Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

The War Prayer

Twain, Mark

Mark Twain

(At this place in the Anthology occurred another passage from the pen of the late Samuel L. Clemens, for the reproduction of which permission was refused. See page 265. The passage is part of the “War Prayer,” which was withheld from the world until after its author’s death.
The passage pictures the assembling of soldiers in church, and the prayer of the chaplain for victory. In answer to the prayer, God sends down a white-robed messenger who voices the unspoken meaning of the prayer: that the bodies of men should be blown to atoms; that women should be widowed, and children orphaned, ripening harvests desolated, and beautiful cities laid in ashes. “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 of one Who is the Spirit 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. Grant our prayer, O Lord, and Thine be the praise and honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.” The messenger then bids the chaplain speak, and say if he still wants what he prayed for. The passage closes with the remark that it was generally agreed that the messenger was a lunatic. And Mr. Clemens’ biographer adds the charmingly naïve comment that the reason the War Prayer was withheld was that its author “did not care to invite the public verdict that he was a lunatic, or even a fanatic with a mission to destroy the illusions and traditions and conclusions of mankind”)