Roger Harty: The Serenity Prayer

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NEVER, at least in my lifetime, has the Serenity Prayer been more apt or more helpful than it is at the current moment.

What is the Serenity Prayer? I’m fairly sure you have heard of it and perhaps even said it, but this time I’m asking you to slow down (most of us have plenty free time now!) and fully appreciate the beauty and depth of this prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.

Continued below…


This was written by the American theologian Rheinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

It is said that when Niebuhr originally wrote the poem, he wrote it for courage first, but as you can see it was changed to put ‘grant me the serenity to accept’ in the primary position.

Why is this so?

The reason is that in great times of difficulty like we have now with the COVID 19 virus, we can turn to the hands of God (Father, Almighty, Higher Power…whatever term you are comfortable with or even terms I haven’t mentioned) and place ourselves at His mercy, pray for serenity (peace) and hope this serenity is given.

This serenity is best achieved through the medium of acceptance.

This COVID 19 virus is beyond the control of even the best scientists in the world right now, but we can all pray for calm and accept that there are things that are beyond our control.

In the meantime, we can all pray for courage to do the things that we can — things we can control like social separation, washing our hands, closing down unessential businesses etc, etc. This takes courage and application.

It brings great peace which is the space where our best creativity thrives.

We can also pray for wisdom; to know the difference between what we can control and that which we cannot control — very simple.

If we cannot control it, we can still pray for peace which funnily enough is within our control. We as individuals decide whether we pray or not.

May I also ask you to pray for the doctors, nurses, health workers, scientists politicians and anyone else involved in essential services, that they may get the strength and co-operation to do their job at this extremely challenging time.

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