everyday ways.

by Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

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Jesus is carrying us close in His heart—more tenderly than we may dare to believe. {Tweet this!}

{hand-lettering & photography by Kelly Ishamel}
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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Bonnie,
    I hadn’t really thought about the act of closing my eyes as God’s way of ushering me into His presence, but it’s so true. I also hadn’t thought about Jesus having trouble praying, but being fully human, He experienced all the same experiences that we do. So thankful that He intercedes for us when words simply won’t come. A couple ways I pray that bring me close to God are…I pray out loud when I’m alone (the dogs think I’m a little nuts, but that’s okay lol). Giving voice to my prayers helps me to stay focused and express myself. I also will put on praise music and sing the words (in my off key voice) to God as my prayer of praise to Him.
    Thank you for this simple, yet profound truth!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      bev, love how you pray outloud alone. there’s something intimate about giving voice aloud to what might sometimes be swimming inside our hearts. i think of Jesus in Garden of Gethsamane – how the disciples heard his heart-baring words aloud..

  • Jas

    Thank you Bonnie for your words they are right on point to where I am right now with my relationship with God. A Christian born and raised but my life has gone in a different direction, different country and although I have always come back to The Lord or really he has never left me I have lost my connection a constant connection. The verses ” Come close to Him and He will come near to you and “for the faithless He is faithful because He cannot disown himself. Thank you, please pray for me on this renewed journey, it is so important to me.

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      Jas, thanks for sharing the whispers God echoed in your heart – beautiful scripture. so comforting. i was a missionary who also had to transition back home. it takes time.. and friends to share the ups and downs. you’re not alone. (hugs)

    • Beth Williams

      Jas,
      Prayers for you on your journey! May God become ever present to you and bring that connection back!! Keep reading scripture.
      (((((Hugs)))))

  • Brittany

    This post seemed to have been meant for me at the perfect time in my life right now. When hard times come, I find it hard to pray. I know it seems like this would be the easiest time to pray, but it’s not for me. I’m going through a lot right now in my life, and honestly, I feel as though I don’t know where to begin when I sit down to pray. This post was a gentle reminder that it’s ok sometimes. I can just sit in His presence and close my eyes and take it all in. Thank you for this heartwarming message.

    • Penny

      Praying with you…..

      Take Care,

      Penny

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      it’s true, brittany. sometimes the hardest times to pray are when we go through the hardest time. we’re overwhelmed and our hearts are still sorting it out. it’s okay. just imagine Jesus sitting there right there with you. praying for you. because He loves you irrevocably… (hugs)

    • Beth Williams

      Brittany,
      Prayers for you during these trials! May God give you the words to pray–remember when you can’t pray the Holy Spirit will intercede for you with groans. He is always there!!
      (((((Hugs)))))

  • Kristin

    I love this idea of closing our eyes like we do when we kiss. When my kids asked why, I’d always use a more sterile approach, “It keeps you from being distracted.” But, your exploration is so much more intimate. For me, praying has become less formulaic and more honest. I finished reading Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life, which encourages us to see God as a loving father, and we his children, simply speaking to our Dad. It freed me up from this expectation that my prayers have to be perfectly eloquent and exact. It’s an honest exploration with my loving Father.

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      hi kristin, so sweet to “see” you again here, a virtual cup of morning coffee with you today… :) i love the sound of this book… i’ll check it out. thnk you for sharing your journey with prayer and your heart with us…

      • Kristin

        I just saw this, Bonnie. Blessed to share life with you and other dear sisters who desire the real and raw, as well as the poetic and pretty. :)

  • ruth rajkumar

    Bonnie, you have eased some of the guilt I felt when I can’t find the words to pray, even though I felt guilty because I know I should pray, yet couldn’t word it, I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting at God’s feet, with my arms around His feet ,resting my head on them, closing my eyes and just sitting there quietly weeping and asking My Heavenly Father to put His arms around me and comfort me, I don’t know what comes first the peace and comfort I felt or the sleep I desperately needed, He never let me down whenever I was in that state of mind, sometimes I just lay on my bed,close my eyes and say Lord you know my heart, you know what is in it, you know you are first and foremost, you know I love you and will always worship you no matter what and just close my eyes and picture my self leaning on His chest the way I remembered seeing one of His Disciples do in a Last supper painting, all I have to do is close my eyes and go to that place, with buckets of tears following, sometimes even the tears would betray me and refuse to fall, but Our Father never failed me when I needed peace and comfort. There is room at His Feet and there is room at the Cross, God Bless you and all my brothers and sisters reading this.

