Margot (midnight_birth) wrote in margot_quotes,

The War Prayer by Mark Twain.


Title: The War Prayer.
Author: Mark Twain.
Genre: Fiction, poetry or short story, religion, politics, social criticism, war.
Country: U.S.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1923.
Summary: During a church service in an unnamed country that has just gone to war, patriotic citizens attend a church service for soldiers who have been called up. The people call upon their God to grant them victory and protect their troops. Suddenly, an "aged stranger" appears, and announces that he is God's messenger. He explains to them that he is there to speak aloud the second part of their prayer for victory - the part which they have implicitly wished for but have not spoken aloud themselves.

My rating: 10/10.
My rating:

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 shall 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 to 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 neighor
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 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 the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer.
He commandeth me
to put it into words.


"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 the shrieks
of the 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
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 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.

After a pause:

"Ye have prayed it;
if ye still desire it,
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.
Tags: 1920s - poetry, 20th century - poetry, 3rd-person narrative, american - poetry, fiction, literature, mark twain, my favourite books, poetry, politics, religion, short stories, social criticism, war lit

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