Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Civil War Prayer

My wife, Marie, and I are working on a book for young people about the Civil War, and in doing the research I ran across an 1862 prayer book issued to soldiers in the Union Army of the Potomac. It contains the psalter and a selection of collects and hymns. It also contains "A prayer during our present National Troubles" that I found interesting. Here it is:

O Almightly God, who art a strong tower of defense to those who put their trust in thee, whose power no creature is able to resist, we make our humble cry to thee in this hour of our country's need. Thy property is always to have mercy. Deal not with us according to our sins, neither reward us according to our iniquities; but stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, and be our defense for thy name's sake. Have pity upon our bretheren who are in arms against the constituted authorities of the land, and show them the error of their way. Shed upon the counsels of our Rulers the spirit of wisdon and moderation and firmness, and unite the hearts of our people as the heart of one man in upholding the supremacy of Law, and the cause of justice and peace. Abate the violence of passion; banish pride and prejudice from every heart, and incline us all to trust in thy righteous Providence, and to be ready for every duty. And Oh, that in thy great mercy, thou wouldest hasten the return of unity and concord to our borders, and so order all things that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These things, and whatever else thou shalt see to be necessary and convenient for us, we humbly beg through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Our Sunday Bible class has discussed the proper way to pray for our enemies. It seems to me that a prayer for moderation and wisdom for our leaders, and for a return to peace is always good. The prayer doesn't ask for punishment for the other side--in this case the South. But that they see the error of their ways. The prayer asks us to "abate the violence of passion," a phrase I like.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith


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