The Serenity Prayer

#Serenity prayer u uWe’re having a series of sermons on well known prayers, and preachers have been invited to write about their choice here on our church blog. This is part of this month’s focus on prayer.

Fr Chris writes about ‘the Serenity Prayer.’ 

The prayer I have chosen is one which I have prayed many times, and which is familiar to those of us in Recovery Circles – the Serenity Prayer.

 

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.

At first glance the prayer seems to be placatory – especially on the part of the person praying. “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change” – this seems so passive, so still. Acceptance is something which requires submission – and yet is also so active.  The implications are immense.

How can I accept that I cannot change things? I am an adult male, I am rational, I am active – I can do most things, so surely I can change most things!

But, of course, we can’t.  There are some things which we can have no influence on.

Of course, for the addict, the one thing that cannot be changed is the addiction – physical or psychological – to the substance or activity from which one is trying to recover. There is the pull to drink, to inject, to smoke, to look at images – whatever one is trying to stop doing.

To stop doing an activity by itself is not enough.  People talk of “will power” – but whilst that can get one through a few minutes of resistance, there has also to be an activity.  Recovery is active, it is worked at, it doesn’t happen incidentally. Those of us who are addicts work at our acceptance that we cannot continue with our addiction, we do things to help us abstain.

The same is true about our Christian discipleship.  We are called to follow Jesus – that isn’t about passive tagging along behind him like some obedient puppy.  It is about action, doing, thinking, working for Jesus.

We can all do something – we can pray and we can care.  We can show that God loves us in the way that we respond to one another.

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About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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One Response to The Serenity Prayer

  1. knitternun says:

    Something I am always curious about is why the rest of Niebuhr’s prayer is ignored. It is so wonderful.

    The Serenity Prayer
    The full text of the original “Serenity Prayer” written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

    GOD, grant me the serenity
    to accept the things
    I cannot change,

    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 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 forever in
    the next.

    Amen

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