I have been noticing lately that when the gospel writers record Jesus’ prayers, they often say ‘He looked up’ as He prayed. This is interesting. After all, most people in our culture connect ‘prayer’ with bowing your head and closing your eyes… strangely opposite of how Jesus prayed. I also noticed that every time I bow my head and close my eyes I get a little dizzy and then all I end up thinking about is why I feel like that. So I decided that I would try looking up and keeping my eyes open while I prayed. I tried it in my office and it didn’t really seem that helpful; all I could really think about was the ceiling (and I don’t work in St. Peter’s Basilica). I started asking myself why Jesus might do such a thing.
The Torah makes it clear in the creation account that God’s presence hovers over the whole earth, that He is intimately interactive with His creation. I have come to believe that heaven is not so much a place in the sky, rather an alternative reality that envelopes His entire created order, universe and all. It is all around us; a reality in which God’s will is always done. While invisible to those who don’t have the Holy Spirit, those who do become increasingly aware of how heaven is closing in all around us. God is somewhere. God is everywhere. He is not distant; He is right here among us.
I’m reminded of the time when God told Abraham to count the stars – He tells him that counting his descendants will one day be just as difficult. If you know the story, this was a bit of a laughable promise considering the circumstances. I imagine Abraham stepping out of his tent and staring into the night sky – no city lights, no noise -- you might try it tonight. Suddenly, as he takes in the expanse of the starlit sky, it’s a little easier to believe that God can actually bring His promises to fruition. If God can speak something this intricate and beautiful from nothing, nothing is impossible for Him.
I had been asking God to go before me in one particular circumstance, something I thought was a bit of a laughable prayer… but I prayed it anyway. And as the situation progressed, it became clear that He had already gone before me. On one specific, meaningful night I walked outside, looked up, and was immediately captivated by the splendor and magnitude of God’s creative design and thought, ‘this is the God I am praying to’. Perhaps we should stop looking down and closing our eyes and instead look up to the Father of Lights who, unlike the sun, does not rise or set – He remains our constant source of light.