Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
The verses of this psalm remind me of my favorite prayer, by my favorite theologian and public intellectual, Reinhold Niebuhr, whose writings I first came across in a third year political philosophy class at Trinity College, Dublin, taught by an American professor. I loved Niebuhr’s clear simple writing, and robust but pluralist views on international affairs.
Niebuhr was initially a social democrat, and later moved towards inclusive liberalism, but he was also a supporter of the “just war” theory, primarily because of Nazism and fascism, and an opponent of communism.
The Serenity Prayer, which has conclusively been proven in recent years to indeed have been authored by Niebuhr, I cite (below) in its fullest version. I say it to myself often several times a day when I am worried, hopeful, thoughtful. I say only the first verse, but the second is important too:
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; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.
Michael H. C. McDowell
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, John 12:20-36