Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why the Serenity Prayer is not cheesy

I’ve gotten a little behind on my blog reading, though I don’t necessarily hold myself to any obligation to “keep up”, but I did recently read and appreciate this post by Wendy.

When I went along to the first Overcomers Outreach meeting, in the basement under Chapter House next to St Andrew’s Cathedral, we said the Serenity Prayer, and I confess I might have groaned just a little on the inside. Because I am sure we have all seen it embroidered or engraved or painted onto all manner of tacky and schmaltzy knicks-knacksy things. But as I heard it again and again recited by a room full of recovering addicts, I did come to appreciate it.

(I’ve written the prayer out in full below (we said it in full in OO), as it is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, but it’s often only the first six lines that are commonly known and quoted.)

As I’ve mentioned here, I have recently read Growing Yourself Up by Jenny Brown and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. These six little lines of The Serenity Prayer are actually, when you see past your groaning, a good potted summary of some of the material from both books. In brief, Growing Yourself Up teaches us to work on changing ourselves, not other people, and The Seven Habits emphasises the importance of knowing the difference between your sphere of influence (things you can change) and your sphere of concern (things which you can't change or can change only indirectly) and focusing your energies accordingly.

Keeping that in mind, here is a paragraph of Wendy’s post:
God grant me the wisdom to know what I can change (usually about myself) and what I can not change (often about others). What I can change (about myself) takes courage. Facing what I can't change (about others) take serenity and peace. Any enduring peace we find will ultimately have it's source in God Himself (Phil. 4:7). That's not cheesy. That is hard won wisdom that each of us should hear and pray for ourselves.
Yes. I seem to have had to learn some of this the hard and slow way. God grant the grace and courage and wisdom.

The Serenity Prayer

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
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.

(I'm not altogether certain of the theological connection or intended scope of saying "Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will" but we certainly do make things more difficult if we resist what God would have us do. On that note see this post from Georgianne.)

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