Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”

War Prayer

Here’s a short story from Mark Twain and by short, I mean very short! But poignant and thought-provoking nonetheless.

“The War Prayer” takes place in a church as an unnamed country is about to go to war. All the parishioners are praying for God to look over their sons, protect them, and let them triumph in their endeavor.

An old man walks to the front of the church and tells them what it is they are really praying for when uttering this prayer.

I won’t spoil the ending (you can actually find a free copy of the story by clicking here) but it certainly gave me pause to “hear” the old man’s point.

An interesting tidbit about this story is that Twain actually wrote it before his death in 1910. Under pressure from family and friends not to publish it because they feared it would be considered sacrilegious, when asked by Dan Beard if he would publish it, 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.” The story wasn’t published until 1916 when the U.S. was on the cusp of World War I.

I’m currently reading “Helmet For My Pillow” by Robert Leckie and I can’t say it’s going well but I’m determined to finish it. So here’s what’s up next:

On deck: “How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History” by Erik Durschmied.

In the bullpen: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway (I’ve never read this so I’m very much looking forward to it!)

Happy Reading!!!


About jenvolk5

Bank auditor by day, trivia and knowledge hound all other times.
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4 Responses to Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”

  1. Jay says:

    Great story. I was saddened by the final sentence though, as clearly the audience still didn’t get it since “it was assumed the old man was a lunatic for there was no sense in what he said.”

    I’ve read a lot of Twain, but Dale is more of the Mark Twain expert among my literary acquaintances. Although… through the Vonnegut Library book club I’ve also become acquainted with someone who has written a biography of Twain’s later years. Very cool. I need to read that soon. 🙂

  2. Mom says:

    Your writing not only impresses me, but it also inspires! Thank you, Jennifer.

  3. gpcox says:

    I’ve discovered that Hemingway wrote about what he heard – not what he did (as he often gave the impression). Frankly, he had little imagination, so some of his books are really good, while others fall short.

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