The War Prayer

"The War Prayer" is a song by Steven Mark Kohn that sets a text adapted from the writing of Mark Twain.

Date: 2013Composer: Steven Mark KohnText: Mark Twain

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The War Prayer (Text adapted from an essay by Mark Twain)

It was a time of great excitement! The country was up in arms and every breast burned with the holy fire of patriotism!
Drums were beating, bands were playing, and all down the street as far as the eye could see, a fluttering of flags flashed in the sun!
Every day the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue, gay and fine in their new uniforms!
The proud mothers and proud fathers, proud sisters and sweethearts,
cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by!
Every night the packed meeting houses echoed with the sound of patriotic oratory,
which stirred them deep in their hearts, and was greeted with waves of applause,
bringing tears to their eager shining eyes! It was a grand and glorious time!

Sunday morning came. The church was filled.
The minister delivered a prayer, such as none had ever heard before.
He beseeched the ever-merciful loving Father of us all to watch over our noble soldiers and aid,
comfort and encourage them in their just and righteous cause.
Bless them and shield them in the day of battle and hour of peril!
Bear them in his mighty hand! Make them invincible! Grant honor and glory to their country and flag!

A reverent pause came over the whole congregation.
In the silence, a strange old man entered, and with slow and noiseless step, moved up the aisle.
Taking his place at the altar, he turned and spoke to the congregation.
“I come as a messenger from the throne of God. HE has heard your prayer and is prepared to grant it.
But HE wants you to know your prayer has two parts. We have heard the first part, as uttered by your servant in this hall.
I shall now tell you what you have silently asked for.”

“Oh, Lord, our Father, Our brave young men go forth to battle. Be with them, Lord.
Be thou with them, as they stray from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides.
Help us, Lord, to drown the thunder of their guns with the shrieks of their wounded.
Help us cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their dead.
Help us lay waste to their homes. Help us wring the hearts of their grieving widows!
Turn out their orphaned children to wander the wastes of their ruined land in rags and hunger and pain!
May they be broken in spirit, imploring Thee for mercy and denied it!
Blight them! Help us destroy them! We ask Thee, in the name of love!
Ye have prayed it. HE has heard you. If ye still desire it, speak. HE is waiting…“

Sheet Music

The War Prayer

Composer(s): Steven Mark Kohn

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