The Serenity Prayer has a long and rather mysterious history. The first three lines were made popular by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 -1971), as part of a 1934 lecture. The modern prayer is several lines longer. In 1941, the prayer was noticed and later adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the past 60 years the prayer has gone far beyond AA boundaries. It is especially instructive for anyone longing to be an apprentice of Jesus. For the next eight Sundays, (November 6 – December 24), this blog will feature one phrase or cluster of phrases from this beautiful prayer. I hope this series will create motivation and direction in the new year. Check out past posts by clicking on the “Category” and then “Serenity Prayer” on the home page of this blog.
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“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. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
This phrase of The Serenity Prayer presents some huge and fundamental concepts which challenge and stretch us. Let’s think briefly about each of these:
I can trust God – Trust is like faith: it requires acting on something that cannot be seen. It is like a muscle: it must be used over and over again to stay strong. Trust is seen most easily in babies; babies are naturally trusting. In fact as James Bryan Smith says, they are so trusting that they are “presumptuous. They presume they will be cared for” (The Magnificent Story). It takes repeated offenses against the soul of a child to create distrust in his or her soul. Our call is to shed the suspicions and fears that we learned from untrustworthy people and trust that God wants the best for us.
God will make all things right – Two of my favorite scripture passages speak to this promise:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11; NIV).
We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28; CEB)
I am God’s child. I am God’s handiwork, a work of art (Eph. 2: 10 NIV). I am loved and valued. I am blessed and cared for – even delighted in. God sings songs over me (Zephaniah 3: 17). I carry his image within me. Of course, God’s desire is to make all things right for me!
If I surrender to His Will – If I am willing, God will use my every experience to weave a life of “rightness.” I don’t have to like or understand the weaving, but I do need to surrender and to submit to the process. Just as a mother surrenders to pain to bring a child into the world, I must surrender my will to the hands of the Potter to be molded into a beautiful and useful pot.
The Serenity Prayer teaches us that no matter how much we have failed, no matter how much we have hurt ourselves or others, no matter how headstrong we have been, we can bow our heads and our hearts and trust that God is longing to collaborate with us to make all things right.