“The Gift of Presence”

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus 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,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

This is the later version of Niebuhr’s prayer that came to be known simply as the “Serenity Prayer”. Its simple wisdom immediately captured the hearts and minds of those who heard it, memorized it, and repeated it often. The more I live and breathe this prayer the more I sense the essential teachings of Jesus and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit living in the words so that the sum of the prayer is greater than the words themselves.

Surrender to God and what is. Do my part. The paradox of the both/and is dying to ourselves (carrying our cross) is the way to live.  (Matthew 16:24-25: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.) Peterson’s translation of the first beatitude Matthew 5:3 goes to the truth of the way of Jesus and the cross: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

This week I’m focusing on, “Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time.” This is the prayer of presence. May I be present in my own life…today… this moment. Jesus said, What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:31-34 MSG)

Jesus is not advocating irresponsibility. He isn’t suggesting that planning is of no value or that you should just show up for work when you feel like it. But he is giving us a smack in the head to wake us up so we pay attention to our lives today…this moment. Jonathon Morris writes: Jesus simply invites us to re-prioritize our concerns and to realize that most of what troubles us really doesn’t deserve so much emotional energy and what really does matter could use more of it.

We’ll get the white board out this Sunday and brainstorm the obstacles to being awake and present in our lives, and how we’re learning to pay attention to the “now” of the present moment.

Until then…