The Serenity Prayer – it’s not just for addicts anymore

Photo credit: Digital Explorer / / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Digital Explorer / / CC BY-NC-ND

Actually, it never was. Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr that is associated with the famous twelve step program.

I had always heard the prayer in relation to people summoning the strength the overcome alcohol or drug addiction. Since I didn’t taste alcohol until my mid 30s, and have only had a few tastes of it since then, the thought that the sentiment housed in that prayer could apply to me had never entered my mind.

Last year I was unemployed for nine months without unemployment benefits. There are few more drastic ways to take away a man’s power and meaning. As a Christian, I wondered how God could punish me after all we had risked to start a new church. The simplest jobs I applied for were given to others because, as it was explained to me, supervisors knew that I would leave as soon as something better would come along. They were right. I was trapped.

Then I read the Serenity Prayer again and realized it was for me too:

Photo credit: Chris Yarzab / / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Chris Yarzab / / CC BY-NC-SA

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I applied for hundreds of jobs and worked on skills that would make me more desirable as an employee, but I couldn’t make someone hire me. That’s when I was forced to take a back seat and let God pull me through after I had accepted the fact that I was powerless in the process. It seemed like ages later, but he did.

The second part of the prayer didn’t seem as hard for me. If something needs to be changed I have a hard time watching it stay the same. After all, that’s why I was unemployed to begin with. It has more to do with impatience than courage. Or, maybe courage for me means having the patience to make adjustments God’s way instead of mine. I’ve found that the Holy Spirit reveals fragments of a vision and I hurry to complete the puzzle instead of waiting for him to provide the rest of the pieces in his time.

I don’t know why Niebuhr wrote this prayer. But I do know this about his prayer: if you’re struggling in your Spiritual journey toward Jesus Christ, whether or not it’s related to substance abuse, a strong dose of powerlessness and God-awareness may be the remedy for you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)


8 thoughts on “The Serenity Prayer – it’s not just for addicts anymore

  1. Good morning Dave! Like you, I never thought this prayer applied to me until I read the second verse…

    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.

    When you put it all into context, it becomes more about Him and less of me.
    Keep the Faith!

    • Good morning Karin. Yeah, the rest of that prayer really drives home what I’ve been preaching about the past two weeks at our church. We don’t like to accept hardships because we don’t like to suffer. We’re just not used to it. And that makes us all about us and unfamiliar with putting someone else first. But, we need to be willing to suffer to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and to know what it means to live life to the fullest extent. Thanks for sharing the rest of that prayer, Karin.

      • No, we don’t accept suffering well, do we. We prefer a more “perfect”existence but are never promised a life without adversity. However, we are promised no matter what the situation He is with us always.
        Keep the Faith!

  2. “It has more to do with impatience than courage.” Good sentence, and so, so true. For me, serenity, or peace, is almost always connected with patience. I’ve heard that to be a good writer, one must be a patient person. Writing is a process, not a single task to be completed, and so I’ve noticed over the course of the last year that your writing is getting deeper and richer. I contend it’s because you’ve probably become more patient through your trials. Great post!

    • Wow, Willow. I appreciate your compliment, and the observation that God had a purpose for my struggles. As a writer you know the patience it takes to make things happen; all the hours to put in with little or no compensation. We could form a writers’ support group if it wasn’t for the fact that we live 2,000 miles apart! I’ll pray that your new book does well, my friend. Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. Hi Dave,
    Thank you for making it abundantly clear what the difference is between accepting the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can, through your experience of unemployment. Thank you for the perspective.

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