God, grant me the serenity…

God, grant me the serenity… 

The serenity prayer is probably my favorite prayer. It starts:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference,”  ….that’s correct, right after the word difference is a comma not a period, because there is more. Here is Reinhold Neibuhr’s entire prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking this sinful world, as Jesus did, as it is not as I would have it, trusting that You will make things right if I surrender to your will so that I may be reasonably happy with you forever in the next. Amen.”

The Serenity Prayer was never copyrighted by Neibuhr and has been quoted in part, in its entirety and in many variants throughout the world. It is part of every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Neibuhr was born in 1882, died in 1971 and taught for most of his life at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He is widely recognized as a leading, if not the leading theologian of the twentieth century. Much of his attention was on the unintended consequences of war. He is quoted by politicians and theologians with widely divergent views.  Both John McCain and Barrack Obama have quoted him in regard to the costs of war.

One could organize each day of one’s entire lifetime around the thoughts conveyed in the Serenity Prayer.  This prayer might lead us to trying each moment of each day to live in the NOW. Fact is, it is never tomorrow.  It is always today.  It is always now.  It is always the present moment. Sufficient unto this day are the challenges it presents. Sufficient unto this day in June are the pleasures and the happiness of this day.  For sure, sufficient unto this day is the selfishness, hatred and evil of this day.  It is all there today and my challenge is to make the most of it.

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia