Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
It is of the highest import that in the ceremony of initiation the candidate kneel at the altar of prayer, for this is nothing other than a symbol of the fact that all right life, inside and outside of the Lodge, is established in our relationship with God. It is of further significance that in the early degree he has another to pray for him while at a later time he must pray for himself because this is a recognition of prayer as an art to be learned gradually, as all other arts are learned.
Brother J. T. Thorp, the veteran English student, has suggested that the Apprentice prayer has come to us from the old custom of beginning each Old Charge with an Invocation; this is a reasonable, historical inference, but perhaps it does not go deep enough. The prayer is in the Masonic ceremony because it must be in the Masonic life, and the important point here is not how we came to pray, but why we do pray; and the reason we do pray is that we cannot help it. Man is a praying creature because of the way he is made, and not all the arguments of the naturalist or all the sophistries of the sceptic can cure him of the habit.
Prayer is more "than the aspiration of the soul toward the absolute and Infinite Intelligence"; it is more than meditation; it is more than the soul's dialogue with its own higher self; it is more than soliloquy: prayer is a force which accomplishes real work in its own appropriate
realm. When a forester wishes to fell a tree he uses an axe; when a farmer desires a crop he ploughs the soil and sows the grain; the merchant who seeks money applies himself to his trade: by token of the same universal law of cause and effect the soul that would get spiritual work done must apply the instrument of prayer.
If it be said that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and does not need our praying we reply that there are some things which God will not do, whether He can or not, without the assistance of man. Working by himself God produces the wild dog-rose; working with man He produces an "American Beauty"; working by himself He produces the wild wheat, unfruitful and inedible; working with man He carpets the prairies with heavy-seeded grain, enough to feed a nation; working by himself He brought forth the first man, half animal, half human, slinking in his mildewed cave and killing his prey with his hands, like the wild bear; working in co-operation with man they two have brought forth this human world of netted highways and thrumming cities—literature, art, beauty, the temple, and the home, the Iliad, The Tempest, the Bible, Homer, Shakespeare, and Christ. Man co-operates with God in transforming nature by the use of his hands; he co-operates with God in transforming the spirit by the use of prayer. Besides, God has not shut himself out of the soul that He has made, and prayer itself may well be His own activity, His Divine handclasp with the human heart.
This is not an argument to justify the use of prayer—there is no need of that; it is its own justification. After all is said pro and con, the fact remains that the great souls have been praying men. It is not for us to
twist this fact about to suit our theories; it is for us to adjust our theories to the fact. Prayer widens our horizons, purifies our motives, disciplines the will, releases us from the gravitations of the material, sets a new light in the face, and links us to heaven in an ineffable fellowship. It is a stairway let down by God into the inmost chambers of our hearts up and down which the better angels of our nature pass and repass in their healing ministries.
"Upon this earth there is nothing more eloquent than the silence of a company of men and women bowed in the hush and awe of a House of Prayer. Through all the groping generations the soul of man has never ceased to seek a city unseen and eternal. No thoughtful man but at some time has mused over this great adoring habit of our humanity, and the marvel of it deepens the longer he ponders it. That instinct for eternity which draws together the stones of a stately cathedral, where the shadow of the Infinite is bidden to linger, tells us more of what man is than all else besides. So far as we know, man is the only being on our planet that pauses to pray, and the wonder of his worship is at once a revelation and a prophecy.
"That type of Perfect in his mind
In Nature he can nowhere find,
He sows himself on every wind.
"He seems to hear a Heavenly Friend,
And through thick walls to apprehend
A labour working toward an end."