taking the words of Jesus seriously

Many from a recovery background know of the power and peace that come from what is commonly known as “The Serenity Prayer.” Written by the Lutheran Pastor and Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971), in the early 1940s. Its first lines were adopted by the burgeoning Alcoholics Anonymous and included in AA materials as early as 1942. It is still recited in almost all AA meetings and is a staple for all those seeking freedom from addiction.  

“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.”

During our time of planetary sorrows, I was reminded of Timothy King’s book “Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us.” He proposes that “we are all addicts” and that “human beings are addictive by nature.”

He wrote, “The question for each of us is not whether we are addicted but how we are addicted, and to what. Denial of the existence of addiction in your life is not a mark of moral accomplishment but a sign of blindness”.

READ: Reaching Out in a Time of Isolation

Yes, it is certain that these challenging times bring to focus and confront the addictions within our culture that we do not like living without. They turn up the heat of the refiner’s fire to discover what we truly love, the good the bad, and even the ugly. These painful times can burn away the false gods of money, celebrity, power, affluence, and intellectualism that keep us talking about being like Jesus instead of actually being like Jesus. 

Such is the message of the serenity prayer. It is a message of powerlessness over the unchangeable: yes, the army of God marches on its knees. It is a message of courage: the courage to stand up and say “No” or “Yes,” to reach out with help and prayer, to be captivated by the Kingdom of God rather than anything this world has to offer (Matt 65:247-34). And it is an acknowledgment that wisdom comes from God, and without that prayerful connection, we wander lost.

I offer during these difficult days Reinhold Neibuhr full prayer as he spoke it to his congregation that first Sunday morning after penning it. 

“The Serenity 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.

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. Amen.”

About The Author


Stephen Carey is the founding pastor of Main Street Mission, an inner city Christian street ministry. For more than 20 years, Main Street Mission has been “seeking and saving that which was lost” on the streets of Manchester, NH from a small storefront church. Steve is also active in recovery from substance abuse and is author of "9 Keys of Recovery," an addiction recovery program based on the teachings of Jesus. Steve and his wife Carol of 35 years are the proud parents of three boys. They live in the southern NH area with their springer spaniel, Oreo. Steve enjoys writing, fly fishing, and woodworking. View more of Steve’s work at WWW.OrnansThreshingFloor.com Ornan’s Threshing Floor is a selection of journal entries, sermon parts and pieces, and both secular and faith-based writings.

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