by Rick Love
When I was a young leader one of my favorite sayings was, “There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.”
Of course I wanted to be the one who would make things happen.
One of my favorite questions to ask friends and colleagues was, “What are you doing to change the world?”
One of my favorite Bible verses: “But the people who know their God will display strength and take action” (Daniel 11:32).
I am a hard core activist! As a follower of Jesus my purpose is to speak about the kingdom, demonstrate the kingdom and pray that the kingdom would come “on earth as it is in heaven.” My daily routine of early morning prayer fuels my passion and guides my path.
So when I first heard the famous serenity prayer I thought it wasn’t radical enough about changing the world. It seemed too passive. I didn’t want serenity, I wanted fervency!
But now I believe it is a masterpiece for those who want to work for peace and walk in peace.
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.
I have made peace with the serenity prayer! Let me tell you how and why.
In the past I did not want to pray for peace about things I could not change because I was pretty confident God and I could change anything! In one sense that is true… if you are doing what God has called you to do.
But we have limitations. And just because I want to change something doesn’t mean God is calling me to do it.
Even Jesus was limited. He did not raise all the dead or heal all the sick around him. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19, 30). In other words, he had to discern what God was calling him to do. No more, no less.
My colleague, Jamey Lewis, once shared with me the importance of distinguishing between our sphere of influence and our sphere of concern. Our sphere of influence refers to the network of people and organizations God has put in our lives. We serve as change-agents primarily within this God-given sphere.
But activists usually have a sphere of concern as well – which encompasses a larger network of people and organizations.
My sphere of influence is primarily in Christian-Muslim peacemaking. This is where I work for peace.
My sphere of concern includes race relations, seeing the church love the LGBTQ community, and creation care (to name just three).
We can and should pray about things outside our sphere of influence and support those in our sphere of influence who have a different calling.
But what happens when we focus on our sphere of concern rather than our sphere of influence? What happens when we don’t accurately discern God’s will for us and try to do more than he calls us to do? We become anxious and burdened. We lose our joy and our inner peace, which has negative repercussions in our relationships.
So the serenity prayer provides soul-satisfying guidance. “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change!” When we accept the things we cannot change, we walk in peace.
But what makes this prayer revolutionary is its spiritual breadth – in only three petitions! We need serenity, courage and wisdom to live a more focused and fruitful life. The serenity prayer is a “master-peace.”
(Stay tuned for part two on the serenity prayer next week.)