At the turn of the last century many colleges and universities developed their own hymns and prayers. The students were often required to memorize them. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, founded on the banks of the Hudson River in 1802 by Jefferson, prayer had always played a part in the lives of the cadets. “God of Our Fathers” known to many as the “National Hymn” when it was composed for the country’s centennial celebration, was adopted for the academy as its own.
By 1920 the Reverend Clayton Wheat, the head chaplain and chairman of the academy’s English department, had written a prayer for cadets that he hoped would have staying power and meaning, as though it would “come naturally from the lips of the young men” going out to serve their country.
The hymn was approved by West Point’s Commandant Douglas MacArthur and it became a prayer that future army men would learn by heart and take with them into battle fields overseas. It was often recited as the last words of dying soldiers.
O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of men’s hearts,
help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth.
Make us to choose the harder right instead of the
easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth
when the whole truth can be won.
All of which we ask in the name of our great Friend
and Master of men.