A Prayer for Serenity

Several years ago, I bought pictures of seashells for a bathroom we remodeled in a seafoam color that reminds me of the ocean. One of the pictures has the word Serenity on it and the other has the word Peaceful. There is nothing more serene to my land-locked mind than a rare, blissful walk on the beach. Yet in my perfectionist mind, the noun Serenity and adjective Peaceful don’t go together. I wish the artist had used the words Serenity and Peace or Serene and Peaceful. Oh, how I pray for serenity, that blessed state of being at peace and untroubled when things aren’t the way I want them to be.

I know the first four lines of The Serenity Prayer by heart. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The first part of the prayer encourages people like me to change the things we can control and to accept the things we can’t. But there is much more to The Serenity Prayer than the lines I’ve memorized.

Living one day at a time; 

enjoying one moment at a time; 

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

God grant me the serenity to live one day at a time. Is this not a perfect prayer for times such as these? Our lives have been disrupted by a pandemic. Many of us are living under stay-at-home orders, perhaps working remotely, keeping a safe six feet distance from other people, and wearing masks in public. Millions of people have been infected already and the death toll rises daily. Millions of people have lost their jobs and face financial hardship.

I have to admit that I am a natural born worrier. Instead of living for today, I anticipate and worry about the challenges I will face tomorrow. And I pin my hopes on something in the future (my retirement). But there is no point in living my life for tomorrow. As Jesus said, each day has enough trouble of its own.

Even in difficult times, there are moments of joy – moments that should be treasured. These moments of joy are the spice of life. During the pandemic, I have been enjoying my quiet time in the morning with a cup of coffee before I head to the gym or my home office. I’ve even taken up watching and listening to the birds in my backyard.

The one thing I disagree with in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prayer of Serenity is the idea that we should accept hardships as a pathway to peace. I believe that hardships and struggles and failure are a pathway to character. Salvation is the pathway to peace. I have been justified by faith. I have peace with God through my Lord Jesus Christ. I am not afraid of anything that can kill my body because it cannot kill my soul. If I lose my life, I can say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

Romans 5:1-4

The last part of The Serenity Prayer is: 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. This part of The Serenity prayer points to a path to spiritual growth. Jesus took the sinful world as it is. He loved sinners just as they are. But he did not accept the sinful world as it is; he came to change the world and to testify to the truth.

There is love in accepting the world as it is. There is serenity in knowing that in the end, God will make all things right.

****

A Prayer of Serenity

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the 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.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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