A timeless prayer for any situation

Published 7:30 am Sunday, August 6, 2023

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Though no one knows for sure who wrote this special prayer, it’s often attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, who included the words in a sermon he preached in 1943 during World War II.

Most people have never heard of the Protestant theologian, but most of us have read his familiar words.  The name of the prayer comes from a word in the first line.  At a time, the world was in desperate need of peace and serenity, just as it is today.  The words were published in a book for military chaplains.  Here’s the original version.

“God, give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish one from the other.”

“The Serenity Prayer” actually has eleven more lines.  The words make the prayer even more meaningful for any situation we face in life. “Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will.”

Though Niebuhr’s words were written as a prayer, they give us practical principles to live by when facing life’s challenges and decisions.  Every day is a gift from God.

Someone once said we can wake up and face the new day one of two ways – “Good morning, Lord,” or “Good Lord, it’s morning!”

We need to ask Him for His grace, His courage and His wisdom.  The Lord promises us in His Word that His grace is sufficient because His strength is made perfect in our weakness (read 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll once said, “Wisdom is the God-given ability to see life with rare objectivity and to handle life with rare stability.”  The Bible tells us if anyone lacks wisdom, “let him (or her) ask of God…and it will be given” (James 1:5).

No one gets out of life alive.  Ailments, accidents or old age will cause us one day to breathe our last breath.  George Bernard Shaw remarked, “The statistics on death are quite impressive – one out of one people die.”

How can hardship, suffering and eventually death be the pathway to peace?  Christians learn to trust in God no matter what the situation and find peace that passes all understanding.

PGA tour player Paul Azinger wrote a book about his battle with cancer.  When Paul was undergoing chemotherapy and didn’t know if he was going to live or die, he experienced joy and peace.  Fellow golfer Payne Stewart asked him, “How can you have that kind of peace?”  Azinger replied, “We aren’t in the land of the living going to the land of the dying.  We’re in the land of the dying, going to the land of the living.”

God has a plan and purpose for each of us to fulfill during our lifetimes, if we will surrender to His will.

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”