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Prayer at Raising

By Ed Halpaus, FPS

Junior Grand Steward
Past Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota
Executive Secretary of the Philalethes Society

 

 

“Job feels the rod; yet blesses God.”  The New England Primer, 1688

 

Have you ever wondered about some of the ceremony of the third degree; what is there to the Prayer at Raising, for instance, and what about the dialog after it? We’re told the Prayer at Raising comes from the Book of Job Chapter 14, but have you ever looked in the Great Light to read it there? It’s not the same, where do the other words come from?

 

PRAYER AT RAISING (Job xiv)

“Thou, O God! knowest our down-sitting and our uprising, and understandest our thought afar off. Shield and defend us from the evil intentions of our enemies, and support us under the trials and afflictions we are destined to endure, while traveling through this vale of tears. Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee; Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish his day. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: so man lieth down, and riseth not up till the heavens shall be no more. Yet, O Lord! Have compassion on the children of Thy creation, administer them comfort in time of trouble, and save them with an everlasting salvation.–Amen. Response: So mote it be.”[i]

 

The Prayer at Raising is a great prayer and I love to give it when it is appropriate in Lodge. Job 14 is a speech; it is Job’s response to his friends when he and they are lamenting all that has befallen him, yet he still believes in the goodness of God.

 

Parts of what we call the prayer at raising come from other parts of the Great Light, and had the Masons who selected our ritual added just a bit more to this prayer it, in my opinion, might be much more hopeful and stress the immortality of the soul a bit more in the third degree. HOPE can be an acronym for “Holding On - Praying Expectantly,”[ii] and that acronym to me is descriptive of Job.

 

I certainly am not a Biblical Scholar and I most likely will never know as much about the Bible as many of you do, but I do own a few good concordances and other books, and I like to look things up, so I have a bit of information about this prayer and part of the ritual that you might find interesting. The composition of the book of Job has been dated to between the seventh and second centuries BCE, (the reign of Solomon to the time of Israel’s exile in Babylonia,) that’s as close as Biblical Scholars can date it.[iii] It is also noted that perhaps the story of the inexplicable suffering of Job was intended to symbolize the suffering of the Jews in Babylonian exile.[iv]

 

I will [again] reproduce the prayer below. Since the Book of Job was written between the second and seventh centuries BCE – when we read, recite, or hear the Prayer at Raising we are hearing or speaking words that have been translated from some very old thoughts that were written and spoken by an ancient Israelite. As I mentioned, not each and every word of the prayer comes from Chapter 14 of Job, so I will insert scripture references in the prayer as to where the thought came from if not the actual words. I will also insert some explanation of the verses that I have found in my research.

 

“Thou, O God! knowest our down-sitting and our uprising, and understandest our thought afar off. (Psalm 139:2) - God knows us perfectly, far beyond our knowledge of ourselves; all our actions, undertakings, and the manner in which we pursue them, even our thoughts before we crystallize them and our words before they are spoken.[v]

 

Shield and defend us from the evil intentions of our enemies, (Psalm 59:1) – Protect me. Raise me to a high secure place.[vi]

 

and support us under the trials and afflictions we are destined to endure, while traveling through this vale of tears. (Psalm 34:19) – Assurance that the Supreme Architect of the Universe is the unfailing deliverer of the righteous.[vii]

 

Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. (Job 14:1-2) – Man is born to trouble. This is proof that no one is righteous in the eyes of God. Life at best is brief and fragile, but when man humbles himself, as Job did, God will bless him and injustices will lessen and cease.[viii]

 

Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee; Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish his day. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. (Job 14 5,6,7) - Job complains that given the insignificance of humans and their inherent impurity, why does God take them so seriously?[ix] 

 

But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: so man lieth down, and riseth not up till the heavens shall be no more. (Job 14: 10,11,12) – “People are like a flower that lives its short life and is gone, not like a tree that revives even after it has been cut down.”[x]

 

Yet, O Lord! have compassion on the children of Thy creation, administer them comfort in time of trouble, (Psalm 23:4) – God Comforts, Reassures, and Protects. He watches over us as a good shepherd watches over and cares for his flock of sheep.[xi]

 

and save them with an everlasting salvation. (Psalm 24.5) – Salvation means also Vindication, and those receiving everlasting salvation receive righteous treatment from a faithful God. He blesses the faithful.[xii] 

 

When I hear or speak the words of the Prayer at Raising I think of other verses from the book of Job; (Job 19: 25,26,27) “I know that my redeemer livith, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And, though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.”

To me it puts a more positive ending to the prayer. The redeemer, to Job, is God Himself. Job is expressing confidence that God will ultimately vindicate his faithful servants in the face of all false accusations. While Job knows that the ravages of disease will eventually bring about his death, he is absolutely certain that death is not the end of existence, and that someday he will stand in the presence of his redeemer.[xiii]

 

At the end of the Prayer at Raising we realize the strength and wisdom of man has failed. Meaning the words of his human friends give no relief. “Then from the inexhaustible supply above of strength and wisdom, and on which he now draws he finds the answer which has comforted hosts of human souls since his day to the present time. He will be raised and with his redeemer he shall stand on earth in the presence of his God. That is the lesson of that part of the degree; the immortality of the soul and life after death.”[xiv]

 

Whether we, as individuals, interpret this as a literal resurrection of the earthly body or as a symbol of ourselves as living stones set into that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, (2Cor. 5:1[xv].) “It is a sublime expression of that faith which those who call upon God in prayer may acquire, and which has enabled many a soul to endure every trial and surmount every difficulty.”[xvi]

 

“Truth hurts: Not the searching after; the running from.” John Eyberg

 

 

 

 

 

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