The short story “The War Prayer” was written by Mark Twain but not published until after his death in 1923 as it could be considered sacrilegious and could have been detrimental to his writing career. The narrator’s unspoken thoughts reveal his view on war, and possibly Christianity itself. Any Christian wanting to grow in their faith should read this short story as it exposes intolerance that may exist in their views, hypocrisy that may be present in their church, and also ignorance that they may unknowingly practice.
The first reason as to why Christians should read “The War Prayer,” is the topic of intolerance. Some Christians are very intolerant of other beliefs, and look down upon anyone that disagrees with them. The story begins with a country in the midst of a celebration for the soldiers leaving off to war the next day. The second paragraph states that only a few half dozen people disapproved of the war and cast doubt upon its righteousness. These people are refereed to as “rash” and it is stated that they stayed silent for fear of personal safety.
These details from the story emphasize that the citizens of the country were intolerant of beliefs different to their own. It can be assumed that the population does not enjoy being disagreed with, even possibly resorting to violence if someone were to be brave enough to state the contrary. We as Christians cannot be intolerant of other beliefs. There are many interpretations of the Bible, and the majority of people are not always correct in their own interpretation. If we want to grow in our faith, we must be tolerant of other views, listen to them, and possibly change our own views as well.
Along with intolerance, the population of the country practice hypocrisy in their own church. The messenger of God shows the hypocrisy that exists within this country when he is speaking the unspoken prayer. He begins by describing the gory battlefield and the other soldiers in pain. This description is the only possible outcome if they pray for their own protection. They do not want their own soldiers to be injured, but it is fine to them if the soldiers on the other side die. The messenger says at the end of his prayer, “We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love…”
The narrator uses this to expose that the Church is in a fact a place that is meant to speak love, but the prayer that they ask of God is filled with death. To pray for death is to pray for hatred, therefore instead of preaching love, this church preaches hate. As Christians, we believe in love, and speaking life with our prayers to God. We must be careful that our spiritual wants line up with what God wants. If our church is hypocritical we must expose it and try to align its views with God’s.
The final reason that Christians should read “The War Prayer” is the issue of ignorance. After the man finishes speaking the “unspoken” prayer, it seems as though the people do not even consider it and immediately consider him to be a lunatic. The people say that there is no sense in what the messenger of God was saying. If they were not ignorant, they would have been able to see the faults in what they believed. They would have seen how there views were the opposite of God’s.
From a Christian standpoint we must consider everyone’s own individual view. Calling people lunatics, when they very well may be speaking the truth that God wants us to hear, will never allow us to grow in our faith and grow closer to God. The people of that church were ignorant to the truth that God does not want war and wants us all to speak love in our prayers. They believed they were doing the work of God; but because of their ignorant beliefs, they were doing the opposite.
The citizens of this country, though claiming to be Christians, will find it difficult to grow in their faith and be more like God. In order to do so would require tolerance of other beliefs, practicing what they preach, and considering what others have to say. The people looked down upon others against the war. They claimed to speak love, but prayed for death. Finally they didn’t even consider the truth when it was clearly spoken to them. This short story can be very convicting to Christians, and cause us to evaluate our faith.