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Debate surfaces over origins of the 'Serenity Prayer'.

The origins of the "Serenity Prayer"--the authorship is generally attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr--have been called into question by the alumni magazine at Yale University.

Niebuhr, one of the most prominent Protestant theologians of the 20th century and a Yale alumnus, said he penned the prayer. His wife and daughter say he wrote it in 1943.

"It is entirely possible that Niebuhr composed the prayer much earlier than he himself later remembered," writes Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, in an article in the July/August issue of Yale Alumni Magazine.

"But it also appears possible, indeed plausible, that the great theologian was unconsciously inspired by an idea from elsewhere."

The debate resembles a legal battle over the popular religious poem "Footprints in the Sand." In May, a New York man whose mother claimed to have written the poem sued two other people who also claimed authorship. That case is pending in federal court.

The "Serenity Prayer" was popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Shapiro combed databases of historical newspapers and found references to versions of the prayer dating as far back as the 1930s by speakers such as a YWCA executive secretary and a children's home superintendent, with no reference to Niebuhr.

Elisabeth Sifton, Niebuhr's daughter, said Shapiro's research is not sufficient for prayers, which are often first presented orally and are sometimes shared and recalled for years before being printed.

"To me, his new discoveries simply suggest that in the years before World War H, Reinhold Niebuhr's voice reached many more American churches and organizations than we previously realized," responded Sifton, author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War.

--Religion News Service
Serenity Prayer

 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.
 Living one day at a time;
 enjoying one moment at a time;
 accepting hardships as the
 pathway to peace;
 taking, as he did, this sinful world
 as it is, not as I would have it;
 trusting that he will make all
 things right
 if I surrender to his will;
 that I may be reasonably happy in
 this life
 and supremely happy with him
 forever in the next.
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 25, 2008
Previous Article:Quotable & notable.
Next Article:Bishop, priests in mediation.

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