We are all familiar with the very simple but exceedingly powerful Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
I pray it multiple times a day. Especially currently in my life, where I have been powerless over a situation that is of great importance to my heart. It doesn’t matter what the “what” of the situation is…only that it is something I yearn for and which is completely out of my hands and in far better hands than mine… The Hands of God.
In this situation, I am very comfortable with the “wisdom” that has been given me to know the difference between that which I can control and that which I can’t. I can only change myself…my reactions, my focus, my choices. And I have plenty of “courage”to change those things. I don’t shrink from truth when self-questioning. But the “serenity”part of the prayer has had me stumped.
I decided to research the origin of the prayer to perhaps find the inspiration I needed to find the serenity of acceptance for which I yearn. I was inspired indeed! The original prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr probably had an oral history predating the written version of 1943 which goes as follows:
“God, give me the grace to accept with serenity
The things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
And the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace,
Taking,as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
This prayer was written during the direst days of World War II. Niebur, close friends with other anti- Nazi émigrés, Paul Tillich and the never-to-be-forgotten Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose courage and valorous character are legendary, prayed this prayer at a time when it appeared evil was triumphant and yet these men were indeed granted by God “the courage to change that which should be changed”.
I was so humbled when I learned of the true origins of this prayer that I’ve had to take a step back, focus on living and “enjoying one moment at a time”. “Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace”.
I was then reminded of the wonderful lyrics in the song “Pioneer” sung by The Band Perry:
I sing your song
It’s the hymn of those who’ve gone before and those who
Your work is hard
But the future of all of us rests on the shoulders of your heart…
…Send the dark but it won’t break me…
…No we will sing
Where are we going
Oh I don’t know
But still I’ve got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don’t care
All I know is I’ll go anywhere
God, grant me serenity, courage and wisdom. Let me rise above the comparatively small matters of my heart, resolved to be at peace with Thy will and to live in Joy that everything is exactly as it should be and will be perfect in its outcome.