God, Grant Me Serenity, but Wait Until I Calm Down! — Beyond These Stone Walls (2022)

God, Grant Me Serenity, but Wait Until I Calm Down! — Beyond These Stone Walls (1)The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is much more than a few verses on the walls of a Twelve Step program. It’s a vital petition to recover from spiritual wounds.

“Forgiveness is to give up all hope for a better past.”

I get a lot of mail. I’m not complaining, mind you, for mail in prison is the life blood of a psyche and a soul. Or, at least, it should be. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day these past months, mail call in this prison had a more sullen air about it. That was largely because of the draconian ban on greeting cards, including Christmas cards, imposed in mid-2015. At this juncture, no one knows whether or for how long that ban will hold up. A few days before Christmas, the New Hampshire office of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against this prison declaring the ban on cards to be an infringement on your First Amendment rights. I’ll keep you posted on the outcomeThe word “draconian” is an interesting word. Some people spell it with a capital “D” because it’s one of those words that came into English from the name of an actual historical person. Though technically the capital isn’t necessary, the word refers to the application of harsh laws codified by Draco, a legislator in the city-state of Athens, Greece in the Seventh Century, B.C. Draco was notorious for imposing the death penalty for both serious and trivial crimes, thus giving rise to “draconian,” a rather uncomplimentary word named after him. When I explained all this to our friend, Pornchai-Max, he said, “maybe in a thousand years, going off on long, boring explanations about history will be called ‘gordonian.’” HMMPH!God, Grant Me Serenity, but Wait Until I Calm Down! — Beyond These Stone Walls (2)Anyway, back to mail call. Of course, every prisoner loves mail, but when it comes to replying to it all, I get a C+ at best. A part of my excuse is that I can purchase only six Smith Corona typewriter ribbons per year, so that means having to hand write most mail. So I find myself writing much of the same things over and over. It’s especially difficult to respond to overseas mail because the prison commissary sells only U.S. First Class .49¢ stamps, and has a purchase limit of twenty per week. Writing overseas takes three of them. So some of my mail tends to pile up until I am able to respond.I am so very sorry for this, but prison is one reality I wish I could change, but can’t. I hope it doesn’t discourage you from writing. Sometimes I try to incorporate responses to letters into a TSW post, and hope that readers can see some of their letters between the lines. This excerpt from a letter received just before Christmas from an Ohio reader is an example.

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“Dear Fr MacRae: I first learned about you when I read the book, Loved, Lost, Found: 17 Divine Mercy Conversions [by Felix Carroll]. I am always so inspired by other people’s conversions! When I read the chapter about Pornchai Moontri I was very touched by his story and remarkable conversion and, frankly, I was shocked by your story. I became very concerned when I looked you up online and found your blog and read some of your articles... It did not take me long to have your blogs come right to my inbox and I gobble up everything you write. You inspire me to want to be a better follower of Christ and to accept the things I cannot change in my life.” (Letter dated Dec. 16, 2015)

The writer added, in a paragraph later, “You are doing so much good despite what was done to you. Your light is still shining” On the same day, I received another letter from a reader in the U.K. in which he wrote that my TSW posts remind him of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous Letters and Papers from Prison. Talk about pressure!The two letter writers are thousand of miles apart, but their letters are connected in an odd sort of way. I wrote of the great Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “These Stone Walls: The Hits and Misses of 2015.” That post mentions a superb interview with Eric Metaxas by Kate Bachelder entitled “The Death of God Is Greatly Exaggerated” (WSJ.com, Dec. 19). It’s an interview I highly recommend. In it, Eric Metaxas...

“recalls how in 1939 Bonhoeffer was sitting safely in New York at Union Theological Seminary. He elected to return to Germany, what Mr. Mtaxas calls ‘the great decision.’ What would animate someone to leave comfort and security for the depraved Nazi Germany, where he would surely be arrested for supporting the Jews?”

