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; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.”
So, here is our bottom line: if we follow the recommendations of the Serenity Prayer, we can be reasonably happy in this life (as happy as we choose to be in a broken world) and supremely happy (as happy as God created us to be) in the next life.
Years ago, I taught the Bethel Bible Series which used symbolic pictures to help students remember the basic content of the arc of the Christian Scriptures. The first two pictures came into my mind this week as I mulled over being “reasonably” happy in God’s earthly kingdom and “supremely” happy in God’s eternal kingdom.
The first picture shows the life of harmony originally found in the garden (depicted by the musical notes). Humans are in harmony with God (the man’s hand is outstretched to the larger hand which symbolizes the Creator) and with each other (hands of the humans are outstretched to each other.)The man is also in harmony with himself – he is supremely happy. The scene is one of beauty because mankind is in harmony with the rest of the created world.
The second picture unveils what happens when humans choose to separate themselves from their Creator: disharmony – the musical notes are broken are broken. God’s hand is still extended to his children. But one man has his back to God and is looking downward, a sign that he has lost the oneness of spirit with which he was created; now he is at war with the image of God he received at creation. Humans are no longer in harmony with each other. The second man is ready to run away in fear, or perhaps he is preparing to inflict harm. And the garden that God created for humans to take care of has died.
The second picture depicts the world we live in now. We are surrounded by disharmony. We can never be supremely happy in this life; there is too much conflict and destructiveness around us. But we can be reasonably happy if we choose what the Serenity Prayer suggests:
- understanding that we cannot fix everything or anybody, but that we canbe involved in changing some situations.
- living in the present moment (not the past or the future).
- accepting that our present world is broken.
- trusting that if we look for God’s will and collaborate with him, we will learn that God’s intention is to make all things right.
- choosing a life that will make us reasonably happy.
- waiting patiently for the harmony to be stored in all ways when God’s eternal kingdom is ushered in and we will be supremely happy once more.
We are waiting and yearning for the life God intended for his creation, one of harmony and unity. This life awaits all who are devoted to the God who created this world, to the life style we see in God’s son when he lived on earth, and to obedience to the Holy Spirit. Our collaboration with the Trinity will make life reasonably happy in this life and supremely in the next.
This journey with the Serenity Prayer is complete. But our individual journeys toward harmony await us anew in 2018.