Serenity Prayer Commentary


Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr |

I recently read the whole version of the Serenity Prayer, that is often used in AA meetings and numerous other rehabilitation organizations.  I also recently discovered who wrote it.

This is a powerful prayer, and something makes me think it has been watered down because of its modern use.  I’m going to go through it in detail, and what it means to me in this post.  I think that it is a fitting place for this blog of mine to start.

The Serenity Prayer

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;
Accepting hardships 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 in the next.
(written by Reinhold Niebuhr)

God, grant me serenity…

Serenity is a noun, it is the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled.  So if you read the first part, you could say “God, give me peace over the the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

This first part is the most well known part of the Serenity Prayer.  But what does it really mean?  What does it really mean to you?  The depth of this prayer is profound, and the meanings that can be read into it even more so.

There are things that happen in this life that we stress over unnecessarily, things that we cannot change (like the sinful world we live in).  In this prayer we are asking God to give us peace over these things that we cannot change.  What I find more important though is the next two lines:  “courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

So often, we just think “I can’t do anything about this”, so you come to peace with it and ignore it.  “I cannot feed all the starving children in Africa, I can barely feed my own family.”  But I say that if you really wanted to you could do something about it.  You could associate yourself with an organization that feeds the starving children in Africa and walk around on Sunday’s asking for donations.  What I think really matters is to ask “Is this what God has called me to do?” if it is, then you need to courage to change the things you can.

What you cannot do is everything.  God knows this, he doesn’t expect you to change everything, to make this world sin free, He will do that in His kingdom.  On this earth you need accept and be at peace with the things that God has not called you to change, but also have the courage to change the things you can.  Knowing the difference, is to know God’s calling for your life, knowing his words and knowing what He wants you to change/do, and knowing what he has given to other people to do.

Living one day at a time…

The second part of the Serenity Prayer says: “Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time;”

To me this distinctly tells me that we are to live “in the now”.  There are so many people who live in the future or live in the past and fail to see what they have in the now.  Each day is a new day, why waste it dwelling in the past?  Specifically in the past that gives us pain.  I understand the times when we remember the past where we were happy, like a wedding day or a birthday party, but so often when we think of the past we are more focused on the unhappy moments.  We are focused on revenge or pain caused by somebody else, or a stupid thing we did where we embarrassed ourselves.

Or we live in the future, thinking about the house we would like to have someday, or the car we want to drive and planning how we are going to achieve these things.  It is good to plan our future, but it is bad to dwell there and miss the present.  In all seriousness we don’t know what the future will hold.  An airplane might fall out the sky and land on your house in the middle of the night, killing you instantly.  You don’t know when your time will have come.  So plan for the future as though you will live to 100, but don’t dwell in the future.  Don’t wait for the future to be happy, learn to be happy in the present moment.  Enjoy each moment for what it is.

The present moment is all we really have.  Past is memories, and the future is a maybe.  What happens in the present shapes the future.  What happens in the present becomes the past, therefore the present is the most important.

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…

“Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;”

Wow – that is profound.  There was a story of a man who asked God “Why are you not allowing me to get a job?  Why are you preventing me from providing for my family?” 3 years later the man preached “I wouldn’t have believed that it was God who answered my prayers if I hadn’t had to wait 2 years for a job.  And the way that God provided the job was so amazing, that it couldn’t have been anybody other than God.  Those 2 years were difficult, but it humbled me.  Before I was filled with pride and greed, now my soul is where it can grow close to God.  I am now at peace.”

The trick is realizing that there are hardships that we all go through, but what matters more is why we believe the hardships are happening to us.  I know that hardships are there to humble us and make us realize how dependent on God we are.  Hardships build character and lead to a peace in our soul.

Often I think “I haven’t had any hardships in my life.” but I now realize that is only partially true.  Many things have happened that others may consider hardships, but I don’t consider them as hardships because I see them as times where God has built my character and has molded me into who I am today.  I was never terribly pained while the hardships were happening because of my attitude towards them and my trust in God’s eternal plan.  Which brings me to Part 4…

Trusting that He will make all things right…

“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;”

There are so many things that I would change in this world.  I would mostly like to change people’s negative attitudes and make them grateful for everything.  But we have to take the world as it is, we cannot change everything (as I mentioned earlier), we can only start by changing ourselves and trust that God will make all things right in his own time.

We need to surrender to His Will.  We need to align our hearts with God’s Will, but most of all we need to Trust him.  He knows what he is doing.  Trusting him is Faith.  Trust he will make all things right.  If not in this life then in the next.

Supremely happy with Him Forever…

“That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.”

This is very important for us to actually get.  Any happiness we feel in this life is only a mere fraction of the happiness we will feel when we are with Him in the next.  This is all temporary.  It is really important for you to understand that.  None of this lasts forever.  Make the most of it, enjoy it, but know that if you are with Him in the next life, it will completely and totally surpass anything that happens in this life.

How to be happy? Have peace about the things you cannot change, have courage to change the things you can, live in the present, trust God will make all things right, and you will find happiness in this life and the next.


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