THE SERENITY PRAYERThere is an answer to that question, but first let’s get back to the pre-Christmas letter cited above from an Ohio reader. She mentioned that TSW inspires her “to want to be a better follower of Christ and to accept the things I cannot change in my life.” You might instantly recognize the latter half of that sentence as a reference to what is now commonly known as “The Serenity Prayer.”It’s one of the most famous prayers in common use in Western culture, and a portion of it adorns the walls and literature, of every meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in the world, as well as most other self-help endeavors based on the Twelve Steps of A.A. The prayer was written in 1926 by Lutheran pastor and theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, but most people know it only by the few verses adopted by A.A. Here is its original form:

God, grant me the Serenityto accept the thingsI cannot change;Courage to change the things I can,and the Wisdom to know the difference.

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Living one day at a time;Enjoying one moment at a time;Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.Taking, as Jesus did,this sinful world as it is,and not as I would have it.

Trusting that He willmake all things rightif I surrender to His will;That I may be reasonablyhappy in this life, andsupremely happy with Him in the next.(Reinhold Niebuhr, 1926)

COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CANThe famous prayer begins with a request for the grace of serenity, but in my current location, as it was in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prison, there is little of it to be found on the outside. I received a letter from a TSW reader recently who told me of the imprisonment of his wife of some fifty years. It is not a physical prison, but it is no less of a prison than the one I am in. Having lost and buried their own son from cancer, she finds herself in a prison of distrust and resentment over the losses of the past. It’s the sort of prison that has so many of us under lock and key.“Forgiveness is to give up all hope for a better past.” I began this post with that quote, but I do not know its origin. John Spaulding, a fellow prisoner whose mother died just weeks ago, stood in my doorway one morning to tell me that someone sent him that quote. It made me realize how much serenity requires the grace of surrender for the events of the past. It’s a real challenge where I am, but it’s a real challenge wherever any of you are too. Dare we hope? Dare we believe? Both take serenity, courage, and wisdom in the present moment. Our crosses of the present cannot be an excuse for retreating into the past.John Spaulding and I spoke at length about the death of his mother, and about the painful letting go that it required of him with no opportunity for good-bye other than from within his own heart. I gave John a copy of “A Corner of the Veil,” about the death of my own mother during my imprisonment. But it’s really about more than that. It’s about my own letting go of the things I cannot change-. John kept it for two weeks, and said he read it at least five times. He said that he was profoundly affected by my challenge not to reduce the present to a litany of losses in the past.Through this discernment, John made a decision to explore his Catholic roots of faith from which he had become separated. Through the loss of his mother, John opened himself to the one thing he has left to share with her, a faith that spans a bridge between his life and her’s. John has now signed up to attend the next “33 Days to Morning Glory” retreat, the third time it is offered in this prison.The wounds of the past surface in times of loss. Like the wife of the TSW reader mentioned above, the struggles and wounds of life accumulate into a litany of loss until it is life itself that we now distrust. Sometimes it is life itself that requires our forgiveness. To do so, then, is to surrender all hope for a better past because such a hope is futile. No matter how you spin it in your heart and mind, no matter who you blame for it, no matter how long you have lived with it, you will never have a different past. Eric Metaxas alluded to this in his WSJ interview:

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“One of my favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:6” ‘Be anxious about nothing.’ Nothing. Now what does that mean, ‘nothing’? It means ‘NOTHING.’ [So] ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ That’s a command.”

THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCEI was so very struck by the reader at the beginning of this post who wrote that TSW reminds him of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. I find no truth in it, but the letter caused me to return to Bonhoeffer’s writings. Reinhold Niebuhr, who composed “The Serenity Prayer” was on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York where he had a profound influence on Bonhoeffer at the time he arrived at “the great decision” that Eric Metaxas described. The great decision was to return to Germany because “He who believes does not flee,” no matter the cost.Both men also had a very great influence on my late friend and mentor, Father Richard John Neuhaus, one of the inspirations behind These Stone Walls. His own great decision to pave a path from Lutheranism to Rome by becoming a Catholic and a priest - took great courage and wisdom.You do not have to read very far into Bonhoeffer’s words and actions to see Reinhold Niebuhr’s “the courage to change the things that I can” reflected there. I think serenity itself was more of a challenge. Bonhoeffer freely chose to return to Nazi Germany from the comfort of Reinhold Niebuhr’s New York seminary knowing - very much like Father Maximilian Kolbe - that his own moral compass would not permit him to cease writing the truth.And like Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Bonhoeffer wrote knowing, and fearing, that the truth would land him in a Nazi prison, but he wrote that truth anyway. Finding serenity along such a path is an immense spiritual challenge, and its only source is grace - and the conditions in which such grace is found are often surprising.True courage does not mean the absence of fear. It means to do the right thing, to act morally, in spite of fear. There are some things which have terrified me - decades in prison being one of them - but terror alone was not sufficient cause to take up an easier cross. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and for Maximilian Kolbe, prison was no obstacle to grace.The powerfully riveting book by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2011) presents Bonhoeffer’s very life as a profile in courage. His writings and actions led inexorably to the sacrifice of his life on April 9, 1945, eight years to the day before I was born. Just imagine then the irony of my own introduction to prison. Standing in court facing prison on September 23, 1994, I was forced to be silent while prosecutor Bruce Elliot Reynolds asked Judge Arthur Brennan and my jury to disregard any good I have ever done, because “for some people, even Hitler was a nice guy.”Over the years between his imprisonment and his execution by hanging upon the orders of Hitler himself, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his Letters and Papers from Prison. When what he wrote was posthumously published, those who knew him found some of it shocking. One of his most pointed criticisms of his own church during those years in prison was its tendency to limit faith and the requirements of faith to the “otherworldly,” focusing on the next life at the expense of this one. Though that is a part of all faith - certainly Catholic faith -we are now in this life, “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.”It was in the unjust imprisonment imposed upon him through the corruption of others that Dietrich Bonhoeffer found the core of his Christology. It could be summed up in three words: “life for others.” And it was in that same circumstance that Maximilian Kolbe discerned that “Love alone creates,” the center of his life in Christ that drew him toward surrendering his life that another may live.In both men, in the struggles between courage and wisdom, in the midst of great suffering, trial, and loss can be found inspiration for the greatest challenge and adventure of our lives, that most essential part of Reinhold Niebhr’s famous prayer: “God, grant me Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

God, Grant Me Serenity, but Wait Until I Calm Down!

God, Grant Me Serenity, but Wait Until I Calm Down! — Beyond These Stone Walls (3)

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What is the original version of the Serenity Prayer? ›

“The way it was originally written by Dr. Niebuhr is as follows: God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be changed; Give me courage to change things which must be changed; And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.

What are the words of the Serenity 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. Our Fellowship's Serenity Prayer can be recited either in the first (I, me) or third (us, we) person.

What does the Serenity Prayer mean? ›

What is the meaning of the Serenity Prayer? The Serenity Prayer means letting go of situations beyond your control and taking action toward things within your control. It also means being able to know when things are within your control and when things are beyond your control.

What is the biblical meaning of serenity? ›

The first is the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed. The definition of serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. If one will seek to honestly assess a situation, not be complacent, and learn to accept things it can lead to a sense of peace.

Is there a longer version of the Serenity Prayer? ›

Extended Version of the Serenity 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.

What are some quotes about serenity? ›

Serenity quotes to calm your mind
  • “ Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.” – Thich Nhat Hanh. ...
  • “ I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.” – ...
  • “ Serenity is knowing that your worst shot is still pretty good.” –
30 Aug 2021

What does Bible say about peace and serenity? ›

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is a sinners prayer in the Bible? ›

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.

What is the 12 Step Serenity Prayer? ›

Serenity Prayer

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.

What is a good prayer for strength? ›

Dear God, please give me strength when I am weak, love when I feel forsaken, courage when I am afraid, wisdom when I feel foolish, comfort when I am alone, hope when I feel rejected, and peace when I am in turmoil. Amen.

