Prayer is an important part of the ritual in the Craft. The opening and closing of the degrees and ceremonies invoke prayer and guidance from God, the “Great Architect of the Universe. Beginning with an examination of the earliest Manuscripts of “Old Charges”, the Regis Poem Manuscript of 1390 A.D., shows that all lodge activities were begun with prayer to God
Prayer is considered by Masons as being an important and integral part of the Order. The Universality of Prayer in Freemasonry can best be expressed in its acceptance of a principle as that “in which all good men agree.”
The initiate is required to profess a belief in a Supreme Being who is the Creator, Maker and Sovereign over us all. Masons are taught from the very beginning not to start any enterprise without first invoking the guidance of the Deity. On entering the Lodge the initiate is asked “In whom do you put your Trust?” The reply forms the foundation of belief in the one True God.
The affirmation of that belief inspires within the Mason the spontaneous praise, thanksgiving and honour for the maker and giver of life. The need for prayer is further affirmed for the E.A. when he is presented with the Working Tools of the degree.
He is taught the moral interpretation of the 24-inch gauge and that he should apportion a part of each day Prayer, Labour, Refreshment and Sleep. Thus he is encouraged to bring balance to his life and honour to his God by opening the day with prayer.
It is significant to observe the order in which the explanation of the 24-inch gauge is given; prayer is stressed as the first requirement.
What is Prayer? It has been described as a petition or solemn or humble request to God for His blessing or thanksgiving. It is a communication between man and God and is a means by which man can co-ordinate his mind with the will of God.
Prayer is universal because it speaks to some basic human need. As Thomas Merton put it, “Prayer is an expression of who we are… We are living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfilment.” Merton’s thoughts on prayer fit into the Masonic Philosophy of making good men better.
Prayer in Lodge raises the sights above the petty circumstances of life and affords a glimpse of that lofty perspective. Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God. It brings together the mind of man and the divine Spirit giving confidence to the suppliant that his petition for Divine Guidance will be granted.
It creates reason and logical thinking within the petitioner. The Ancient Hebrews exercised a “dialogue” with Jehovah whose “ineffable name” could be pronounced only by letters or syllables. It is the Mason’s duty to continue that “dialogue” as a response to the moral imperative set forth by the 24-inch gauge.
The main purpose of prayer in the Lodge is not to make life easier, nor gain magic powers, but to get to know God “in whom we put our trust”.
The early Masonic Fathers were sincere men of faith and dedicated the Fraternity to the moral and spiritual improvement of mankind. The ceremonies that they developed contained moral lessons that were intended to enhance the spiritual improvement of candidates and the brethren.
The ceremonies contained in the modern rituals of our Grand Lodge are intended to foster that spiritual improvement. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. We are joined together in pursuit of universal brotherhood- recognising the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
All Masons acknowledge the Supreme Being that imposes order on the Universe. The use of Scripture illustrates the fact that God-fearing men practice our gentle craft. Our ritual clearly demonstrates the extent to which Freemasonry places its dependence on God and the effectiveness of prayer.
Freemasons, as builders of character, work on the inner man to polish and refine the raw material. The lodge is a quiet place conducive to reflection and introspection. The lectures, charges and prayers of the several degrees are intended to assist a man to contemplate the deeper meaning of life and to ponder his place and purpose in it. To think seriously about the eternal, “Why am I here”? “Where did I come from”? “What am I doing here”? And “where do I go from here”? When a man puts the timeless precepts and time honoured principles of Freemasonry into practice the world will indeed be a better place. His prayers will have been answered.
Freemasonry’s attitude toward things spiritual is an important part of our belief in the Supreme Being and in the future life. Masons believe that at the time of death the soul returns to God who gave it.
Freemasons are bound by the “eternal truths” contained in the Volume of the Sacred Law and those sacred truths are given to us to govern the rules of life and conduct. References, therefore, in the rituals of the Masonic Degrees to the omnipotence of God impresses upon the candidates and the brethren the power of prayer in Masonic Work.
God is not the Great ‘I Was’, but the Great ‘I am’. In Him we live move and have our being. He speaks to us in nature, in the moral law, and in our own hearts, if we have ears to hear. He speaks most clearly in the V.O.S.L. which lies open on our Altar.
Every prayer in the ritual has a purpose and has an appeal to the Deity for direction and guidance. It is necessary not just to learn the prayers by rote but to reflect on them and think about their meaning for the life a Mason. The place of prayer in Masonry is not perfunctory. It is not a mere matter of form and note. It is vital and profound.
It is truly a great prayer when we join in and place ourselves in the very hands of God, as all must do in the end, trusting His Will and way, where there is no path into the soft and fascinating darkness which men call death. The response of the Lodge to that prayer, as to all others offered at its Altar, is the old challenging phrase “So Mote It Be.”
(presented by R. W. Bro. Leonard Bedford – D.D.G.M. of Prince Edward District on the occasion of his official visit to Moira Lodge # 11)