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Serenity Prayer Stirs Up Doubt: Who Wrote It?

Date: July 11, 2008
QUOTE: Ms. Sifton faults Mr. Shapiro’s approach as computer-driven and deprived of historical and theological context. In an interview, she said her father traveled widely in the 1930s, preaching in college chapels and to church groups — especially Y.M.C.A.’s and Y.W.C.A.’s — and could have used the prayer then. She said she fixed the date of its composition to 1943 in her book, “The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War” (W. W. Norton, 2003), because she had relied on her parents’ recollections. Ms. Sifton said the newly unearthed quotations were merely evidence that her father’s spellbinding preaching had had a broad impact. And she said she took greatest umbrage at Mr. Shapiro’s notion that the prayer was so simple that it could have been written by almost anyone in any era.

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