Tag Archives: Philippians 4

The Serenity of the Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer begins with three requests:  the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

When I first prayed this prayer, I wondered if the order should not be changed.  I wanted the courage to act, to move, to change things.  I sought the power to DO God’s will and to ACT in God’s name.  Should not courage come first?

Serenity in Winter

Serenity in Winter

Instead the prayer starts with the serenity to accept things that cannot be change, to be at peace with the way things are before any changes come.  Four years ago I wrote about the Serenity Prayer and the challenges of accepting Minnesota winters.  The weather is definitely something I cannot change (though I can change where I live).

The weather is not the only thing I cannot change.  On a more profound level – and where I think AA and Al-Anon see the prayers connection to their program – I cannot change other people’s behavior or attitudes.  Oh, I can love and care for, cajole and advise other people.  But I cannot change them.   A spouse or parent is unable to change the addictive behavior of a loved one.  A family intervention might help a spouse or child seek rehab but ultimately the alcoholic or addict must seek healing for themselves.

Backpack Tent 2014

I carry a one man tent when backpacking

But it does not need to be as dramatic as alcoholism.  In marriage, husbands and wives need to able to love, accept and support each other as they are.  When I first married Carolyn, I thought I could change her to share my love of backpacking.  I thought that I simply had to get her in the right setting and she would see the light.  I was wrong.  Though we both enjoy day hikes and the beauty of God’s creation, she does not share my fascination with sleeping on the ground in sweaty clothes after eating dehydrated gruel.   At the same time, she has come to accept that she will not expunge my fascination with carrying a forty pound pack up and down trails for days on end. Instead we accept each other as we are while enjoying the passions we share.

One passion that Carolyn and I share is our love for our grandchildren.

One passion that Carolyn and I share is our love for our grandchildren.

The prayer uses the word serenity as the heart of this acceptance.  Serenity is NOT the grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it attitude, but rather the calm, internal state of mind that sees reality for what it is: reality.  I remember experiencing such serenity when my father died twenty years ago.  He had contracted pancreatic cancer and then had a debilitating stroke.  When I sat by his bedside during his final hours, I felt sadness that the father I loved was dying, but also serenity that this was his reality. I could not change it.

To develop such serenity takes practice.   We may have moments of instant serenity, but to have consistent serenity takes the practice of prayer and meditation. Saint Paul connected prayer and peace.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

How have you experience serenity?

Lord Jesus, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

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Strong Peace

A favorite scripture verse of mine is Philippians 4:7 “The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Like many in this crazy, stressed-out, constantly-running-to-catch-up world, I long for peace. Peace that will last not just for a moment, but for days, months, years. Peace that will calm my stormy seas.

Paul describes God’s peace in some unique ways. First, he states that God’s peace will surpass human knowledge or understanding. This means that God’s peaces comes even when I have not figured everything out or have everything under my control. The future may seem very fuzzy and relationships may be very rocky, still God’s peace can rule. After all it is God’s peace, not mine.

Second he testifies that God’s peace is strong, because it guards us. Paul recognizes that there will be many struggles and conflicts in our daily life. The evil one will harass us. Yet God’s peace is a rock or fortress that guards our hearts and minds from the assaults

Third, God’s peace guards both our hearts and our minds. The heart is the seat of our emotions and the mind is the home of our thoughts. God’s peace is to rule in our emotional and intellectual lives, our feelings and our thoughts.

Finally God’s peace directs us to Jesus Christ. Jesus was a model of peace to his disciples, sleeping in the boat when the stormy sea threatened (Mark 4:35-41). God’s peace is not found in the absence of problems, but with the presence of Jesus.

Right now, as you read this, take a moment to close your eyes and visualize God’s loving, peaceful arms surrounding you. Perhaps you can visualize yourself floating in the peaceful river above. Take a deep breath and say, “God’s Peace surrounds me.” Take another deep breath and say it again, “God’s peace surrounds me.” Practice that breath prayer and discover God’s abiding peace is always near.

Lord Jesus, breathe into me your peace.