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Prayer for Brotherhood, by Stephen Vincent Benét on United Nations Flag Day (14 June 1942)

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God of the Free,
we pledge our hearts and lives today
to the cause of all mankind.

Grant us victory
over the tyrants who would enslave
all free men and nations.
Grant us faith and understanding
to cherish all those who fight for freedom,
as if they were our brothers.
Grant us brotherhood in hope and union
for all the days to come
which shall and must unite
all the children of earth.

Our earth is but a small star in the great universe.
Yet of it we can make, if we choose,
a planet unvexed by war,
untroubled by hunger or fear,
undivided by senseless distinctions
of race, color, or theory.
Grant us that courage and foreseeing
to begin this task today,
that our children and our children’s children
may be proud of the name of man.

The spirit of man has awakened
and the soul of man has gone forth.
Grant us the wisdom and the vision
to comprehend the greatness of man’s spirit,
that suffers and endures so hugely
for a goal beyond his own brief span.
Grant us honor for the dead who died in the faith,
honor for our living who work and strive for the faith,
redemption and security for all captive lands and people.
Grant us patience with the deluded and pity for the betrayed.
And grant us the skill and the valor
that shall cleanse the world of oppression,
of the old base doctrine that the strong must eat the weak
because they are strong.

Yet most of all grant us brotherhood,
not only for this day but for all our years—
a brotherhood not of words but of acts and deeds.
We are all of us children of earth—
grant us that simple knowledge.
If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed.
If they hunger, we hunger.
If their freedom is taken away, our freedom is not secure.
Grant us a common faith that man shall know bread and peace,
that he shall know justice and righteousness,
freedom and security,
an equal chance to do his best,
not only in our own land, but throughout the world.
And in that faith let us march toward the clean world our hands can make.
Amen.

This prayer was selected as the closing prayer for Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday by Mordecai Kaplan, Eugene Kohn, and J. Paul Williams in their anthology of prayers and readings for civic holidays, The Faith of America: Readings, Songs, and Prayers for the Celebration of American Holidays (Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation 1951), p. 47-48. The prayer by Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943) was first publicly read in 1942 in the course of a United Nations Day speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1] The first “United Nations Day” was a World War II Allies’ day of solidarity and military parades launched by Roosevelt on US Flag Day, June 14, 1942, six months after the Declaration by United Nations. The day was observed in New York City as the “New York at War” parade, in London, and by the Soviet and Chinese governments.  Some details of the speech and the prayer from We Stand United and Other Radio Scripts by Stephen Vincent Benét (1945) follows:

On United Nations Flag Day, June 14, 1942, there was broadcast over the NBC Network Toward the Century of the Common Man, a script especially written for the occasion by George Faulkner. Stephen Vincent Benét was asked to write the closing speech for this script, which is here reprinted.

Following immediately after the close of this declaration, there was broadcast on the same program the transcribed Flag Day speech of President Roosevelt, who during the course of his address read the Prayer that was written by Stephen Vincent Benét at the request of the Librarian of Congress, Archibald McLeish.

Included in the all-star cast were Charles Boyer, Joseph Calleia, Ronald Coleman, Melville Cooper, Donald Dickson, Peter Lorre, Thomas Mitchell, Alla Nazimova and Maria Ouspenskaya. The music was composed by Robert Armstrong and Kurt Weil, with the orchestra conducted by Mr. Weil. The co-producers for NBC were Calvin Kuhl and David Elton.

The prayer, untitled in Roosevelt’s speech, was re-published in 1945 under the title “Prayer of Brotherhood” in The Link, a periodical disseminated to military chaplains of the US Armed Forces by the National Council of Service Men’s Christian League.

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Notes

Notes
1 The first “United Nations Day” was a World War II Allies’ day of solidarity and military parades launched by Roosevelt on US Flag Day, June 14, 1942, six months after the Declaration by United Nations. The day was observed in New York City as the “New York at War” parade, in London, and by the Soviet and Chinese governments.

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