If I were more prone to sermonizing, or to giving speeches, or actually just to talking in general, I could give a whole long discussion on The Serenity Prayer.
Because it is so succinct and memorable, and it’s all the prayer you ever need, right from the first word: God.
Sometimes that is as far as I get when I pray. And I can only repeat it, over and over, until I am well grounded in Him, until I have let go of all the edges of my exhausted self and let him help me breathe.
“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.”
In a prayer that is really just a sentence, we have encapsulated our relation to God: Our dependence, our submission, our need for His strength and guidance. This is everything I need and want to say.
I want to pray this prayer for serenity: Lord, let me live with open hands, help me to take what you give me, to give back freely what I have, and to accept with humility both good and bad. Be my strength, give me courage to live like you ask me to, to face the things that are hard. Be my peace amidst this. Help me balance this acceptance and courage. Give me discernment, lead me. Guide me as I walk this path. Help me surrender to your will.
As Niebuhr wrote later in an extended version of this prayer, help us “accept hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.” Help me to surrender my vision for this world, for my life, help me to surrender my ideas of justice and love and blessing. Help me come to terms with this world as it is, to stop waiting for something to be different, to stop demanding something other than what you have handed me. Help me to be grateful for the ways you bless me abundantly, especially in the moments when I have a hard time seeing them as blessings. Help me to accept the moment I now occupy. Help me to find it good.
God, even in the moments I can barely breath, be my peace. Let me draw on you for my strength: strength in the things that are hard to bare, and strength for the things that require endurance to change.
There is too much in this world that I simply cannot change. The weather. The traffic. The hurts. The crimes. The weaknesses in myself. The flaws I see in other people.
I need to learn anew everyday to accept the things I cannot change, especially in myself and in other people. I need help to come to terms with myself, to learn to embrace the way I have been designed -even if I would rather it be changed. I need to learn to live fully into who I am, and to live fully with the wholeness of who other people are. People are beautiful in their completeness -which includes their foibles and faults, strength and talents. None of which I can change, but can only learn to better love and accept.
There are also things in this world that I can change, and which I too often shy away from facing. Change is hard –when it is expected, when it is unexpected, when it is in myself, when it is under my control, when it is outside my control. I need courage from outside of myself to step into the hard conversations, to face the difficult problems, to wrestle when it would be easier to resign. I need courage, because it is easy to hide behind caution (when we really mean cowardice), and nothing good or honest comes from that.
I need help to lay things down, help to have the guts to be honest and principled, and help to know what to let go of and what to fight for.
I absolutely love this prayer. It is easy to remember, and I find myself repeating it throughout the day. Especially when my heart is too heavy or my mind to full, to find words of my own.
I appreciate, too, that even though this prayer is widely associated with AA, I loved it long before. It has a long held meaning for me, and now, as a member of AA, it has another layered meaning that makes it just that much better.