The Serenity Prayer has been instrumental for millions of people working through all the hard stuff of life. It was penned in 1943 by Reinhold Niebuhr who was an activist, theologian, and pastor. Niebuhr spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan, and even spoke against what he saw as deplorable worker conditions under Henry Ford.
The heart of the man that is credited for this month's Powerful Prayer is clearly articulated in the words that follow. So, find a quiet spot…get comfortable…breathe in God's goodness…breathe out the days struggle…open your eyes…and slowly read the prayer. I will post some ruminations at the end of the prayer.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
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;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
There are at least five powerful movements in this prayer, and each movement builds upon the other to lead us to a place of surrender, empowerment, and peace.
The first movement is the most important. From the first word of this prayer we are immersed in the truth that "I am not the center of the world." So often we live and interact with others as if we believed we were the epicenter of the universe. An overinflated view of self always disconnects us from the love of others and places us as an adversary with God…not a great place to be!
Movement #1: God is…and if God is, then I am not God. If I am not God, I can begin to give up my tendency to try to control the world, other people, and all my circumstances. When we begin to play God through the vehicle of control, it wears us out…wipes us out…and makes us weary. Take this step…peace is coming soon!
Prayer Point: Tell God you are ready for Him to be in charge, not only in your words, but in your actions. Ask Him to help you decrease so that He can increase.
Health and peace and balance are available when we decide to accept our
current reality. Denial very often warps our perception, that is why we
need other people who we trust to tell us the truth about our circumstances. I call that person a true friend! Someone who will point out the relational, emotional,
or even physical realities of our life. When we hold onto a false reality we lengthen our struggle and pain. Some things are so hard to accept. Illness, injustice, given-talents verses wanted talents, or even another person withdrawing their love from us. All these things wound deeply and can be a causation where we try to fix, change, manipulate or morph the actual reality into desired reality. Eventually we learn that the only thing in this life that we are able to control is "me."But changing me is the way to changing my world!
As a pastor I have watched and encouraged people as they struggled with what they wanted to do, verses what God had created them to do. When they got their will in alignment with God's plan they had epiphanies and wondered why they had ever wanted to do that other thing! I just smile and remind myself there is no need to say "I told you so!" Acceptance, then, can even be applied to accepting the good things God has given us. Sometimes we feel unworthy, or undeserving of the blessings we encounter…Are you allowing mistakes from the past to keep you from accepting a God-reality today…this one works both sides of the track.
Spiritual growth happens as we step out of denial into God's grace and accept our current reality for what it is…then we are ready for the next movement…wisdom!
Prayer Point: Ask God to help you see and accept your life as it is, not as you want it, or think it should be. Thank God that you are right where you need to be to experience more of Him. Pray that you would be honest with yourself, others, and God in all that you say and do.
After we center our hearts and lives on the God-reality, we pray about the circumstances that we encounter each and every day. Some things in this life we have absolutely no ability or possibility to change, morph or control. Do you try to control your spouse, your kids, your boss, the weather, the stock market? I know that in my own life, I have very often relied up and trusted my abilities, my savvy, my entrepreneurial spirit, or my talents to change my reality. And do you know what? Many times I was able to do some pretty incredible things!
Then one unsuspecting day, a situation or three came along that God did not intend me to change, and bang…I hit a wall that I didn't know what to do with. So I tried harder…worked harder…and still nothing. That lead to some anger, resentment and frustration…I desperately needed to breath this prayer!
Finally, when God breaks through, we realize that if we are to experience peace, balance and passion in this life, we need to hold things lightly. That means we need this prayer. We need wisdom to know what is changeable (my choices, my issues, my life) and what is out of my control (most everything else!) But this is huge…when we enter into the awareness of what is changeable, and what is not, we will journey to the next movement…courage.
Prayer Point: Pray for supernatural wisdom to discern what God is up to in your life. Also pray that God would lead you to some incredible friends who will stand with you, be honest with you, and love you on your good days and your bad days!
Making changes in our lives (the things that we can control) is not easy…in fact, this is hard work! Courage is not the absence of fear as some people believe, rather courage is doing what we know we need to do in spite of the fear! I like what 17th century writer Baltasar Gracian said: "Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit." So courage is like the miracle grow formula for wisdom!
When God reveals the changes we can and need to make…sometimes our feet feel like they are encased in concrete, unable to move. Your stomach is in knots, you begin to weigh the potential losses and assess whether or not you think your heart can take the hits that might come. You wonder if it is possible for this thing to change, for you to change, and you wonder how things will be different if they do change!
The courage necessary to move through the growth challenges must come from a source much stronger than you! You need the God's power to infuse you and unleash your courage to help you choose the next step!
Prayer Point: Pray that God would fill you, flood you, and infuse you with His Spirit of power. That is the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead! Ask the Spirit of God to give you the courage you need in every situation…then move!
What is it that truly unleashes a man or a woman to do the impossible? What is the difference between the person who says "it can't be done," and the one who says "why not?" It is the depth of their faith. But faith must have an object…in otherwords, the power of your faith is determined by who or what you put your faith in. If my faith is in a door-knob, there probably will not be a whole lot of change, peace or healing taking place in my life. However, if my faith is placed in God who has proven Himself faithful and able, I begin to trust the outcomes of my life.
This is critical. If believe that God truly loves and cares for me. If I believe that God has my best interests at heart. If I believe that nothing is impossible for God…then I am faced with a choice as good and bad situations invade my life.
Will I trust that God has me, or will I try to control what I don't like. When I trust God in all things and circumstances, I stop second guessing the pain or hardship in my life as signs that He is angry with me. They are in fact, just a part of life. BUT…if I belong to God, He promises to use those experiences to grow me, strengthen me, and heal me…the one ingredient needed is trust. Trust is like the activator agent for all the movements we have talked about. Trust doesn't second guess…deny its reality…whither at the challenge…or fail to see the truth. No, trust merely clings and believes in the goodness of God which sustains all things.
Prayer Point: Ask God to help you identity the things that have caused you not to trust Him. Ask Him to heal those wounds and bless you with a faith-filled and trusting heart.
When we practice these prayer movements we begin to experience happiness and joy in this life no matter what the circumstances. Your world is no longer controlled by externals, but your soul is growing stronger in the grace and presence of God in your life.