Several years ago when we first produced our biographical program on Reinhold Niebuhr, we did a considerable amount of research trying to verify the source of the Serenity Prayer and arrived at this understanding. Even Reinie himself questioned his inspiration.

For many others, the provenance of the oft-quoted verse remained uncertain, including Fred Shapiro, the Yale librarian who edits The Yale Book of Quotations. Skepticism reigned when it came to attributing the prayer to Niebuhr. But, with one graduate student’s research, Shapiro’s mind has been changed. With no clear-cut originating source, I’m sure most skeptics will never be fully comfortable proclaiming Reinie as the definitive source.

When we were producing this show, I planned on creating a way for people to submit photographs and descriptions of all the creative ways the Serenity Prayer has manifested itself in daily life — from home decor to bumper stickers, from church banners to working mottoes. I ran out of time. Perhaps this is a project worthy of reviving?

Image caption: portrait of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr preaching at Union Theological Seminary. (photo: Gjon Mili//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)


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10Reflections

Reflections

Yes, it is very much worthy of reviving! I think such a collection would be lovely to see.

I enjoy Jesus kitsch/mass-produced contemporary iconography so this would be a really cool offshoot of that personal interest!

I enjoyed reading more about Niebuhr's comments about the prayer he wrote. We sometimes think we are to be the perfect example of the ideal. It made me laugh and lifted my own spirits to read his words.

Catherine, I am currently reading Niebuhr's "The Irony of American History" again, but this time with a much more contemplative approach rather than an information-gathering hoard fest. Reinie has an uncanny way of constantly challenging himself and identifying the necessary hypocrisy and paradoxes of nations and societies, and especially himself.

The Serenity Prayer is a simple expression with few words that has proved to be a lifeline for many in dealing with challenges in one's personal journeys of faith, service and the future. It is universal, yet nuanced in each language's translation of it. I think it would be a facsinating program: the threads of much major theological thought interwoven into a few precous words that underscore human fraility and human power as supported by the Divine.

I would love to see the art/expressions. It might be a way to see into the soul of people as they seek to connect with God. But it would spark some great conversations.

His daughter's or granddaughter's biography quoted the prayer as originally given:
"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things that should be changed, & the wisdom
to distinguish the one from the other."
(I got this standing up in a bookstore about 7 years ago)

The serenity prayer is based upon the writings of the Greek philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 55 - A.D. 135). Here is a brief quote from wikipedia.com:

"To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power."

The serenity prayer is based upon the writings of the Greek philosopher Epictetus (AD 55-AD 135). Here is a quote from wikipedia.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E...

o Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power... The person who followed these precepts would achieve happiness.

There are plenty of ancient ways for the Serenity Prayer, one can try the art of living session for the same.
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