The Serenity Prayer
Have you ever, to your annoyance, lost a book when you are on the last chapter? It happened to me last week. I was on my way to St Andrews for a Baptist Ministers’ Conference. I decided to go by train, so that I could relax and read a book, but the journey involved three changes; one at Inverness, one at Perth and one at Dundee, before finally boarding a bus at Leuchars for the last leg to St Andrews. The interruptions were not ideal but I did get some reading done. That is until I changed at Perth and, during the wait, I left my book sitting on a bench only to be missed after the train had pulled away. And it was nearly finished.
Thankfully the book was not a murder mystery but, as usual, a book on theology. I was studying the history of Reformed Spirituality and the book was about to finish with recent developments in spirituality such as the Iona Community and the Taize Community. Of course I can always reorder the book or find out about these movements from other resources on my bookshelf. However, there was one more movement mentioned that I had not previously considered to be spiritual in background and that was Alcoholics Anonymous.
The movement started in the United States in the 1930’s by two men, Dr. William Wilson and Robert Smith, both of whom had been influenced by the Oxford Group, a kind of Catholic renewal movement. They integrated the twelve step programme with Christian spirituality in a way that included the gospel, which they deeply believed. They were often repelled by churches.
We, as Christians, would want to associate with those who struggle with addiction today. At our own church we welcome people, on a Tuesday night, who struggle with addictions, mental health issues, social and all sorts of problems. Like Jesus, we seek not to be biased and would even consider our gathering as a kind of community, some of whom have ventured to join our gathered community on a Sunday morning.
As we stand with our brothers and sisters who struggle with addictions let’s remember that their problems, just like many of ours, are spiritual problems. Addiction is part of their DNA and not just a simple choice. The battle to break addiction can be won and the AA’s regular group meetings, the twelve step treatment and personal mentoring can lead to spiritual change.
Who can we pray for this week that they may be delivered from addiction? I am sure that at least one, or more, names come to mind so let’s do so. A widely used text in the spirituality of AA is the ‘Serenity Prayer’, written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Let’s pray it then. And by the way, if you are passing through Perth Railway Station, look out for my book!
God grant me the grace to accept with serenity
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference,
living one day at a time;
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace,
taking as you did this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that you will make all things right,
If I surrender to your will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with you forever
in the next. Amen.
 Bradley Holt, Spiritualties in the Twentieth Century in The Story of Christian Spirituality: Two Thousand Years from East to West, General Editor Gordon Mursell (Oxford: Lion Publishing plc., 2001), 354
 Reinhold Niebuhr first published 1980.