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Using the Serenity Prayer as Life's Compass
The Serenity Prayer
The Serenity Prayer Told Me ... "You Are in Control of Your Life".
The first time I saw the prayer, I was 17 and still in high school. This particular day, I was running an errand downtown after school. As I passed a small gift shop, I paused to look in a window that was crammed with everything from picture frames and candy dishes to stylish gloves.
Somehow, in all the jumble of items, my eye was drawn to a small wooden plaque near the back of the display. I remember having to squint a little to read the small text, then was absolutely stunned by the powerful words of The Serenity Prayer. I don't recall how long I stood there contemplating each grace-filled line as it resonated in my spirit.
The prayer told me ... "You are in control of your life." It said to me better than anything had, up to that point, that I didn't have to sit back and let life happen - I had some say in its direction. It told me my life was my responsibility, then provided some tools as a guide. The prayer made it clear that although the Father is the Captain of the ship, I am allowed to take the helm ... at least sometimes.
I became an enthusiastic collector of small items imprinted with The Serenity Prayer and learned something of its history. Its name is said to have originally been given to an untitled prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The prayer was said to have been written as part of a sermon around the 1930's.
- There has been numerous challenges to Niebuhr as the author, as well as challenges to how long the prayer has been in existence, and what is its real version.
- There is a longer version of the prayer definitely not written by Niebuhr who was known to have quoted his version. The longer version is used fairly extensively today, however the author is unknown.
- A Dr. John Sasser has produced photographs of a Gasthaus built in Germany in 1849 with the words of The Serenity Prayer engraved on the front of the building.
So there is some mystery around The Serenity Prayer. I have my own thoughts about that.
One day a few months after my find, I was on a city bus and an elderly lady got on and took a seat next to me. I smiled and nodded politely, but after a while felt her staring at me. Finally, she opened her purse and rummaged loudly for a minute.
Suddenly, I felt her hand on my arm, and a little surprised, I turned to see what she wanted.
"Here," she said softly."This is for you."
Without thinking, I reached out and she placed a pencil in my hand. At a glance, I could see it was new and that it was one of those nice, fat ones; so I smiled, thanked her, and slipped it into my jacket pocket. I started to ask if I could give her a donation for the pencil, but something stopped me.
As the bus approached the next stop, she stood to get off. Before walking her awkwardly stooped body to the door, she again touched my arm and said ..
"As you go on, don't worry so much. It's all going to be all right."
"Thank you," I replied, totally confused.
A few minutes later the bus had stopped and moved on ... and so had my thoughts.
It wasn't until the next day, as I was leaving the house and stuck my hand in my jacket pocket that I found the pencil. For the first time, I took a good look at it and was shocked to see in big, bold lettering, The Serenity Prayer.
As I grew older and my responsibilities increased, I realized the old lady had been right. I was a worrier. But, in time and with application of the last line of the prayer, I learned better.
Many years later, I discovered The Serenity Prayer's connection with Alcoholics Anonymous. I had no idea. How appropriate this prayer is in relation to people battling substance addictions; people trying to take control of their lives. It is awesome to think of the many, many lives positively influenced by this simple prayer.
Whenever I've faced a critical juncture in my life, I've always thought of the prayer ... line by line. By critical, I mean real life changing situations: marriage, relocation, stay/leave a job. It helps me focus and make decisions.
God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change This forces a determination of the possibility of change. If change is possible, what to do and how to do it. If change is not possible, having the peace of mind and heart to accept a situation that is beyond your control.
COURAGE to change the things I can Having the gumption to do what is deemed necessary to make changes. This can be difficult as it may require making decisions that can totally change your life; but then, that's why courage is required in the first place. This is about doing something; taking action.
And the WISDOM to know the difference Applying life experience and spiritual discernment to the decision making process. Examining all sides of an issue to decide if change is possible, and if action should be taken. Deciding what action of any, and then, being content with your decision.
I have always felt that as long as I had the Father, His Word and the Serenity Prayer close at hand, I was well equipped to handle whatever life handed me.
Oh, and I've long since decided my discovering the Serenity Prayer those many years ago was definitely fated appointment.