Prayers for Peace: Wilson’s 1914 Proclamation and Some Responses
Woodrow Wilson, David H. Greer, Walter Rauschenbusch
Wilson’s commitment to American neutrality during the early years of the first World War did not prevent him from calling upon the American people to intercede spiritually in the escalating European hostilities.
In the fall of 1914, Wilson issued a presidential proclamation designating Sunday, October 4 as a day of prayer and supplication for peace in Europe. Representatives of all the major denominations in the country responded enthusiastically, as evidenced by the selection of prayers published in the Chicago Tribune later that week. Note the conflation of national and international politics with the principles of the faith: like their predecessors in earlier times, these spiritual leaders frame the violence of the war as a judgment upon mankind and urge their readers to pursue repentance in their own private lives in order to see redemption upon the global stage.
A Proclamation by the President of the United States Designating Sunday, October 4, 1914 as a day of Prayer and Supplication for Peace in Europe
PROCLAMATION OF PRESIDENT WILSON FOR DAY OF PRAYER. By the President of the United States of America. A PROCLAMATION.
Whereas great nations of the world have taken up arms against one another and war now draws millions of men into battle whom the counsel of statesmen have not been able to save from the terrible sacrifice; And whereas in this as in all things it is our privilege and duty to seek counsel and succor of Almighty God, humbling ourselves before Him, confessing our weakness and our lack of any wisdom equal to these things; And whereas it is the especial wish and longing of the people of the United States, in prayer and counsel and all friendliness, to serve the cause of peace : Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do designate Sunday, the 4th day of October next, a day of prayer and supplication and do request all God-fearing persons to repair on that day to their places of worship there to unite their petitions to Almighty God that, overruling the counsel of men, setting straight the things they can not govern or alter, taking pity on the nations now in the throes of conflict, in His mercy and goodness, showing a way where, men can see none, He vouchsafe His children healing peace again and restore once more that concord among men and nations without which there can be neither happiness nor true friendship nor any wholesome fruit of toil or thought in the world; praying also to this end that He forgive us our sins, our ignorance of His holy will, our willfulness and many errors, and lead us in the paths of obedience to places of vision and to thoughts and counsels that purge and make wise. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and thirty-ninth. [seal.] Woodrow Wilson. By the President: William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State.
PRAYER PREPARED BY BISHOP DAVID-H. GREER of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
O God, who hast made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and who In thy Holy Word hast taught us that One Is our Father, even God, and that all we are brethren: We pray thee in this dark hour of InternatIonal strife that thou wilt open the eyes of the people and those who In thy Name are Intrusted with the authority of governance to act and understand their right and true relation to thee, and through thee to one another.
Teach them by thy spirit that hatred and violence are not strength but weakness; that the true safeguarding of a nation is not to be found In weapons of war but In those eternal principles which make for righteousness and truth and brotherhood and peace.
Give to those who shall suffer In the war which Is raging now the consolations of thy grace. Heal the sick; comfort the wounded; minister to the dying, and bind up the broken heart. Bring, we pray thee, to a speedy end this International strife; and hasten the time when peace shall flourish out of the earth and all shall dwell together in unity and love, and war shall be no more. We ask It In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
PRAYER FOR PEACE-FROM THE ROMAN MISSAL. Used in Sacrifice of the Mass Said by Roman, Catholic Priests.
O God: from whom holy desires, right counsels, and just works proceed, give to thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, so that our hearts being conformed to thy commands and the fear of the enemy being removed, the times under thy protection may be tranquil. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A PRAYER FOR CHRISTENDOM. By a Representative of the Lutheran Church.
O Lord, Almighty and Everlasting God, who, when thy people of old cried unto thee In their trouble, didst save them out of their distresses; and whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ did say, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he will give it you:
Hear us, we beseech thee, as we confess before thee our many and great sins, and deplore that not only each of us in his own life but that all of us as nations, and as churches, have not been mindful of thy holy will, but have been selfish, worldly, and unclean.
We are filled with pity for our fellow men and brethren beyond the seas, and with wonder that we escape thy judgments, which we do justly deserve. Forgive us, Most Gracious God, and make us sincere in Judgment of ourselves; and In this time of temptation give to our people, to us, and especially to those set over us, the Spirit of Love, of Peace, of Wisdom, and of Godliness.
O God, our Heavenly Father, our kindred In blood and in faith are In great distress. Those close to us fight against each other. The dead are multiplied; wounded men lie bleeding; sorrow and amazement are everywhere; cities are desolate the fields which thou didst make rich with food for men unreaped; the ancient sanctuaries of the faith are threatened; the great peoples whom we deemed thou hadst raised up to be witnesses and defenders of the faith war against each other; and hatred hath taken the place of love.
We pray that the gates of hell may not prevail against thy church. We pray that the spirit of selfishness and of strife may not possess those who have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, We pray for thy peace In our time. Have mercy, Lord. Defend thy Christendom, that we may evermore give thanks to thee.
PRAYER PREPARED BY PROF. WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, Rochester (Baptist) Theological School.
O Lord, since first the blood of Abel cried to thee from the ground that drank It, this earth of thine has been defiled with the blood of man shed by his brother’s hand, and the centuries sob with the ceaseless horror of war. Ever the pride of kings and the covetousness of the strong has driven peaceful nations to slaughter. Ever the songs of the past and the pomp of armies have been used to inflame the passions of the people. Our spirit cries out to thee In revolt against it, and we know that our righteous anger Is answered by thy holy wrath.
Break thou the spell of the enchantments that make the nations drunk with the lust of battle and draw them on as willing tools of death. Grant us a quiet and steadfast mind when our own nation clamors for vengeance or aggression. Strengthen our sense of justice and our regard for the equal worth of other peoples and races. Grant to the rulers of nations faith in the possibility of peace through justice and grant to the common people a new and stern enthusiasm for the cause of peace.
O thou strong Father of all nations, draw all thy great family together with an Increasing sense of our common blood and destiny, that peace may come on earth at last and thy sun may shed its light rejoicing on a holy brotherhood of peoples.
United States. Prayers for peace :a proclamation by the President of the United States designating Sunday, October 4, 1914, as a day of prayer and supplication for peace in Europe. Washington : G.P.O., 1914.
Chicago Tribune Archives: Some Prayers for Peace. (October 4, 1914) http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1914/10/04/page/2/article/some-prayers-for-peace