Schuman completed his “Prayer in Time of War” at the end of the year 1942. It has its first performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Pittsburgh under the direction of Fritz Reiner, on February 26 1943, and was presented by the same conductor at the concerts of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society on the following March 25 and 16, and has since been performed by several orchestras.
Composing this music on the eve of the year 1943, William Schuman first called it “Prayer – 1943”, and it was under this title that it was first performed. In spite of that fateful moment and turning-point in the fortunes of was which surely affected the music, the composer warns his listeners against seeking any graphic intention in it. “This work,” he wrote on the occasion of its first performance, “its not programme music in the usual sense of that overworked term. There is no story, nor is any realistic event being depicted. The title is merely some indication of the kind of feeling that went into the composition.”