When have you turned yourself over to a Higher Power, and what was the result?
One of the most well-known modern prayers is the Serenity Prayer, said first by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr during World War II. It is now central to the recovery from addiction being achieved in thousands of 12-step groups: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
When I reflect on this prayer, I notice that God is not being asked to perform a miracle and eliminate a person’s desire for alcohol or narcotics. Instead, God is being asked to give serenity, courage and wisdom to people so that they can become well. For people seeking recovery, God is a Higher Power whose praise and reputation extend “to the far corners of the earth” (Psalm 48:10).
The Serenity Prayer teaches that the healing power of prayer comes from putting ourselves completely in the hands of an almighty and loving God. As Psalm 48 says, “We dwell on your faithful love, God, in your temple” (verse 9). Dwelling on God’s faithful love means living in a love that is trustworthy, unfailing and steadfast. By entrusting themselves to the love of God, millions of people have become sober through 12-step groups across our country and around the world.
Psalm 48 also challenges us to align ourselves with two of God’s greatest qualities, righteousness and justice: “Your strong hand is filled with righteousness,” says the psalm. “Let Mount Zion be glad; let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your acts of justice!” (verses 10-11). When we turn ourselves over to a Higher Power, we open ourselves to being shaped according to the character of God.
Unfortunately, righteousness is often misunderstood, associated with being “self-righteous” or “holier-than-thou.” But the Hebrew word tzadeqah means living in right relationship and treating people with fairness. God is righteous because God is in right relationship with all that God has made.
In a similar way, the words “acts of justice” might make us think of a criminal getting proper punishment. But the Hebrew word for justice, mishpat, means fairness. Justice means that a judge does not take bribes and favor the rich over the poor. In the Bible, God always has special concern for justice for widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor.
When we live in God’s faithful love, we turn ourselves over to a Higher Power who gives us the serenity, courage and wisdom we need to live fully and well. We also become people who live in right relationships and who take actions to make things fair by doing justice in our daily lives.
God, help me to dwell on your faithful love, and to grow in righteousness and justice. Amen.