Written by Mark Twain during the Philippine-American War in the first decade of the twentieth century, The War Prayer tells of a patriotic church service held to send the town’s young men off to war. During the service, a stranger enters and addresses the gathering. He tells the patriotic crowd that their prayers for victory are double-edged: by praying for victory they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy, for the destruction of human life.
Originally rejected for publication in 1905 as “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine,” this antiwar parable remained unpublished until 1923, when Twain’s literary executor collected it in the volume Europe and Elsewhere. Handsomely illustrated by the artist and war correspondent Philip Groth, The War Prayer remains a relevant classic by an American icon.