Reinhold Niebuhr, a famous American theologian from Missouri, is given credit for writing the “Serenity Prayer” in the 1940s. The generation that lived through World War Two certainly knew that the times were far from peaceful and that tomorrow was often unpredictable. Many people of great faith and less have turned to Niebuhr’s prayer to steady their nerves ever since.
There are two versions of the prayer, a shorter and longer version. The better-known short form is, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer, that is probably the one you recognize. And, as it is, that prayer is both comforting and reassuring during uncertain times.
However, that’s not all that Niebuhr wrote. The longer, less recognized version, adds:
“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would like it.
Trusting that he will make all things right,
If I surrender to his will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this world,
And supremely happy in the next.”
Maybe the next time you feel shaken to your soul by events in our world, you will draw on the Serenity Prayer for support and hope. And, perhaps, you will find the longer version meets your needs better than the briefer prayer. In either case, who would not want an authentic moment of peace and reassurance now?
Rev. Dr. Gary S. Eller
President, Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation