Prayer in Masonry

Masonic Articles and Essays

Prayer in Masonry

Bro... Joseph Fort Newton

Date Published: 2/8/1915                        

It has been maintained that Freemasonry is not a religion yet prayer forms a central component of Masonic ritual and tradition. Is this a contradiction or is Freemasonry truly a religious practice?

No Mason, we are told, ought ever to enter upon any great and important undertaking without first invoking the aid of Deity. Even so, but how few pause to consider how large a place prayer has in Masonry, and what this means for the culture of the soul. A Lodge is a temple; at its center is an altar of light; its rites are an allegory of human life. It is thus that Masonry is mystical, as music is mystical - like poetry, like love, like all else that makes it worth our time to live and look up at the stars. For mysticism is only a big word for the deep truth that the kingdom of heaven is within us. As well ask why birds sing and flowers grow as to ask why man prays. He cannot help it:

Dream unto dream may pass:

Deep in the heart alone

Murmurs the Almighty One

His solemn undertone.

The first sermon of Emerson was about prayer, and it had three points. First, all men are always praying; second, all prayers are answered without fail; third, beware, then, what you pray for, lest it mean your undoing. These statements, if they seem startling at first sight, are none the less true, and they go down to the root of the matter. All men are always praying whether they know it or not. When a farmer sows his seed, by that act he makes prayer to the God of the harvest. If a man of science seeks truth, it is because he believes that truth exists and that it can be found. Unconscious oft, unsatisfied ever, his search is a prayer to the God of truth. The religion of a man is not what he professes, but what he lives out and acts upon from day to day. His life is his religion, and what he most desires is his unceasing prayer.

All prayers are answered without fail, since by a law of the mind we become what we pray for, seek after, and most desire. When we have a thing in mind it is not long before we have it in our hearts, if not in our hands. On the kind of asking a man does depends the quality of his manhood and the worth of his iife. If his unconscious prayer be solely for material things he will become a materialist, and learn, perhaps too late, that nothing fails like success. His prayer is not only answered, but the deed of transfer is recorded in his face, as the deed is also recorded on the face of him whose prayers have won for him a citizenship in the Kingdom of Light. As Elizabeth Browning said:

In a mother undefiled

Prayer goeth on in sleep, as true

And pauseless as the pulses go

and its answer is recorded in a face written all over with the hieroglyphs of beauty, and in lines where smiles fall asleep when they are weary.

Hence the wise warning, so little heeded, to be careful what we pray for, especially in youth, for in old age it will come upon us. At last, there seems to fulfill itself for every man that adage of Goethe which, when we first read it, appears a mere paradox: "Of that which a man desires in youth, of that he shall have in age as much as he will." Aye, let a man be careful what he desires unconsciously today, for tomorrow he may get it, and the price he pays for it may mean the defeat and ruin of everything he consciously desired. Moral victory lies in teaching the deepest desires of our nature to serve the highest ends of life. Our characters are the sum of our answered prayers; they reveal today what we have been really asking, desiring, pursuing in the days that have passed; For what a man is speaks louder than what he says, and his reigning desire is an unceasing prayer the answer to which is inevitable.

Having one Father we are united, to the last man of us, forever. No man liveth unto himself, no man prayeth unto himself, not even when he enters the closet of his heart to pray to the Father in secret. Not my Father, but "our Father," must be his prayer, each one praying for all, and all for each one. For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in life and death and the Beyond men are held together by ties of spiritual kinship and destiny. By the same token, no man may ever hope to find God save as he seeks Him in the great communion of humanity. This is the Prayer of Brotherhood, in which no man will wish to ask anything for himself that he does not ask, with equal fervor, for all his fellows. Only when he resolves to share the fate of his fellows, light or no light, heaven or no heaven, do the heavens open and the light of the Eternal shine round about him.

My Brother, let those who will go in quest of the secrets of Masonry to some remote Arcana of the Occult, but if we look into our own hearts we shall find its most precious mysteries, the while with clasped hands we offer our prayer at its Altar of Light, drawn together by our common need and necessity into a sweet, forgiving Charity, if so that we may be worthy of the mercy of God, having learned to be merciful to one another. Even so each may learn the sovereign Secret not only of Masonry, but of human life, and become initiates into that eternal mysticism which is the soul of all symbolism, as it is the strength and solace of all souls that struggle and aspire !

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