How a Revolutionary Prayer Can Make You a World Changer (Part Two)
by Rick Love
Reinold Neibuhr’s serenity prayer is revolutionary! These three short petitions about serenity, courage and wisdom create a prayer that can be a life-changer. Praying this prayer will make you more peaceful and productive. Who doesn’t want that?
But this prayer isn’t magical. I am not saying that if you pray this prayer 3 times a day, suddenly you’ll be a world-changer. I am saying that understanding this prayer and praying its main themes as a spiritual discipline will transform your life.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
You are not accepting the status quo by praying this way. You are acknowledging that you are limited, you have a unique calling, and that it must be your focus. Praying this way will help you walk in peace (for more on this see part one of this blog).
“God grant me the courage to change the things I can.”
This second petition will help you work for peace. You can’t change everything, but you can change “your world” – the people and organizations in your sphere of influence. And this takes courage.
Jesus says his children are blessed peacemakers. He commands us repeatedly to seek reconciliation and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:9, 23-25, 43-48). This means we have to engage our opponents and even intervene in other people’s conflict sometimes.
But who wants to do that? When we face conflict our natural tendency is fight or flight. We either blow up or clam up. It takes courage to lean into conflict with love.
Or what about the fear of failure? Who wants to look bad?
John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Association of Churches, used to say that faith is spelled “r-i-s-k!” The life of faith demands risk, and so we need courage.
That is why the command to be courageous echoes throughout the Bible (Joshua 1:6-9; I Kings 2:2; 2 Chronicles 32:6; Psalm 31:24; Daniel 10:19: John 16:33). “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
World-changers find courage on their knees. It is through prayer that we find courage to bring peace into our spheres of influence. It is through prayer that we find courage to take risks.
The serenity prayer teaches us to pray for courage. So does the psalmist: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
Stay tuned for part three on the serenity prayer next week.