The Serenity Prayer

What is America’s favorite prayer? Your answer: The Lord’s Prayer! You are right. What is America’s second favorite prayer?

The Serenity Prayer (short version):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and used by numerous twelve-step programs, the prayer was authored by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

Niebuhr has been credited with being one of America’s greatest theologians – think Jonathan Edwards, Reinhold Niebuhr, and C.S. Lewis (oops, C.S. Lewis is British), so think Edwards and Niebuhr as America’s greatest theologians.

There are various versions of this prayer, and the latest ones add the word “grace”:

God, grant me grace to accept with serenity the things that I cannot change…

Reinhold Niebuhr first prayed this prayer. Similarly, Jesus first prayed “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Various sources say it was first found quoted in a diary from one of Niebuhr’s students in 1932. Differing forms of the prayer appeared in newspapers in the ‘30s and ‘40s. The prayer began to take on enduring popularity when adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous in the early ‘40s.

The full prayer, and most used version of the Serenity Prayer, is:

God, give me 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 hardship 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.

While writing this Interruption, I read the long version over and over a few times.  I was blessed. In my spirit, I sensed God’s Spirit speaking to me. I understand why the shorter version has impacted so many seeking freedom from addiction.

There is a story of when Reinhold Niebuhr was asked for a quote by a newspaper reporter, that he repeated (as his quote) the entire Serenity Prayer. 

Wow!  I believe that God gives each of us a “life prayer” (more about this in tomorrow’s Interruption). This was Niebuhr’s “life prayer.”

Consider how this prayer has been answered in the lives of millions of those recovering over the past decades. You never know what seed, in word or prayer or deed, that God will plant to change the world.

I know many of you thought when I mentioned the great theologian Jonathan Edwards – is Pastor Grant Edwards related to the great theologian Jonathan Edwards? The answer: I don’t know. I would say, considering the depth of topics considered in Interruptions – like “Wow” and “Hhhhmmmppphh” and “specificity” and “the OGV,” that it would be a possibility.

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