What is serenity as an emotion? ›

Serenity can be thought of as a personal and unique way of living which includes behavioral and cognitive components that are associated with feeling calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Synonyms for serenity may include inner peacefulness, peace of mind, tranquility, contentment, equanimity, and "cool."

How do you get serenity and peace? ›

Finding Peace of Mind: 6 Steps Toward Lasting Serenity
  1. Accept what you can't change.
  2. Forgive.
  3. Stay present.
  4. Focus on yourself.
  5. Keep a journal.
  6. Connect with nature.
  7. Takeaway.

How do you use serenity in a sentence? ›

Examples of serenity
  1. Incomprehensible and invisible, eternal and unbegotten, he was throughout endless ages in serenity and quiescence. ...
  2. The promptings of worldly ambition never disturbed the serenity of his mind. ...
  3. I measured not alertness but happiness, serenity, and eagerness.
16 Nov 2022

What is the difference between happiness and serenity? ›

It takes into consideration the flux of life. Whereas happiness depends on a lack of external factors of unhappiness, serenity depends on an ability to be unbothered by all factors, good and bad.

Can prayer change any situation? ›

The Father knows what we need before we ask (Matt. 6:8), and He does not alter His eternal, sovereign plan simply on our say-so. Yet, although prayer does not actually change God's mind, prayer does change things. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

What is the prayer for change? ›

Lord, as I prepare my heart and mind for changing my behavior, I ask that your divine will be clear to me. Help me to make this change, a Holy change as I look to You for all of my strength and guidance. Allow your way of life rule in my thoughts and actions. Thank you for being there for me in this!

What is the most wise quote? ›

Quotes by Famous People
  • The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. - ...
  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. - ...
  • Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. ...
  • If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor. -
2 Nov 2022

What is the most beautiful moment in life quotes? ›

Beautiful Moments Quotes
  • “The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one's grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.” ...
  • “Eventually, my grandfather said: ...
  • “Create beautiful moments with your loved ones, so you can have wonderful memories.”

What is the most comforting scripture? ›

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

What are the 2 types of peace? ›

Generally, peace is classified into two types: Internal peace and External peace.

What is the origin of the Serenity Prayer? ›

It is believed that Neibuhr first wrote the Serenity prayer as part of a sermon, which he then used at the Heath Evangelical Union Church in Massachusetts. He continued to use it in sermons from 1934, where it spread to Alcoholics Anonymous and was quickly adopted by the group.

What word can replace serenity? ›

synonyms for serenity
  • calmness.
  • composure.
  • patience.
  • peace of mind.
  • stillness.
  • tranquillity.
  • cool.
  • peace.

Is Serenity a positive emotion? ›

In the Positive Psychology framework, serenity is one of the ten positive emotions identified by Barbara Fredrickson. She proposed that positive emotions have an evolutionary advantage that is distinct from negative emotions.

How do I know I'm saved by God? ›

The Bible clearly teaches that the moment a person turns from his sin and trusts in Jesus to be forgiven of his sin, he is saved (Acts 2:37-41). He has passed from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24) and has been declared not guilty in God's court of law (Rom 3:21-26).

What are the three types of sinners? ›

Sin is Public Enemy Number One. It always has been, and always will be.

Do God hear sinners prayers? ›

In John 9:31, the Bible says, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” Many have latched onto this statement as though it was an absolute truth – i.e., that God will NEVER hear a sinner's prayer.

How do I pray for stress and anxiety? ›

Loving God, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like a turbulent sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me.

What is the first step prayer? ›

First Step Prayer

I admit that I am powerless over my addiction. I admit that my life is unmanageable when I try to control it. The true meaning of powerlessness. Remove from me all denial of my addiction.

How many versions of the Serenity Prayer are there? ›

The Serenity Prayer and 16 Variations.

What are the three powerful prayers? ›

The prayer of protection. The prayer of transformation. The prayer of restoration.

