Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Serenity Prayer

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,
Accepting hardships as the
pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this 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.

There are many theories about who wrote the Serenity Prayer, when and why. Elisabeth Sifton, Reinhold Niebuhr's daughter thought that her father had first written it in 1943; his wife wrote in an unpublished memorandum that it had been written in 1941 or 1942, adding that it may have been used in prayers as early as 1934. Niebuhr himself was quoted as saying the prayer "may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself."

In 2008 a Yale librarian cast doubt on the origins of the Serenity Prayer. Fred R. Shapiro found several archival materials that led him to express doubt that Niebuhr was the author. But in 2009 it was reported that researcher, Stephen Goranson, that works in the circulation department at the Duke University library, and as a sideline, searches for the origins of words and sayings found a Christian student newsletter written in 1937 that cites Niebuhr as the prayer’s author.

The prayer in the newsletter was slightly different, but the 1937 document very much strengthens the probability that Niebuhr wrote it, and Mr. Shapiro agrees. 

But even in Niebuhr’s lifetime, he faced accusations that he was not the prayer’s author. Niebuhr’s family long maintained that he wrote the prayer in 1943, in the midst of World War II. Whoever the author, the Serenity Prayer was adopted by the U.S.O. in wartime, and by Alcoholics Anonymous, which uses it in its 12-step program. It is often found printed on mugs, wall plaques, postcards, greeting cards etc and quoted in several books.

Whatever the "politics" surrounding the prayer....

Where did you first come across the Serenity Prayer?
Did you pray it yourself some or other time in your life and what was the circumstances?
What's your thoughts and feelings about the prayer?

I can't remember where I've first read or heard the Serenity Prayer, but in 2005 I received a little book from my colleagues at work during a "goodbye function". The book was published by Zondervan and written by Snapdragon Editorial Group. It breaks the prayer up paragraph by paragraph with little discussions and quotes from Scripture and other well-known writers, philosophers and preachers/evangelists.

I have to be honest, I've never read the book from beginning to end; rather from middle to end, front to middle. Whenever I saw it laying around, when in need of inspiration, when I'm looking for a specific piece of Scripture and don't know where to start, when someone needs a quote for some or other reason, when I'm bored etc.

Though I don't read the prayer that much anymore I'm still challenged by others thoughts on in, the Scripture linked with it and others reaction on it.

So, what's your thoughts?


Sarah said...

Interesting question... I think I first came across The Serenity Prayer when i was about 10 years old my mum had a picture with the words on the living room wall. I have never prayed it myself but i think that the words are beautiful and i was thinking of writing a song with the words in it, it is nice to know some back round info on The Serenity Prayer :)

Liesie said...

You know me, like the origin of stuff ;-)

Also never prayed it myself... Will look for the original version and mail it to you. Think a song is an excellent idea!

Sarah said...

Thanks... Will be working on that song this week ;)

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