Living and Praying with Your Eyes Open

“Surely I am too stupid.” That’s not the typical way you start a lesson on how to be wise. But that is exactly what our friend Agur does in Proverbs 30. He admits he’s not wise or educated or has a vast knowledge of God. And yet, he gets one chapter—out of only 31—in the most renown book of wisdom ever compiled. Why?

He lived and prayed with his eyes open.

Admitting you aren’t wise, maybe even that you are stupid, is perhaps the first step on the road to wisdom. The second step is to open up your eyes and look around while you walk. That’s what Agur did. What did he see?

His eyes were opened to the ease with which eagles fly, serpents sit, ships sail, and lovers love. His eyes were opened to the ease with which an adulteress lures and cheats and ruins. He saw ants and badgers and locusts and lizards doing their business to perfection. The proud walk of lions, goats, roosters mesmerized him.

Indeed, all of Proverbs uses metaphors from the theater of creation to help motivate us to wise living. But here, we see a man who doesn’t have answers or give us short, memorable sayings. Oh he teaches us, be sure of that. But his teaching comes not from self-proclaimed expertise but by simply marveling at what his eyes see.

And, at least for one chapter, that’s enough.

I struggle with seeing. I sense more often than not I don’t stop to look at the world God made. I’m too busy. I’m too busy killing ants in my backyard rather pulling my kids aside and wondering at their diligence and organization. I’m too busy finishing this project or that around the house rather than marveling at the way people fall in—and stay in—love.

I’m learning, however. I’m trying. My eyes were first opened to living with my eyes open when I read chapter seven in Eugene Peterson’s book Contemplative Pastor. It’s titled “Praying with Eyes Open,” and it challenged me to reconsider the intersection of the spiritual and physical. The fact that we are physical people in a physical world should force us to be more material, not less, when we pray and live. Christians should not be less human, but more. Prayer should force us to speak to God and, consequently, live with and before God with open eyes.

It’s necessary and good to open our eyes to the material world in life, in prayer, because the Word became flesh. The second Person of the Trinity became material. We could see him; touch him; hear him (see 1 John 1). Let that sink in. The One through whom the world was created had a body, like you and me. Don’t be fooled: being a Christian is not an escape from the material world. It’s thoroughly set in among ants and lizards, lions and roosters, virgins and eagles, rocks and cliffs, bread and wine, nails and thorns. Jesus does not take us deeper into the mystical unknown. His body dies and his body rises from the dead. Are you eyes open to that?

There are billions of amazing things happening around us all the time. We only have to open our eyes. When our eyes are opened, we’ll gain insight into God’s character, what he’s up to in the world, and, most importantly, we will know God’s Son whom we cannot now see, but whom we will see one day. That’s wisdom. That’s what Agur was after. That’s what I’m after. What about you?