    • Lorna Das

      Thanks Bonnie, That was so fresh and beautiful comparing spending time with Jesus to a kiss…….when I cannot pray and my heart is heavy I turn on the worship music and always find Him close as I worship Him….

      • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

        Hi Lorna, yes … music is a kiss to the heart too… an embrace of the heart that goes beyond words. beautiful. thnks….

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      @disqus_whQX763imd:disqus what a beautiful, intimate moment with Jesus… keep returning to that beautiful place… never feel like you need a new “vision” or place of prayer… what you’ve expressed is timeless in God’s heart of eternity with you. thnk you..

    • Beth Williams

      Ruth,
      There are many times people can’t find words to pray. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans. He always makes a way for us to speak with Him. Loved the analogy of you leaning on His chest. Such sweet picture!
      Blessings :)

  • http://askthatquestion.blogspot.ca/ Kelly W

    Bonnie what a beautifully brilliant way to describe a connection. I know I often forget that body and mind are one and affect each other – which is why the passover story is told with food and tastes to help those who didn’t flee the Egyptians to feel the story inside their bodies. Which is why communion is an action, not just a feeling… and closing our eyes can help us be in the moment of prayer. You have my gratitude for this insight!

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      Hi Kelly… I love experiencing the Passover meal too…. if we can see some simple everyday food and tastes as our daily “communion”… maybe that’s why i love a cup of coffee… it’s me and Jesus.. :) thanks for sharing this wonderful reminder..

  • Sita

    Simply and beautiful articulated. I am in fact in a state of ‘overwhelm’ and words fail me, all except, “I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.” Yes, closing my eyes, uttering, “Lord…” ushers me not His Presence. A gentle reminder I needed this morning. I do so love the way you write, Bonnie. Thank you.

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      Hi Sita, i so love the way you hear the echoes of friendship through these words. Grateful God connects us… even in our overwhelm. have a wonderful day reflecting on God’s nearness with you, sweet kindred.

  • Rosemarie K.

    Each and Every Morning I awake and go to my quiet room and sit peacefully and open God’s Word. Entering into HIS presence first thing in the morning allows me to focus my eyes on HIM for the rest of the day. There is nothing sweeter. “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.”

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      that’s beautiful, Rosemarie. stillness… entering His presence. so sweet, your prayer & song. thank you for sharing.

  • LaToya Brown

    Bonnie, what a wonderful reminder of the simplicity in prayer. Children are so good at helping us remember why we do what we do. My prayers are non-stop, all day. Sometimes I kneel, or stand, or I’m washing dishes, folding clothes, or I’ve stepped on a sharp edge of a Lego- “Sweet Jesus!” cause he’s sweeter than the pain. And then there are the times in church when I close my eyes, during worship, to make the song personal. The tears began to fall, my hands tremble in His presence, my ears are on fire, and my soul says “Yes!” Oh the many ways we communicate with our Father.

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      hi LaToya (love the sound of your name.. sounds like a song!) … such a sweet connection you have with God.. even with the Lego’s crunch… (ouch.. I have two boys who scatter them like crazy, lol)… just beautiful prayer moments you have!

  • Stephanie

    Bonnie, I really needed to hear this today. While praying, I have been having difficulty finding the words to say and problems with trying to stay focused. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus is holding me and all of us in His arms, close to His heart always. Thank you so much for sharing and I will say a prayer for you right now! Have a blessed day ❤️

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      Hi Stephanie… how beautiful you feel His loving whispers to you today through this moment together this morning… The little moments may feel fleeting.. but they are sweet brushes of His arms.. as you lean in… holding you… close to His heart. thank you for sharing and your prayers. ;)

  • Joanne Peterson

    Bonnie,

    When I have been able to focus on praise and worship, often just listening and taking in the words, and then later saying “Jesus by faith, whether I feel your Presence or not I know You are here with me”; I feel His Presence, much more fully, almost like a dense fog, can’t explain it. I think it is sometimes me having to be more mindful that Jesus is always here. This has happened in the car when I can’t close my eyes, (I think people would prefer for me to drive with my eyes open ;-0 ) and then there are times where I have closed my eyes. But, when I am thinking of His Presence, I feel it. But, often I am so distracted by all the things I have to do, I don’t think of Jesus often enough just to be in His Presence and loved on and love Him back. I do pray throughout the day, but don’t ‘think or focus’ on Him being there.

