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O God, bless our Country!
We lament before Thee
the cruel necessity of war.
But what could we do?
Our dead by hundreds lie beneath the sea; A reference to the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by Germany on 7 May 1915 causing the loss of 1,198 civilian lives, including 128 US Americans.
the liberties that our sires baptized with their blood
and handed down to us in trust,
so that they are not ours alone
but all humanity’s, are torn in shreds;
and a foe is loose against us
whom we have not chosen,
whom we have not aggrieved,
and who in his will to conquer
counts solemn oaths to be but scraps of paper
and the chivalry of the seas an empty name.
We have grown weary,
to the sickness of our souls,
sitting comfortably here,
while others pour their blood like water forth
for those things
can make this earth a decent place for man to live upon.
What could we do?
With all the evils of our nation’s life,
that we acknowledge and confess with shame,
we yet plead before Thee
that we have not wanted war,
that we hate no man,
that we covet no nation’s possessions,
that we have nothing for ourselves to gain from war,
unless it be a clear conscience
and a better earth for all the nations to live and grow in.
We plead before Thee
that if patience and good will could have won the day,
we gladly should have chosen them,
and patience long since would have had her perfect work.
And now we lay our hand upon our sword.
Since we must draw it, O God,
help us to play the man
and to do our part in teaching ruthlessness once for all
what it means to wake the sleeping lion
of humanity’s conscience.
“Prayer for Our Country” by Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick was selected by Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron for inclusion in his World War Ⅰ era prayerbook, Side Arms: Readings, Prayers and Meditations for Soldiers and Sailors (1918), on pages 27-28. The prayer is printed unchanged from its original publication in The Challenge of the Present Crisis (H.E. Fosdick 1917), pp. 46-47.
“Prayer for Our Country, a lament on the necessity of war by Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick (1917)” is shared by the living contributor(s) with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer for the United States on a Civic Fast Day to avert Civil War, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (26 September 1861)
Prayer for the Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after the Battle of Gettysburg by Rabbi Sabato Morais (4 July 1863)
Prayer for the United States on a Civic Fast Day during the Civil War, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (30 April 1863)
Prayer for the United States on Thanksgiving Day on the First Day of Ḥanukkah during the Civil War, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (28 November 1861)