"One of the odd things that has happened to prayer in much of Western Christianity — in some churches with the Reformation, in others more recently — has been the drastic erosion of the physical dimension of spiritual life. Prayer has become mainly an activity of the head. Many of us have become like birds trying to fly with one wing. Icons can help us grow back the missing wing, the physical aspect of prayer.

"Do you pray with your eyes closed? Because icons are physical objects, they serve as invitations to keep our eyes open when we pray. While prayer may often be, in Thomas Merton's words, 'like a face-to-face meeting in the dark,' cutting a major link with the physical world by closing your eyes is not a precondition of prayer. Icons help solve a very simple problem: If I am to pray with open eyes, what should I be looking at? It doesn't have to be icons, but icons are a good and helpful choice. They serve as bridges to Christ, as links with the saints, as reminders of pivotal events in the history of salvation."

To Practice: Pray with your eyes open.