What prayer can I say for a miracle? ›

God, please bring a miracle into my life. I know that you can do the impossible in my life and I am trusting in your promises. Thank you for being a God who sees and hears my every need. In Jesus' name, amen.

What inner peace feels like? ›

You're in control of your mind, feelings, and emotions. You're content with how things are going in your life and have no worries or concerns weighing you down. Just like happiness, peacefulness is a temporary feeling that comes and goes like other positive emotions.

Is Serenity the same as tranquility? ›

It may tell us where and how to get it. TRANQUILITY: state of being tranquil; calm, peace, peacefulness, restfulness, repose, reposefulness, calm, calmness, quiet, quietness, quietude, silence, hush, noiselessness, stillness, serenity… SERENITY: the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

What does beautiful serenity mean? ›

peaceful and calm; worried by nothing: She has a lovely serene face. Calm and relaxed.

How do I give myself inner peace? ›

What can you do to find more inner peace?
  1. Meditate. Meditation is about mental silence. ...
  2. Take a break from social media. ...
  3. Practice breathwork. ...
  4. Be kind to the world around you (and to yourself) ...
  5. Take a walk in nature. ...
  6. Laugh as much as you can. ...
  7. Express yourself. ...
  8. Practice everyday mindfulness.
17 Mar 2022

Does serenity mean calm? ›

Serenity is from Latin serenus, meaning "calm or peaceful," plus the English suffix -ity, meaning "quality or state of." Definitions of serenity. the absence of mental stress or anxiety. synonyms: ataraxis, heartsease, peace, peace of mind, peacefulness, repose.

Is Serenity a real word? ›

Meaning of serenity in English. the quality of being peaceful and calm: I admired her serenity in the midst of so much chaos. The hotel offers a tranquil haven of peace and serenity, away from the bustle of the city.

What is the feeling of serenity and tranquility? ›

Tranquillity is a sense of peace and quiet. It is the feeling you have while sitting under a starry sky, listening to the crickets. The aura of tranquility comes from the calm in the world, which makes you feel you are without a care in the world.

When was the original Serenity Prayer written? ›

The prayer was composed in 1933. The prayer spread rapidly, often without attribution, through church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 and other twelve-step programs. Niebuhr used it in a 1943 sermon at Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts.

Is there a non religious version of the Serenity Prayer? ›

Give 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.”

Did AA invent the Serenity Prayer? ›

There it was credited to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). The Serenity Prayer spread both through Niebuhr's sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s, and was later adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Step programs.

How do you accept the things you can't change? ›

How to Accept Things As They Are
  1. Notice when you are trying to change or deny things that can't be changed. ...
  2. Remind yourself that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do to change it right now. ...
  3. Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed; these feelings are healthy! ...
  4. Seek out social support.
14 Sept 2020

What is an atheist prayer? ›

Prayer can be a kind of poetry of the heart, something that atheists need not deny themselves. An atheist can express a wish or articulate a plan in prayer as a way of envisioning a positive outcome and thereby increasing its likelihood through suitable actions. As songs can inspire us, so too can prayers.

What is a peaceful prayer? ›

Loving God, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like a turbulent sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me.

What religion is the sinner's prayer? ›

Sinner's Prayer, also known as Consecration Prayer and Salvation Prayer, is an evangelical Christian term for any prayer of repentance. Individuals who feel that they've sinned are likely to use this prayer to restore or renew their relationship with God.

What do they say at the end of AA? ›

At the end of most AA meetings, we join hands and recite the Lord's Prayer. Some people find this appalling, feeling as if it forces us to accept a specific definition of a Higher Power.

Who was the first atheist in AA? ›

The history goes back to Jim Burwell, the first atheist in AA, and to the very first agnostic AA meetings. It also taps into the discrimination against nonbelievers in the fellowship.

Is AA founded in religion? ›

Following its Twelve Traditions, AA is non-professional, non-denominational, as well as apolitical and unaffiliated.
Alcoholics Anonymous.
The book cover of Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition. AA derives its name from the title of this book.
Founded atAkron, Ohio
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