The Serenity Prayer became part of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 when a member of AA read it at the New York Herald Tribune obituary and presented it to the AA’s co-founder and his staff members. Connecting with the message, they modified it, printed and passed it around to their members. Little did they know at the time, this prayer would become one of the key spiritual tools used by virtually all 12-step recovery groups. Written by theologian Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr, the modified version is quoted as follows:
“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.”
The Serenity Prayer is known to provide simple wisdom for the complicated issues people face and to put the focus on acceptance and action. Some say AA should not talk about God as it can make recovering individuals feel uneasy about their beliefs. On the other hand, many attending AA accept recovery as a spiritual path where the Serenity Prayer is the reminder that they are not alone and that they can rely on a “higher power” for their journey to recovery.
The serenity prayer reminds us that acceptance is the key to happiness. There are many things we have no power over and trying to fight against or resist the way those things are is a waste of energy and time and can only lead to more suffering. Serenity comes with acceptance.
Change requires courage because it is taking a step into the unknown. The reason why so many people settle for suffering is fear. Courage is required to make the needed changes which will lead to a better life in sobriety.
The wisdom to know the difference in what is within our control. The wisdom may come from prayer and meditation or talking to others already on their path to sobriety. It’s empowering for recovering addicts to come to believe there are many things they will be able to control and change, and they should take action when those actions improve their life.
Also referred to as “the AA acceptance prayer,” the Serenity Prayer is usually recited at the beginning of almost all 12-step group meetings, and in some meetings at the end as well. The simple message of the Serenity Prayer has emerged as one of the wise sayings of our times and it has helped millions of people both in and out of the recovery community. It is believed that saying the prayer activates willingness and positivity by promoting positive thinking that everyone can find success in life.
The Complete Serenity Prayer
Here is the unabridged Serenity Prayer:
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.
by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)