I have done some reading to find the origins of bowing our heads and closing our eyes. No one is really sure where it comes from. Some people point to Medieval times and the greatest consistent belief that it was a religious act put into practice by the Catholic religion. Regardless of where it originated from it is a religious act that man came up with that has no bearing on the relationship with Christ that He desires to have with us. I did find one church denomination that actually was pointing out that effective prayer had to happen with our heads bowed and eyes closed. Since there is nothing Biblical to support it, it is just a religious act that has no impact on how we communicate with God. In fact, the Bible has examples of just the opposite in prayer. It is really our heart posture that is most important.
As I do training around the country, this is one principle that I take time to discuss. Since I am often doing trainings for ushers, greeters, children’s workers, staff, security persons, etc. whose role is to be alert at all times while they are serving. In September of 2016 I did a blog post on our site about Situational Awareness and used a picture of Gideon choosing his men in how they drank the water from the river. A posture that God was looking for in the men that Gideon would use. Heads up and alert.
There are many example of church violence that have happened while people had their heads bowed and eyes closed. The most recent that we have seen is the attack that happened at the church in South Carolina. There were a lot of things that could have been done to prevent that from happening, but the one of the most impactful statements that came from one of the survivors was that the killer waited until they had bowed their heads in prayer at the end of the session, when he pulled out his gun and started shooting.
Killers or people that are intent on doing harm to God’s people often already know when everyone is most vulnerable. After hearing a friend of mine talk about this at a security conference, that next week they decided to implement their team to have their heads up and eyes open. They observed someone steal a women’s purse during a time of prayer and exit the building where he was stopped. Evil has become an anytime and anyplace act. Even just watching local news today and hearing of a crime and a witness stating that she couldn’t believe that it would happen in her community.
It is really time to wake up people. This is not the same society and church environment that we grew up in. Change is happening and as a church we need to adapt to protect everyone that comes through our church doors. If you have been called to serve your church in some sort of ministry capacity, then you need to understand what your role in the security of the people attending your church is. I love going and doing a risk assessment at churches around the country. Taking pictures and writing things up. One of the best parts is being able to sit down with that church’s leadership and to be able to brief them on what I saw. The other is to either go back for a certification and see the changes that have happened or to hear back from the church that they are making significant changes to what they are doing.
We can’t lose sight of the fact that the church should be there for the hurting and the broken to come and find healing through Christ. We need to train our ministries on how to provide a secure environment while at the same time ministering and welcoming everyone that come on the property. I tell people when I train them that I am a really nice guy until it is time to not be a nice guy. There are many examples that are given in the Bible of early church security and I bet they were nice guys too.
As hard as it is to break habits that for many of us we have done for decades, praying in public with our heads up and our eyes open is a posture of protection. A posture that might just show to someone that you are a deterrent to them if they are prepping or plotting to do evil at your church. If someone is offended that your eyes are open and your head it up and, on a swivel, - listen, smile, acknowledge their concern, then hand them your Bible and ask them to show you where bowing of the head and closing of the eyes is located as something that should be done.
Having greater awareness in the situations where evil could strike is just one small piece to being prepared to do ministry and provide security. That is why we are focusing on providing hands-on training seminars where you can actually practice how to bring the pieces together. Contact us if you are interested in just such a training with the churches in your community and we will help make that happen.