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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: The Serenity prayer has become so famous because of its association with Alcoholics Anonymous as a personal prayer, spoken in the first person singular.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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That's a wonderful way to use the prayer, a fine way, but I felt it was important to remember that it was written originally in the fir...
That's a wonderful way to use the prayer, a fine way, but I felt it was important to remember that it was written originally in the first person plural at the height of the Second World War. In the summer of 1943, when it was written, it was not at all sure that the Allies would win the war. It had been going on for years. It had gone on for two full years before the United States even joined in the war -- a cause that my father was deeply involved in and cared about. It wasn't clear how long it would take to win the war. I felt that a person such as the author of this prayer, an active clergyman and teacher and pastor and writer who had been working on issues of social justice and collective concerns about the community, could not but have these thoughts in mind when writing such a prayer. It would be inconceivable for a clergyman not to think of these things when composing such words in 1943. There was terrible pain and loss and grief that we all sustained in our private lives, but surely we as a community, as a city, as a village like the village my father wrote the prayer for, or as a country were suffering unimaginable grief and loss in 1943. Some of it was very hard to accept. There were conditions, not only the wartime conditions but conditions in our own country of social injustice and economic disparities, of difficult racial problems, all of which had concerned my father for many decades. It is inconceivable to me that he wouldn't have had these in mind as well, as he wrote a prayer like this. The question of when to decide what to do, trying to have the wisdom to decide whether to try to change something or to accept it, was something that had been occupying everybody throughout the 1930s and 1940s. When do we decide to get involved in this war, for example, was a subject that had taken the United States two full years to answer. So it seemed to me that it was germane.

This is very much the situation today. It's not similar; it's comparable. We have comparable difficulties -- not the same difficulties, but our difficulties today are to figure out this strange world, which is neither peace nor war. The United States sustained a terrific attack on 9/11, which was not like a war. It was a crime, of course, a terrible crime. But it felt also a bit like a war. We have been asked to respond to it as if it were a war, but there is no clear indication of exactly who is the enemy, or where he or she is to be found. And we are asked to respond to this situation in new ways. We are being asked to change, in some ways. On the other hand, we are being asked to accept things and not change them. It seems to me the question of what we're going to accept -- we as a collective, we Americans, or we New Yorkers, or we people of Massachusetts, or whatever it may be -- what we are being asked to change or to accept should be asked anew every single day, just the way Alcoholics Anonymous people ask it anew every single day individually.
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