Depth Makes the Difference

Recently I included the 12 Step version of the Serenity Prayer in an email, and it started me thinking about the original version of Reinhold Niebuhr’s (1892-1971) prayer. It is stunning so I thought I would share it with you.

God give us grace to accept with serenity things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things that should be changed,

And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it,

Trusting You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will,

So that I will be reasonably happy in this life and extremely happy with You for ever in the next.



When we only look at the shortened version, which is an adaption of the first three lines, we get a practical process. If we use the whole prayer, we get a way to live life that is God centred which is deeply spiritually meaningful. I find it interesting that in our modern day the pace of life is accelerating meaning that things must be simplified to keep up. It is my opinion that while it may be expedient to break things back to the essence of what they mean, we lose the richness and depth of the original. It is in the depth of our interactions, both spiritual and in the natural, that the fabric of our life can change.


In his book the Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster makes this statement, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” This book was published 40 years ago so I am sure things have worsened since then. A focus on the clever and the gifted has continued while not looking for the depth that will that make us strong and robust disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.


It has been said that “the Church” in its broadest sense is a mile wide and an inch deep. I must say that statement saddens me. For me, the only response I can reasonably make is to let it begin with me. So, I have had to focus on slowing down my lifestyle. Doing less but doing it better. Taking time, allowing God to speak in deeper, richer ways through His Word and through the prayer above. As I spend time with God, I am finding new hope that life can be exponentially better through doing less. God is no longer on my “to do” list. As the parenting analogy goes, love is spelt TIME. If I truly profess love for God, He wants my time because it is irreplaceable this side of eternity.


May I suggest that you spend time with God and this prayer for a week or two, maybe looking at one line at a time and see what happens? I would be really interested in your story.


As Robert Frost said:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Discussion Question: What is the most meaningful part of the full version of the Serenity prayer to you and why?



Paul Monahan