A distinguished book editor called Fred R. Shapiro has researched a number of appearances of the Serenity Prayer that appeared before its publication by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1951. Niebuhr was a noted theologian who died in 1971 and is usually attributed as the author of the prayer. His preferred version is as follows:
God, give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other
After reading his article (Yale Alumni Magazine, July/)Aug 2008.p.35-39) and one written in response by Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton (p.40-41) I find myself persuaded that while there may be antecedents of sorts to Niebuhr’s publication of the prayer, the way a pastor prays the same or very similar prayers over time that become shared and ‘picked up’ by others makes it likely that the prayer is really and truly Niebuhr’s work. At any rate it is a wonderful prayer.
It ahs set me wondering –without any answers of course—as to the place of resistance in the face of change. These days in church and state we see sophisticated and always well funded resistance to change that is already underway. Should there be a phrase about knowing when to resist change? Or are all such conservative impulses ultimately doomed? Would it not be better to embrace and shape change that is underway? Your thoughts are welcome.