[1904]

It was a time of great and exalting 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 spluttering; 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 deeps 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 a doubt upon its righteousness straightway 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 him 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 with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the 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 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 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 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!

"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."

"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 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 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. 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.

 
 

16 Comments

  1. shankar says:

    the article picks out the cries of the warrior's family members.instead of concenterating on war its better to have peace.

  2. shankar says:

    the article picks out the cries of the warrior's family members.instead of concenterating on war its better to have peace.

  3. Fred says:

    Hi Mike,
    Twains writings are thought provocative. Knowing human nature I see that nothing has changed in mankind. I agree with King Solomon when he said, "There is nothing new under the sun." Have you read, "The Great Prize Fight" by Twain. It reminds me of the exaggerations of the news today.

  4. Fred says:

    Hi Mike,
    Twains writings are thought provocative. Knowing human nature I see that nothing has changed in mankind. I agree with King Solomon when he said, "There is nothing new under the sun." Have you read, "The Great Prize Fight" by Twain. It reminds me of the exaggerations of the news today.

  5. David Larson says:

    The last sentence is the most powerful for me:

    "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."

    How so often, so true!

    Thank you, Michael!

  6. David Larson says:

    The last sentence is the most powerful for me:

    "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."

    How so often, so true!

    Thank you, Michael!

  7. Ali Agins says:

    Outraged by American military intervention in the Philippines, Mark Twain wrote "The War Prayer" and submitted it to Harper's Bazaar. The women's magazine rejected it for being too radical; it wasn't published until after Twain's death, by which time World War I had made the piece even more timely. It appeared in Harper's Monthly, November 1916.

    "The War Prayer," a short story or prose poem by Mark Twain, is a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war.

    – Excerpted from The War Prayer (story) on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

  8. Ali Agins says:

    Outraged by American military intervention in the Philippines, Mark Twain wrote "The War Prayer" and submitted it to Harper's Bazaar. The women's magazine rejected it for being too radical; it wasn't published until after Twain's death, by which time World War I had made the piece even more timely. It appeared in Harper's Monthly, November 1916.

    "The War Prayer," a short story or prose poem by Mark Twain, is a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war.

    – Excerpted from The War Prayer (story) on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

  9. Ali Agins says:

    Mark Twain was also the vice-president of the Anti-imperialist League from 1901-1910.

    The Anti-Imperialist League did not come into being until November 1889. The group was organized as an oppositional response to the seemingly overriding principles of imperialism in international affairs concerning Cuba and the Philippines. Their strongest weapons at the time were the "Declaration of Independence" and Lincoln’s "Gettysburg Address" which obviously condemned the actions of imperialism as contradictory to the ideals for which America’s independence was fought.

    At beginning of the Spanish-American War, Twain was residing in Europe and for the most part was in support of the conflict with Spain and the Philippines. He was disillusioned by the idea that the U.S. was fighting exclusively for the freedom of Cuba. The Treaty of Paris, which gave control of Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the U.S. quickly changed his opinion on the matter. Twain was disgusted by the fact that a war which had been meant to give freedom was really only a pretext for further expansion for the U.S.

    Twain’s return to the United States in 1900 was widely publicized, as were his strong views on imperialism. Soon after he joined the Anti-Imperialist League. After sending his condemnation of imperialism, “A Salutation Speech From the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth” to both the League and the New York Herald, Twain was asked to take the position as vice-president of the League. Although he declined to work on customary tasks he would continue to write and speak in support of anti-imperialism.

    Mark Twain strongly believed that the U.S. could not be an empire and a republic at the same time. He condemned the racism against the Filipinos and argued that the Filipinos were perfectly able to govern themselves. Twain was an admirer of Emilio Aguinaldo who resisted Spanish rule and later continued to lead the struggle against American occupation. Because the Spanish concentration camps in Cuba had given the U.S. extra incentive to support Cuban freedom, Twain especially spoke out against similar U.S. camps in the Philippines.

    In 1901, Twain published “To the Person Sitting in Darkness” which criticized war in the Philippines and the missionary activities in China following the Boxer Rebellion. This was to become the League’s most popular publication.

    “Is it perhaps, possible that there are two kinds of Civilization-one for home consumption and one for the heathen market?”

    The same year, Mark Twain was invited to sign a July 4th address “To the American People” which was published in newspapers nationwide. He was also present at the only meeting of officers held by the New York branch of the League. A petition to the Senate comparing Spanish and American concentration camps was signed by Twain in an effort to put a stop to U.S. hostile negotiations with the Philippines in 1902.

    In 1903, Twain was enlisted to help with the League’s campaign against atrocities committed by the U.S. military in the Philippines. He was asked to focus on the water torture done to a Filipino priest, Father Augustine, by U.S. soldiers because the priest was raising money for the Filipino army.

    Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia, died after they moved to Italy and when Twain returned to the U.S. , the League was divided into the Philippine Independence Committee and the Filipino Progress Association, both of which endorsed less immediate actions. Twain continued to support the original League but was also deeply involved in supporting the Russian Revolution. However, a scandal forced Twain and other supporters to withdraw their advocacy.

    Up until his death in 1910, Twain continued to be in the Anti-imperialist League.

    Source: http://www.spanamwar.com/Twain.htm

  10. Ali Agins says:

    Mark Twain was also the vice-president of the Anti-imperialist League from 1901-1910.

    The Anti-Imperialist League did not come into being until November 1889. The group was organized as an oppositional response to the seemingly overriding principles of imperialism in international affairs concerning Cuba and the Philippines. Their strongest weapons at the time were the "Declaration of Independence" and Lincoln’s "Gettysburg Address" which obviously condemned the actions of imperialism as contradictory to the ideals for which America’s independence was fought.

    At beginning of the Spanish-American War, Twain was residing in Europe and for the most part was in support of the conflict with Spain and the Philippines. He was disillusioned by the idea that the U.S. was fighting exclusively for the freedom of Cuba. The Treaty of Paris, which gave control of Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the U.S. quickly changed his opinion on the matter. Twain was disgusted by the fact that a war which had been meant to give freedom was really only a pretext for further expansion for the U.S.

    Twain’s return to the United States in 1900 was widely publicized, as were his strong views on imperialism. Soon after he joined the Anti-Imperialist League. After sending his condemnation of imperialism, “A Salutation Speech From the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth” to both the League and the New York Herald, Twain was asked to take the position as vice-president of the League. Although he declined to work on customary tasks he would continue to write and speak in support of anti-imperialism.

    Mark Twain strongly believed that the U.S. could not be an empire and a republic at the same time. He condemned the racism against the Filipinos and argued that the Filipinos were perfectly able to govern themselves. Twain was an admirer of Emilio Aguinaldo who resisted Spanish rule and later continued to lead the struggle against American occupation. Because the Spanish concentration camps in Cuba had given the U.S. extra incentive to support Cuban freedom, Twain especially spoke out against similar U.S. camps in the Philippines.

    In 1901, Twain published “To the Person Sitting in Darkness” which criticized war in the Philippines and the missionary activities in China following the Boxer Rebellion. This was to become the League’s most popular publication.

    “Is it perhaps, possible that there are two kinds of Civilization-one for home consumption and one for the heathen market?”

    The same year, Mark Twain was invited to sign a July 4th address “To the American People” which was published in newspapers nationwide. He was also present at the only meeting of officers held by the New York branch of the League. A petition to the Senate comparing Spanish and American concentration camps was signed by Twain in an effort to put a stop to U.S. hostile negotiations with the Philippines in 1902.

    In 1903, Twain was enlisted to help with the League’s campaign against atrocities committed by the U.S. military in the Philippines. He was asked to focus on the water torture done to a Filipino priest, Father Augustine, by U.S. soldiers because the priest was raising money for the Filipino army.

    Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia, died after they moved to Italy and when Twain returned to the U.S. , the League was divided into the Philippine Independence Committee and the Filipino Progress Association, both of which endorsed less immediate actions. Twain continued to support the original League but was also deeply involved in supporting the Russian Revolution. However, a scandal forced Twain and other supporters to withdraw their advocacy.

    Up until his death in 1910, Twain continued to be in the Anti-imperialist League.

    Source: http://www.spanamwar.com/Twain.htm

  11. Ali Agins says:

    Another essay or letter that Twain wrote is: To the Person Sitting in Darkness.

    You can look it up by Google.

    All these writings are relevant today as our country has certainly become once again imperialistic by design of the neo-cons.

  12. Ali Agins says:

    Another essay or letter that Twain wrote is: To the Person Sitting in Darkness.

    You can look it up by Google.

    All these writings are relevant today as our country has certainly become once again imperialistic by design of the neo-cons.

  13. Danijel says:

    I always like to read Mark Twain, he always write the real true around himself and this story The war prayer will be good for anyone to read

  14. Danijel says:

    I always like to read Mark Twain, he always write the real true around himself and this story The war prayer will be good for anyone to read

  15. Todd says:

    Hey Mike, just read this. It is very powerful. Thanks for sharing it. I'm reading Twain's "Innocents Abroad" at the moment.

  16. Todd says:

    Hey Mike, just read this. It is very powerful. Thanks for sharing it. I'm reading Twain's "Innocents Abroad" at the moment.

 
 
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