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Prayer [for Military Personnel] in Temptation (National Jewish Welfare Board 1941)


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Prayer in Temptation
O Lord, Thou hast created me;
Thou hast fashioned my body
and its powers.
Thou hast also given me
the gift of Thy spirit
by which I am moved to use these powers
in ways that are good and right
in Thine eyes.
May I remember this at all times
and in the presence of every temptation.
For wayward fancies
and base passions
too often tempt me
to seek a passing pleasure
at the expense of my enduring happiness,
and divert me from my purpose
to perform Thy will.
Give me the strength
to banish thoughts and desires
which I know to be wrong.
May I do nothing
that can bring dishonor
on myself,
on those I love
or on any human being.
May I not degrade the physical,
mental and emotional powers
that Thou hast given me
by dissipating them in intemperate,
self-indulgent and immoral behavior.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me
that I may be worthy of those blessings
which flow from a clear conscience
and a pure love of Thee
and of Thy children,

This “Prayer in Temptation” can be found in the Abridged Prayer Book for the Jews in the Armed Forces of the United States (Jewish Welfare Board 1941), p. 120. The prayer is found under the title, “[Prayer] For Moral Strength” in the Prayer Book for Jewish Personnel in the Armed Forces of the United States (1958), p. 344.

The specific details of concern are left to the readers of this prayer although it may directly relate to the larger military education campaigns against venereal disease. For more information, find Adrienne Mueller’s honors thesis, “Prostitutes, Prophylactics, and Propaganda: The Venereal Disease Campaign and the Fight for Control of Female Sexuality During WWII” (University of Colorado Boulder 2018).

As far as we know, this prayer is unique to this prayerbook, although the text recalls the waking prayer “Elohai Neshama.” The author of the prayer is also not known; three well-known rabbis contributed to the siddur: David de Sola Pool, Eugene Kohn, and Solomon B. Freehof. It would be good to know if similar prayers appeared in the religious resources for chaplains of other religious traditions. If you know more details concerning its authorship or whether it was published elsewhere, please leave a comment or contact us. –Aharon Varady






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