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Monthly Archives: December 2019

The Serenity Prayer Meaning

The Serenity Prayer

This week we’re going to be looking at one of the most famous and inspiring prayers of the 20th Century – “The Serenity Prayer”, and I’m going to be exploring what the full version of this prayer means and how we can use it in our lives. Often known by its first line “God grant me the serenity”, this inspirational writing has guided so many on their journey towards drinking in the peace of Christ. In an age full of self-help, mindfulness and searching for inner peace, these words carry a message that has resonated with many, particularly those who are caught in addictions or who are in a difficult place in life , especially through the work of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). There are of course some very practical ways to feel at peace. For example, the tranquility of a restful day, the practice of meditation, the comfort of a massage, aromatherapy or exercise, or the wisdom of self-care. Yet this prayer poem highlights the gift of peace given to us by the Holy Spirit. And this is a special peace that is only found in Him.

  • To begin with, let’s think about the meaning of first words “Grant me”. God is the source, the very beginning of peace and the giver of peace. This peace is granted to us by the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus. So the words “Grant me” preface the other lines here, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”! I see it as the “wall of the fall”, for we are all fallen, and this causes a huge barrier in our lives. I can’t change my age, I can’t change my family set up, I can’t change my physical body, my humanity, my humanness! But God can grant us the serenity we need to handle these things. This is an endless process of confession to God of the feelings around this “wall of the fall”, and an endless outpouring of the Holy Spirit who brings love, peace, joy and hope into our souls!
  • Secondly, we find that the third line also has the prefix of “grant me” the courage to change the things I can! The Holy Spirit gives us the “keys of change and renewal”. I can change, how I feel about my age…. I can change my family relationships and dynamics…I can change my feelings about my physical body and care for it well and I can change my human responses. How? By constantly walking with Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, to renew and to restore. And then “grant me” the wisdom to know the difference between those things I can’t change and those that I can! This is also a gift of the Spirit. It’s about stepping in time with the Spirit and being prompted by the Spirit to pray. Sometimes we can start accepting things that God would want us to change, and other times we can seek change in an area that requires deep acceptance. In an ever-changing confusing world, it is often hard to see these things, which is why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us.
  • Thirdly, let’s focus on that word “time”, living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. This line carries an important meaning for us in an age of career ambitions and achievements and with increasing leisure time and medical science extending life expectancy. Look for a moment at your watch or clock and just watch those hands turn. Allow God to highlight your time concerns. “Grant me” is the gift we receive so that we are really pausing, really resting, really allowing peace to reign! We rest in the timeless connection to heaven. It is only by connecting with eternity that we master time rather than being overwhelmed with “saving time”, “holding back time”, making sure that I’m “not wasting time”! You see as children of the living God we have an eternal purpose, a destiny and a home where time is not relevant…. only the present which continues…. so again, the words prefacing this prayer “grant me” leads us to receive the ability to live with “time”. it’s a gift!
  • And finally, Jesus came to earth and walked here. God Incarnate through the rubbish of anger, hate, bloodshed, abuse, robbery, sickness and pain. Yet he had the “wonder of heaven” in his heart! How did he endure the pain, the shame, the suffering? Was it not the knowledge of eternity that he carried, knowing the love of the Father and the presence of this divine love in His life? This is what carried him onwards! And so again the words “Grant me”, suggest we will need help from the Holy Spirit to accept hardships as the pathway to peace, taking as he did this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it and trusting that he will make all things right. So again, “Grant me”, “the love I need to walk through the rubbish”. What we need is the love of the Father, His divine gift of love and vision. It is imparted to us through the Holy Spirit into our very souls, so that we might be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever and ever in the next.

When we call out deep within for God’s help with these four areas of the serenity prayer, the Holy Spirit living within us will be our help! It is a moment by moment prayer, powerful in every way because we are not alone, Jesus is with us by the power of his Holy Spirit. That is good news!

We have a short meditation on the Serenity prayer which you can watch below. Do subscribe to Prayerscapes if you are enjoying these reflections on prayer, and until next time, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The Serenity Prayer (full version)

(attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr)

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.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.


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