This morning during my quiet time, I found myself contemplating the Serenity Prayer. In case you are not familiar with it, here it is:
"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."
I was struck by the simplicity and brevity of such an all-encompassing prayer. It is widely attributed to Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian from Massachusetts, though its origins are still debated. It has been used as a closing prayer by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) since 1942.
I decided to study each of the words and discover their particular meaning for me. Perhaps I might glean more insight if I thoughtfully considered the words behind the words - for me. I would like to share this with you with the hastily added clarification that I am no philosopher. Here is how it broke down for me:
"God, grant me the "Something/Someone greater than myself, give me the
serenity peacefulness, faith and knowing
to accept to allow and not fight against
the things the people and conditions
I cannot change, I am powerless over,
courage the trust, resolve and strength
to change to act and make different, - to transform
the things I can myself and the conditions I am able to make different,
and and give me
wisdom the transcending knowledge from experience
to know the difference." to recognize what I can and cannot make different."
"God, grant me the
serenity, courage and wisdom
accept, change and know."
The Serenity Prayer seems to presume at least three things:
1) the need to go outside of the self to receive help,
2) the willingness to receive and act on what is asked for, and perhaps most strikingly,
3) serenity is not the result of accepting what we cannot change; serenity is the prerequisite to accepting what we cannot change.
So much is made of the need to accept what Life has given us each day, in order to experience peace in life. I can certainly see the wisdom of that, the directional flow that acceptance leads to peace. And yet, the Serenity Prayer calls us to do the opposite, to receive serenity in order to then have acceptance. This is where the need to seek help from outside of us comes in. This is what turns an affirmation into a prayer, the humble invitation to a higher power. I don't know if or how prayers get "answered" or "not answered." My personal belief is that the power is in the act of the asking.
I can appreciate that I might need divine intervention in order to have enough serenity to then experience acceptance. And, it strikes me that serenity is not the same as peace. Serenity is a state of grace that is sometimes the eye of the tornado. It includes a kind of faith from an inner Knowing. In this way, it is much more than a peaceful feeling.
So, it begins with serenity and through acceptance, courage, action, and wisdom, it then ends in serenity and so goes the circular cycle. I am sure I have much more to learn from this prayer, and more importantly, from living from this prayer.
I would love to hear what your experience is with the Serenity Prayer and what it means to you. Please consider leaving a comment below.
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