“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into 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 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 the shrieks of their wounded,

writhing in pain;

help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane 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 in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,

sports of the sun flames in 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 pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their 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.”


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Sooner or later, God's going to be on both sides.
-- US Congressman Charlie Wilson

And what do we do then?

Mark Twain's full short story that this comes from is worth reading! The description of the townspeople's patriotic fervor leading up to the church service made me think of Chris Hedges' book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

Just before that elaborated prayer:

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by 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 the words ‘Grant us the 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 fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

And don't miss the final sentence, after the prayer!

In addition to the full-text source Daniel mentioned, http://warprayer.org/ , there are others on the web, such as https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_War_Prayer (with an audio file of the story being read).

As a teenager I was particularly moved to encounter The War Prayer in a beautifully designed, laid-out, and illustrated 96-page HarperCollins edition. It often sets off key phrases by themselves; I particularly remember "Listen!" being alone on a two-page spread.

GC, thanks for the comments and links. 

I was much older when I first read that story and prayer.  It's really moving and feels so current for our own time.  My grandfather was in the Philippine-American war a few years later, probably not moved by Mark Twain / Samuel Clemens' passionate opposition to that imperialist and racist adventure.  That war had parallels to wars that follow, especially Vietnam and Iraq. And probably the next one - who will that be with?  Afghanistan 2.0?  Iraq 3.0?  Adding our part to the Syrian atrocity?  I have no doubt it will happen, just when and where.

Mark Twain's "Comments on the Moro Massacre". 1906.  Excerpt:  "There, with six hundred engaged on each side, we lost fifteen men killed outright, and we had thirty-two wounded-counting that nose and that elbow. The enemy numbered six hundred -- including women and children -- and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States."  

...   "Now then, how has it been received? The splendid news appeared with splendid display-heads in every newspaper in this city of four million and thirteen thousand inhabitants, on Friday morning. But there was not a single reference to it in the editorial columns of any one of those newspapers."

The article becomes more vivid and is also worth a read.  He doesn't pull his punches about the Christianity of it all, either.

I once spoke with my coworker and friend, who was a Filipina and emigrated here as an adult, about that war.  She had never heard of it.  Strange, thinking about that, but I acknowledge the Philippines had a lot of history after that, including all that occurred with WWII.

The biblical book of Joshua is a great account of the Israelites' conquests after Moses's death. Glorious bloody victory! Led by a deity who is your personal savior.

I have always had a great admiration of Twain since my teen years. I have read 4 of his books and some of the things written on him and on some of the quotes given by him.

Letters from the Earth pulls no punches about the inanity of some of humankind's religious creations!

Concur Cat :)

Twain publicly opposed Teddy Roosevelt's drive for empire. For ereader users, collections of all of Twain's writings are available for free or almost free.
Sounds like a perfect prayer for a perfectly horrible god. A god that is more horrific than the devil.



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