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By Mark Twain


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
the briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears
running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the
pasters preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the
God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in
outpouring 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
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 - the 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 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 prayer was said; it was followed
by an organ burst that 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 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 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 - which must follow
it, cannot help but follow it.  Upon the listening spirit of
God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer.  He
commandeth me to put it into words.  Listen!

"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
their 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 blood of their
wounded feet!  We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who
is the Source of Love, and Who is 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.


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