The Traditional Serenity Prayer
The Serenity Prayer
An Epiphany & a New Perspective
The Serenity Prayer is a time-honored meditation starter. It was written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).
It’s a good beginning when you need to calm the storm.
The way it was taught to me was that It can help a spiritual person to accomplish a peace that passes understanding when they find themselves unable to right a wrong.
Today I enjoyed an epiphany of communion with the Spirit while contemplating the serenity prayer in light of recent events in my spiritual life.
I share the following in hopes it may help somebody else as well.
I usually focus on the name of the prayer. It’s The Serenity Prayer, after all. Right?
While meditating on the Serenity Prayer today, I erred in recalling the words. Perhaps it was a “Freudian Slip” as some may call it, but instead of unconsciously revealing something about myself to another person, the spirit was revealing something to my heart, mind, and soul.
The reason I temporarily recalled the last line as “The Peace to know the difference”, it is probably because I have been very earnestly seeking peace in troubling storms lately.
The revelation in the Epiphany experience today was:
First, I realized that the word “Peace” as I used it was actually supposed to be the word “Wisdom”.
This led me to thinking more deeply about each word and request in the prayer.
I have been using the Serenity Prayer as a means of ending distress: Reminding myself that I am not all-powerful and therefore should not blame myself; Reminding myself that there is only so much to my ability; Seeking to close a distressing chapter in my life.
But today I focused on the next request in the Serenity Prayer. Following the request for “Serenity” comes a request for “Courage”. Serenity it is not the ultimate purpose of the prayer or meditation. The Serenity Prayer is not only about Serenity but about preparing for what comes next.
So… about the word “Courage”. Hmmm. Courage for what? “Courage to Change the Things I Can” was previously understood as a sort of disclaimer. If I needed courage to change only some the things, those things that were under my control, and the issue that led to prayer was something that only God or another person could change, then I needed the courage to accept my limitations. I understood this as the courage to confront ego and admit that I can only change some things… therefore I am not responsible for those things I cannot change. Having this courage would bring a relief from false guilt.
Today I was led deeper into the word Courage as used in the Serenity Prayer. Requesting Courage of the Almighty implies a wish or hope to do something difficult, or to do well in the face of danger, or even to muster the fortitude needed to confront an enemy or do battle.
This concept of asking for courage would be a waste of time if the actual goal or purpose of the Serenity Prayer was to reach a state of peace or serenity. Instead, the deeper gift of the meditation, at least for me today, was that there is something I need to do. And I will need courage from above. Today I was led deeper into the Courage in another way. Courage is not always about the need to conquer something. Sometimes it means the courage to stand one’s ground in the face of danger instead of retreating. After all, we are called to STAND in the storms, and to not give ground to the evil one during the storm.
But it is NOT our calling to remain standing in a storm for our whole life.
Consider: We are called to realize that the spiritually meaningless works or events of this life will become nothing as they pass through the fire of judgment at the end of days. When the Serenity Prayer is used as an attempt to put something behind, a way to reach for peace, to escape anxiety or fear – which are not from the Lord, then we are giving attention to that which is ultimately going to be meaningless.
Consider Also: We are called to know that we should not fear trials but rejoice in them because it is the refiners fire that produces pure gold. Sometimes we tell the Almighty we are now “golden enough” or that we don’t even want to be golden if it hurts like this.
So a good question is “What is the purpose of Courage in becoming golden… in the spiritual meaning?”
If the goal of our journey on earth is to be the remnant, the guard, a member of the spiritual ones who advance the cause of the Holy One or Highest Power by growing strong and pure then we may need a new perspective. We will need courage to face the refining fire as the meaningless parts of ourselves are burned off in order to leave the pure gold.
Consider Further: Gold is generally not used in war. Gold is not a ‘hardened’ metal able to be sharpened and used as a weapon. Gold is Soft. Gold is easily pliable. Gold is bright and attractive. Gold does not fade, rot, nor rust. Gold lasts forever. Thus Gold makes a good metal for adornment rather than war.
One of the strangest uses of the idea of Gold in the Bible is that we are told that the Streets of Heaven are Paved with Gold. Hmmm…. Today I see that we who in spirit have been refined by the fire can become soft, pliable, bright, shiny, everlasting streets attracting others to the Kingdom – perhaps even by allowing ourselves to be walked on. Whoops. Wait a minute. There’s a hard rock of understanding. I don’t mean being walked on in a negative way. But in a holy surrender, Jesus was walked on when tortured and crucified. Yet what was left was something bright, attractive, a path or road leading to “Salvation” which I interpret not as a ticket to heaven but an ability to be fully saved from the corruption of the present world and able to do God’s work within it.
The Kingdom Experience in this life is to know how to sit at God’s right hand as one who is in Christ. while still letting God be God. Hmmm….
Generally, Christ Followers look forward to a day when the evil in this world is conquered forever, The bible says evil will become a footstool. My earlier understanding of this was that the power of evil was denigrated to a subservient role. Surely this idea means that evil is being punished.
But what if the Creator wants to make sure evil serves as an unwitting footstool to allow a higher reach than one can have without a footstool. Isn’t that the purpose of the footstool? A footstool, properly conceived and used, exists to increase our reach, our elevation. The footstool is not being punished when we use it, as much as we are being lifted to new heights by understanding how to use it.
To Sum: we are not called to be the punching bag for evil that needs to try to hide in peace. We are not called to lord it over evil. We are not called to be helpless passive passengers on this big blue marble we call Earth while waiting for things to be perfect in a life after death.
Christ, and all who are in Him through sanctification and adoption as fellow heirs to the kingdom are called to have Courage to face danger, Courage to face the refining fire, Courage to walk by faith and not by sight, Courage to Live Again, after suffering a horrible loss that feels like death or victimization, here and now, because we are already seated at the Right Hand of God, In Christ, able to use evil as a footstool, to lift up and share the bright joy and power of being Golden, being soft and pliable, not fit for war but becoming a bright and shiny street that never fades, never rusts, and lasts forever, so that others may walk along on their way to many mansions.
To surrender to the refining fire is NOT to lose but to become part of the adornment, making a statement about the glory and power of the creator.
The Serenity Prayer begins with the idea of serenity, but does not end with it. First, we request that the storm is calmed. But that is not the end. There is more. By requesting Courage, we request that we be divinely prepared for next steps.
As the Serenity Prayer ends with the request for “The Wisdom to Know the Difference” we are called to apply divine discernment. Good enough. That’s pretty clear. But again, I ask… Then What? What do we do once we pass through the stages of Serenity and Courage and achieve an understanding of the difference?
Today I add this line to my personal version of this prayer,.
God grant me the calling and vision and eager desire to write the next book of my life, and may it be a Holy One.
My this revelation give you wisdom. Go now, and be of good courage because light always overcome darkness!