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, 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. Amen

The above full version of the Serenity Prayer is a petition to God asking for calmness and peace in all matters of life. It asks for strength and courage to alter the matters within a person’s control and for acceptance in matters which cannot be changed. Ultimately, the prayer requests the ability to identify which circumstances are amenable to change.

This prayer is attributed to the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. It is believed that he first wrote the prayer as part of a sermon in the early 20th century, and it became a powerful influence in Western thought ever since. It has been translated into more than twenty languages and millions have used it for finding comfort or as a reminder to find joy even in difficult times.

The prayer has five biblical principles: God directs, we cannot change, we need help, we can overcome, and we must surrender.

1. God directs us.

Proverbs 20:24 teaches us, “A man’s steps are ordered by the LORD; how then can man understand his way?”

God’s righteousness and providence control a person’s paths, steps, and directions. The believer must accept His direction and influence before inner calmness and peace can be experienced.

2. There are some things we cannot change.

Titus 3:9 teaches us to “avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”

Man cannot change his family tree, science, or factual history. Debating and questioning factual matters are of no practical consequence and only result in confusion and unrest.

3. We need God’s help to discern wisely.

In Matthew 16:3, it is written, “and in the morning, it will be stormy, for the sky is red and threating. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

From this scripture, we are told it is easy to observe what is readily visible by the eye, but the meaning behind what’s obvious is not always understood. The weather cannot be altered regardless of human attempts to control it. However, one can prepare and make decisions based on precise objective observations.

4. The power to overcome sin comes from God.

“Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).

The believer with the Holy Spirit would agree that one cannot control sinful urges within their own strength and power The believer realizes the power to overcome sinful desires of the flesh is only by and through the Spirit of God (Romans 8:12-13).

5. We must surrender to God’s good ways, not continue in our sinful ways.

The Serenity Prayer affirms that the desires of men and the will of God do not always match, asking God to guide us in all things.

The prophet Isaiah in 55:8-9, boldly declares, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I found it interesting that the recovery group, Alcoholics Anonymous, incorporates the abridged form (the first paragraph) of the Serenity Prayer in its 12-step program, viewing the road to full recovery as a spiritual journey. The prayer provides spiritual encouragement to willing participants by breaking down each essential step to recovery. The first is acceptance.

Upon joining Alcoholics Anonymous, the participant accepts the negative presence and power that alcohol has in her or her life. Any damage or harm done in the alcoholic’s life up to the present point cannot be altered or amended. The prayer requests wisdom to determine what can and cannot be changed. This knowledge and application force the participant to realize he or she cannot control the urges or the effects of alcohol on his or her body but has the power to control the act of consuming alcoholic beverages in excess or placing oneself in places or circumstances detrimental to sobriety.

Scriptures of Serenity for Wisdom and Courage

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” ~ Psalm 1

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” ~ James 1:5

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