One of the rituals we enjoy as we open our time together is to recite a portion of a prayer written before World War I:
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.
The prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (it is his picture above) continues with these words:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships 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;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
One of the most serious questions I ask myself and I ask God, on a daily basis, is: Today, what shall I accept and what shall I change?
Acceptance is a complicated issue – always has been for me, and one I struggle with because I do not accept that some people in my hometown are going to bed hungry while others go to bed stuffed. I do not accept that some people have money to burn and some have no heat. I do not accept that some parents were tortured as children so they torture their own children.
It is hard for me to accept situations which can be changed, so I push on and suggest change and ask others to join me in changing the world.
What causes you to be “reasonably happy”? Change? No change? Acceptance? Approval? Denial? Isolation? Playing well with others? Being better than others?
So many challenges to our hearts.
Niebuhr claimed he wrote the short Serenity Prayer. Fred R. Shapiro, who had cast doubts on Niebuhr’s claim, conceded in 2009 that, “The new evidence does not prove that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote [the prayer], but it does significantly improve the likelihood that he was the originator.” The earliest known version of the prayer, from 1937, attributes the prayer to Niebuhr in this version: “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”