The War Prayer

Mark Twain, the American writer, humorist, and philosopher, was avidly anti-imperialistic. He maintained that people — including groups of people up to and including nations — should mind their own business. He also recognized that people — especially when grouped together in nations — are prone to interfere in the affairs of others. This, of course, often results in war.

Toward the end of his life, Twain wrote a poem entitled “The War Prayer.” It is a scathing indictment of the blind nationalism that frequently leads to war with no regard for its causes or consequences. In particular it is an indictment against those who call for war in the name of God or who call upon God for success in their endeavor to interfere in the affairs of others.

His poem has been made into a short film. Please watch…

By the time Twain wrote “The War Prayer” he was a highly successful and influential writer. Yet even he was reluctant to publish this work for fear of reprisal. He was afraid the story would be considered too “sacrilegious.” Twain still had to earn a living and did not want to be seen as a lunatic or fanatic.

His illustrator, Dan Beard, asked him to publish it anyway to which Twain replied, “No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I’m dead.”

It was left unpublished until after his death in 1910.

Twain was likely not a Christian. Many of his writings indicate this. However, I find it interesting that even a non-Christian can recognize the destructive influence of man’s sinful nature and that our prayers, when guided by our flesh instead of by the Spirit of God, are selfish and self-glorifying.

It is more interesting (sad, even) that those who most frequently engage in such prayers call themselves Christians — the very ones who ought to repudiate such prayers. What does it say about those of us in the Church, when even a non-believer can recognize this error on the basis of empirical evidence alone? Not only do we (believers) have access to the same evidence, but we have the clear instructions of our Lord…

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:9-13

Perhaps we should take our cue from the Lord, rather than from men. Perhaps our mission should be the spread of the Gospel and the demonstration of Christ’s love to the nations — not the expansion of a worldly empire by the conquest of nations.

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

One Response to The War Prayer

  1. doreen says:

    Staggering. One does think of that during war times, but to see it illustrated…

    War, however, is inevitable. It cannot be otherwise. Our prayers should be to end war, not end the life of the enemy.

    May God open our eyes further to that which we pray for.

    God bless.

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