May 11, 2012

Artifact: A Manual of Prayers for Soldiers

Size: 3-1/8 x 4-1/2 x 1/4 inches (closed, click on the image for a larger view)

Date: 1863

Significance: What makes this little prayer book so interesting is that despite the Missouri Synod’s being a German-language church body at the time of the Civil War, the Saint Louis Pastoral Conference of the Synod saw fit to produce a prayer book in the English language. The book was translated from a German version (also pictured) printed the year before. Both consist of prayers and hymns that would serve the various situations a soldier might face, including prayers “For Courage”, “Before a Surgical Operation” and “In the Fear of Death.”

This artifact was chosen because our nation will celebrate Memorial Day later this month. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day (formerly known as Decoration Day) originated following the Civil War as a time for the nation to honor those who died in the war by decorating their graves. Following World War I the holiday was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars.

Below is the text for one of the prayers included in the prayer book that is apropos for many of us today who have family members serving in the armed forces. (Please remember that women were not part of the armed forces at the time.)


Compassionate God and Father! Thou has bidden us to pray, not only for ourselves, but for all
connected with us, and for all men. I would, with all my heart, intercede for my dear husband
(father, son, brother, friend) who, in they name, and by virtue of his calling, has gone forth to war.
As he is not far away, and I cannot be with him, much as I desire it, O Lord of heaven and earth! be thou
with him and remain with him, now and for evermore. Defend and protect him in body and soul. Provide
for him as his heavenly Parent, direct him as his heavenly Guid [sic], help him in all dangers,
and bless all his labors and duties. And as satan goeth up and down in the world, seeking to ensnare
thy children and to destroy them, do thou, O mighty God, preserve my husband (father, son, brother, friend)
against all the cunning and craft of satan, and his wicked servants. O Lord of hosts, give thine angels charge
over him, that they may encamp round about him, and preserve him in all his ways. Guide and direct him
to day and perpetually by thy good Spirit, and finally conduct him safely home, that we may see him again
unharmed and uninjured. And we will, with united hearts, praise thee all our days, and in heaven for ever. Amen.

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