TODAY IS Reinhold Niebuhr’s Birthday

[This famous American Protestant theologian is perhaps best known as the author of The Serenity Prayer. This prayer is beloved and prayed by people in and outside of 12 Step recovery programs. Here is the entire prayer.]


O 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.

Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardships as the parthway to peace.
Taking, as he did, the sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that he will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever. Amen!

(Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971)

[The photo can be found here.]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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2 Responses to TODAY IS Reinhold Niebuhr’s Birthday

  1. Paul Wharton says:

    [The following comment was made by a subscriber to this blog. At my insistence — not his — I am posting it without his name, but as what he is: a friend of Bill W.]

    Thank you, Father Paul, for this reminder of Reinhold’s birthday and the full text of his Serenity Prayer.  I find it interesting that, although I first learned this prayer through 12-step recovery many years ago and have repeated it, probably thousands of times, during my challenging and sometimes very difficult years of sobriety,  it is still a reminder of the reality of life, both within and outside the 12-step program; it is a reminder of what we must do to maintain our sobriety and our life.  We must find a way to let go and let God.  

    The full text of Reinhold’s prayer seems to convey a personal plea toGod, more-so in the one-paragraph shortened version than in the language of the longer version which seems to place God “out there,” so to speak.  Perhaps it was God’s intent for us to adopt the shorter, easier-to remember version so that it becomes a personal prayer between us and God.  Perhaps God intends for us to re-visit the longer version once in a while to remind us of the sinfulness of the world and how it impacts our sobriety and our overall happiness.  It also reminds us of the full truth of God’s desire for our life.  

    It also occurs to me that this celebration of Reinhold’s birthday is a reminder of the birthday we celebrate EACH DAY when we adopt the simplicity of the Serenity Prayer.  We are not in charge.  We are not in control.  We are expected only to make the decisions about what to change and to accept what we cannot.  The bottom line as I understand it  is to turn the process of the changing over to God.  God really likes that part!  

    Although 12-step programs encourage members to adopt a God of their understanding, it is clear from Reinhold’s Serenity Prayer and from Bill Wilson’s wisdom that, no matter how we conceptualize this God, we are reaching out to a power much beyond our total understanding for comfort, love, forgiveness, guidance, solution, truth, and of course continued sobriety.  It IS possible, as long as we can learn to flow and bask in the simple truths of the Serenity Prayer.

  2. Good comment. This prayer is wonderful,

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