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The War Prayer

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  • paulpc1
    The War Prayer Dictated by Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] in 1904 in advance of his death in 1910. During his writing career, he had criticized perhaps every type
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 19, 2003
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      The War Prayer
      Dictated by Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] in 1904 in advance of his
      death in 1910.
      During his writing career, he had criticized perhaps every type of
      person or institution either living or dead. But this piece was just
      a little too hot for his family to tolerate. Since they believed the
      short narrative would be regarded as sacrilege, they urged him not to
      publish it. However, Sam was to have the last word, and even the word
      after that. Having directed it to be published after his death, he
      said, "I have told the truth in that... and only dead men can tell
      the truth in this world."
      - William H. Huff
      The War Prayer
      by Mark Twain
      It was a time of great exulting and excitement. The country was up in
      arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of
      patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy
      pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on
      every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and
      balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily
      the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in
      their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and
      sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as
      they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to
      patriot oratory which stirred the deepest depths of their hearts, and
      which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of
      applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the
      churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and
      invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in
      outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was
      indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that
      ventured to disapprove of the war and cast doubt upon its
      righteousness straight way got such a stern and angry warning that
      for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and
      offended no more in that way.
      Sunday morning came - next day the battalions would leave for the
      front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young
      faces alight with martial dreams - visions of the stern advance, the
      gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the
      flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce
      pursuit, the surrender! - then home from the war, bronzed heroes,
      welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the
      volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the
      neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to
      the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or failing, die the
      noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from
      the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was
      followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one
      impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and
      poured out that tremendous invocation:

      "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and
      lightning thy sword!"

      Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for
      passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of
      its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of
      us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort,
      and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them
      in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty
      hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset;
      help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and
      country imperishable honor and glory - An aged stranger entered and
      moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed
      upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to
      his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy
      cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even
      to ghastliness. With all eyes following and wondering, he made his
      silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and
      stood there, waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his
      presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with
      the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us
      victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

      The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside - which the
      startled minister did - and took his place. During some moments he
      surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an
      uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

      "I come from the Throne - bearing a message from Almighty God!" The
      words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he
      gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your
      shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His
      messenger, shall have explained to you its import - that is to say,
      its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in
      that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of - except he
      pause and think.

      "God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and
      taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two - one uttered, the
      other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all
      supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this - keep it in
      mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest
      without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time.
      If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it,
      by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's
      crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

      "You have heard your servant's prayer - the uttered part of it. I am
      commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it - that
      part which the pastor - and also you in your hearts - fervently
      prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it
      was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us victory, O Lord our God!'
      That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into
      those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have
      prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which
      follow victory - must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the
      listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the
      prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

      "O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth
      to battle - be Thou near them! With them - in spirit - we also go
      forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
      O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with
      our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms
      of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with
      shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste
      their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the
      hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to
      turn them out roofless with their little children to wander
      unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and
      thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of
      winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the
      refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes who adore Thee,
      Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
      pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain
      the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in
      the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the
      ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek
      His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

      [After a pause.] "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak!
      The messenger of the Most High waits."

      It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there
      was no sense in what he said.
    • Vyrle Owens
      20 March 2003 Dear Paul and the ujeni folks Thanks Paul for passing along the Mark Twain piece. I have not seen it before. Is anyone in the group able or
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 20, 2003
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        20 March 2003

        Dear Paul and the ujeni folks

        Thanks Paul for passing along the Mark Twain piece. I have not seen it

        Is anyone in the group able or willing to share feelings, opinions, or
        facts about our current international political situation? I would be
        grateful to hear you.

        Be well,

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