Monday, June 17, 2013

Serenity Prayer

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she told me that she is struggling to get certain parts of her life under control. She has just joined a support group that employs the twelve steps. She went on to say that while she knows she needs the help and support of the group, the Serenity Prayer, which opens the meetings, is a stumbling block for her. The wording just doesn't feel right.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Her sentiments resonated with me. Last year was one of the most stressful of my life. In addition to the joy of having a baby, I was going through some intensely painful personal issues. One thing that I found helpful was the Serenity Prayer. Not just saying it, which I did over and over, but really understanding its meaning and trying to live it.

I, too, struggled with the wording of the prayer. It's not that I don't believe in God, although by my way of thinking, It's the Divine, or the Universe. The part of the prayer I take issue with, is asking a higher power to grant me a favor, if you will. I believe the power is already within me, and with this prayer, I am both acknowledging that and asking the Universe to help me muster the strength to use it.

The concept of the prayer really helped. So, I decided on this, albeit cumbersome, personal wording:
I ask the Universe to support me in calling forth my own power for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Now, some might think: that's a lot of new-age mumbo jumbo, or, that my wording is just semantics. That's okay. What I think, is that it genuinely means something to me, and that is:
#1 I can only do me. I have the power to decide to be the best me I can. That is not easy, nor it is necessarily going to get me everything I want. It is a heck of a lot, though. 
#2 No matter how much I want something to happen, or someone to change, it is not within my power to make it so. I have no control over what other people do, nor can I control the actions and beliefs of others.
#3 is the kicker: whenever I feel stressed, angry, disappointed, sad, etc. it helps to think about the points above and reassess how I approach any given situation and what I hope to get out of it.
It serves me well to remember all of this. It helped me through a very difficult time. The prayer didn't make the situation better, nor did it take away the pain and sadness. What it did, is help me understand who I am, who I want to be, and that in the end, that is what is in my control. It gave me perspective.

Even though things did not turn out the way I had hoped, I am steadfast in my faith that things will turn out as they should.

If you're searching for some Yogic wisdom on this topic, these two Yoga Journal articles are a good place to start: Spiritual Surrender and The Practice of Surrender.

No matter what you call it - Serenity Prayer or Ishvara Pranidhana, it's all Yoga to me.

How has prayer helped you?

Photo credit: Robert Kiss


  1. I agree, it is the beginning of the prayer that doesn't fit everybody's beliefs. Acceptance, courage and wisdom are three difficult concepts to apply when difficult situations occur. The theory is great but the practice is sometimes lacking.

  2. Exactly, Sally! I'm working on the practice!

  3. As a person who strives for centered life and living, I appreciate the reframe. I embrace the concept of the Universe as the guiding, supporting and force that brings me through each day. It may not always go as I like, but I like to believe that every moment, every experience, every opportunity is one to learn from. Thanks for sharing and the inspired woman that you are!

  4. Thanks, Phyllis. It sounds like we're going about this whole thing in a similar fashion. It's nice to know there are others out there!