    This is such a sweet post Bonnie. I know I’ll read it a few times.

    Joanne

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      Dear Joanne, it’s so special to hear how God brings you into moments of His nearness… and how your heart is sensitive to hearing and leaning into His embrace and love for you. Your distraction doesn’t distract God from His love for you. You are in the center of His concern and care for you. thanks for sharing your sweet heart.

  • Penny

    Bonnie,
    Your post was so thoughtfully written , thank-you.
    I really like James 4:8
    “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

    I go with what feels natural whether it’s sitting in the garden or looking up to thank Him for that very moment. It is random throughout the day and when it has quietened down at night I always try to remember to say a prayer. My son finds comfort in hearing the Lord’s prayer at bedtime and he will almost always remind you.

    Please can we take a minute to pray for comfort for the Father that lost his family trying to reach safety. And peace and safety for the many, many more. Hopefully together our prayers will help them.

    (Thank-you & bless you).

    Penny

    • Penny

      Sorry I did n’t realize I had almost duplicated this comment. I should of clarified the prayer I requested above was for little Alan’s Dad along with the other displaced families.

      Thank-you,

      Penny

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Bonnie, I loved this post, and your expressions of the reasons we close our eyes in prayer (and in other intimate moments). Our pastor recently said “Praying is breath.” When we pray, it’s as imperative as breathing…perhaps for our spirits and souls. I’ve been challenged to be more intentional in my praying, especially recently. Like Bev, I sometimes pray out loud. I also sometimes write my prayers out because it helps me stay focused on what I’m praying for. I often find myself closing my eyes to shut out the clutter in my home (and perhaps in my heart?) and focus on the One who’s listening to my heart-words.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I’ve written down some of your key points on a 3 x 5, and am putting it with my prayer-request cards. I sense these profound steps will augment my prayer-experience greatly: closing my eyes and savoring God’s presence, whispering Jesus’ name and visualizing the act of leaning in to him, as well as remembering the Spirit is interceding for me. Thank you, Bonnie! Speaking of visualization, I often pray with my palms up, resting in my lap. I imagine Jesus sitting with me, holding my hands. Visualization does help to keep me better-focused. (Can’t claim 100% attention, though! Still fight against wandering thoughts!)

  • http://annaangela.com/ Angela Sangalang

    Beautifully written! I close my eyes when I couldn’t focus on worship, even at church when my thoughts are running with things to do for the ministry or the crazy powerpoint background :-) Closing our eyes shutters out the distraction. I love that we can close our eyes and lean into the presence of God!

  • DaisyTea

    I’m so happy I read this today, Bonnie! ♡ I do that, close my eyes – kinda to escape for a moment – but I’d never really thought about it like this. ~I am letting my soul simply breathe~ And the Lord Jesus is praying for me. How beautiful a thought!

  • http://ChasingHoliness.com/ Brenda

    “God is praying for me.” What a sweet thought, Bonnie. ~ Oh, how much I adore Him. <3 Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth Williams

    Bonnie,

    I have gotten more intentional about prayer lately. Just saw the movie War Room and it has ignited a more fervent prayer life for me. Sometimes when I close my eyes to pray I can see an image of Jesus there!! Just love it!! Our church has started a “Prayer Warrior” group and each one in the group picks a topic for the month and prays daily. I chose the entire church (small number of members). Lately I have seen one prayer request answered. So far it continues to be answered. The more we pray and pray hard, & fervently the more He will answer our prayers.
    Blessings :)

  • bluelove

    I love to sing along with good, Christian music, as I am praying and praising God, our Abba. And to dance as well, when I am alone! My dogs get excited, and dance with me!

  • bluelove

    Love this site, glad I found it! God bless all of you. And comfort you, like a warm blanket, on a cold winters’ night. His love is transforming, and I am so thankful for that.