Posted by on December 9, 2012

Given in the Temple by  Eleanor L. Shumway, Guardian in Chief,  Sunday December 9, 2012

Mark Twain is arguably one of the  greatest  American  writers.
His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is deemed the great American novel. His wit and insight are legendary.  Twain’s last work was his autobiography, which he dictated and thought would be most entertaining if he went off on whims and tangents in non-chronological order. Some archivists and compilers have rearranged the biography into more conventional forms, thereby eliminating some of Twain’s humor and the flow of the book. The first volume of autobiography, over 736 pages, was published by the University of California in November 2010, 100 years after his death as Twain wished. It soon became an unexpected best seller, making Twain one of very few authors publishing new best-selling volumes in all three of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Most of us do not know that during the Philippine-American War, Twain wrote a short pacifist story entitled The War Prayer, which makes the point that humanism and Christianity’s preaching of love are incompatible with the conduct of war. Remember, he had seen the ravages of the Civil War, as well as the Spanish(Philippine)American War.  It was submitted to Harper’s Bazaar for publication, but on March 22, 1905 the magazine rejected the story as “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine.” Eight days later, Twain wrote to his friend Daniel Carter Beard, to whom he had read the story, “I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.” Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923.

I would like to share this with you now, along with some insight into prayer as laid out in the Teachings of the Temple.

First 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 briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings 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 a 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 — 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 seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, 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 chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, 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 to 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 with 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 — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God 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 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 the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the 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.

Now, prayer from the Temple point of view. This is from the Lesson entitled Prayer, Volume 1  of Teachings of the Temple.  (Interestingly, written about the same time)


“Over and over again, in some slightly changed form, some of you put the same questions to me; over and over again I make the same replies. Unconsciously to yourselves you often ask that the governing laws  of  the  Universe  be  changed  in  order  that  some  personal idiosyncrasy  or  desire  be  gratified.  You  ask  that  the  great  law  of Karma – cause and effect – be modified or changed in order that you may obtain some favor or win some power which you have not earned; that place, position, or opportunity be given you for which you are as  yet  unfitted,  unaware  that  unfulfilled  duties  pertaining  to  such places  or  opportunities  would  result  in  unspeakable  anguish  to  you.

“You  are  told  that  hatred,  unbrotherly  conduct,  harsh  criticism  of others whether  deserved  or  not,  generates  within  your  own  auras  a corroding, devitalizing form of force, which not only results in illness of the physical body, but which acts on the astral body and the organs of consciousness, on the mind plane, similarly to some of the noxious metallic  poisons  on  the  physical  body;  and  yet  some  among  your number  are  passing  cruel  to  each  other  and  to  others  who  are dependent on you, and who justly or unjustly excite your anger. You often think you are justified in assuming a judicial air, or in violently condemning wrong doers; but it is not your possible justification that we are called upon to consider now; it is the action of universal laws, as applied to a would-be occultist. If you are satisfied to evolve with the masses,  well  and  good;  if  you  would  pass  beyond  the masses, you must be subject to higher laws than those which govern material substance. You must try to realize that I, too, am limited.

“I  can  tell  you  of  things  to  come,  as  I  am  able  to  judge  by  the visible signs, as well as by my knowledge of interior laws; I can tell you how certain catastrophes might be averted if the humanity of this age would listen and obey; but bear in mind, I cannot change the laws that  govern manifesting  matter;  I  cannot  make  two  and  two  five,  I cannot take two pecans from five and leave four, although I might be able to make you believe that I had accomplished that feat by means of hypnosis or some other ultra-physical power.

“One  of  the  greatest  difficulties  you  experience  lies  in  your inability to accept as literally true the statements given out by myself and  others  in  positions  similar  to  my  own,  regarding  the  action  of universal laws.

“The  unyielding,  unpliable  man  is  invariably  the  man  that  is broken on the wheel of the world; the pliable man bends beneath the storm,  and  the  storm  either  passes  over  his  head  and  leaves  him untouched, or touches him so lightly by comparison, that his rebound to  a  normal  position  is  accomplished  with  very  little  difficulty  when the danger is over.

“The strained, tense condition of the nerves from which countless thousands of people are now suffering, is responsible for much of the evil that falls upon them. The same law that renders a relaxation of the body  necessary,  is  behind  an  equal  necessity  for  soul  relaxation  the law commonly known as gravitation, and true prayer should result in this relaxation of soul. The energy which should be evenly distributed throughout  all  the  nerves  and  muscles,  is  used  up  thoughtlessly  or ignorantly,  in  sustaining  this  tension,  while  for  the  time  being  it enables the ambitious man or woman to accomplish herculean tasks in business  or  pleasure;  consequently,  the  body  is  robbed  of  necessary force, and the mind cannot function evenly and naturally; antagonism is engendered, and finally, incipient disease or decay manifests. You must learn to relax this tension by power of will, and I have already told you how you must evolve such will power if you are to obtain it.

“If  the  positive  energy  of  intense  selfish  desire  is  sent  forth  in prayer,  and  the  energy  is  not  powerful  enough  to  force accomplishment of the desire that energy is dissipated, and the body in which  it  was  generated  and  by  which  it  was  sent  forth,  is  broken  or beaten down by the reflex action.

“If  from  the  higher  point  of  renunciation,  the  soul  while  in  a perfect  state  of  relaxation  sends  forth  a  prayer  to  the  Infinite,  not for some personal favor, but of faith, of love for that Infinite—– the same law which compels one pole of electricity to respond to the other  will  compel  a  response  from  those  Infinite  domains,  and  the response will be in accordance with the real needs of the aspiring soul. You will frequently find that the surest way of winning a thing is to give up even the desire for that thing.

“Thought is one form of energy, words are other forms of the same energy; combined, they create a third form, and true prayer is of this other form. Created and sent out from the human heart, it can go as far as its inherent power can take it. If the prayer or aspiration is selfish, it meets on an interior plane other forms of the same energy, the desires of  which  are  in  opposition  to  it,  and  one  neutralizes  or  destroys  the other, and the consequence is, that neither desire reaches  those who have the power to answer.

“The  wisdom  of  the  ages  is  compressed  in  the  words  spoken by, Jesus, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ It is only prayers preceded by that sentence and winged by an unselfish love, that asks only to love, not for love, that Omnipotence can answer. The highest power is only won by renunciation. Renounce with thy whole heart —  love with thy whole heart –work with thy whole heart, and all things in heaven and earth are thine.”

I had planned to quotes bits and pieces from this lesson, to draw parallels between the two writings.  However, as I thought it through, I decided to simply let them stand, side by side, and trust in your insight and intuition to make those connections.  Connections not only between the two writings, but the connections necessary between our inner and outer selves and the process of prayer.

The thought that kept intruding into my consciousness was, “Be careful what you pray for, you may get it!”

Eleanor L. Shumway
December 9, 2012

Posted in: Temple Talks