What Is the Serenity Prayer? (2022)

What Is the Serenity Prayer?

The Serenity Prayer was originally written by a religious scholar around 1932. Since that time, the prayer has been modified and adapted for numerous purposes, including as a mantra used by Alcoholic Anonymous and other 12-step programs.

The Serenity Prayer is one of the key spiritual tools used by virtually all 12-step recovery support groups. The following is the adaptation that's generally used in these groups:

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.

This article discusses the history of the Serenity Prayer and how it is utilized as a part of a 12-step support group. It also explores some of the effects that the prayer may have on people in alcohol and substance use recovery.

The Complete Serenity Prayer

The following is the original unabridged Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):

God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

(Video) The Serenity Prayer

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,

(Video) What does the serenity prayer mean?

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


History of the Serenity Prayer

Although millions of people both in and out of the recovery community have been helped and strengthened by the Serenity Prayer's simple lines, few are aware the first stanza was written by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr. He was an American theologian, philosopher, and longtime dean and professor of Applied Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

It is unclear exactly when he wrote the well-known and beloved prayer, but it seems to have been sometime around 1932 or 1933.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) adopted the prayer in 1941 when an AA member saw it in The New York Herald Tribune and asked the AA secretary, Ruth Hock, to see if it could be printed on distributable cards. She wrote to an AA member who was a printer in Washington, DC, sent him the clipping, and asked him how much it would cost to print up some wallet-size copies.

The printer liked the prayer so much ("I can't recall any sentence that packs quite the wallop that that does," he reported said) that he sent 500 cards to her for free. As a result, the Serenity Prayer became a permanent part of AA's history.


The Serenity Prayer was originally written by a theologian. It was printed on distributable cards by Alcoholic Anonymous and grew so popular with members that it soon became a permanent fixture at support meetings. Today, it is often recited at both the beginning and end of every meeting.

Uses of the Serenity Prayer

Sometimes referred to as "the AA acceptance prayer," the Serenity Prayer is usually recited at the beginning of almost all 12-step group meetings. It is also often recited again at the end of the meeting.

Examples of these 12-step groups include:

(Video) The Serenity Prayer

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Al-Anon/Alateen
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Many other support groups utilize the prayer as well. It has gained popularity outside of the 12-step community to become a part of mainstream culture, finding its way into movies, books, memes, and even home decorations.

Impact of the Serenity Prayer

When people find themselves in desperate situations, they seek resources that offer peace, strength, and wisdom. What many people have found is that the simple words of the Serenity Prayer, whispered to a God or other spiritual power, have seen them through their darkest hours.

Many have come to believe that the qualities expressed in the prayer can come only from a power greater than themselves, one of the core components of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Because they have come to believe in a higher power, they find the serenity, courage, and wisdom they seek from somewhere outside themselves, which may give them the strength to face another situation, another step, and another day.

Some people use the Serenity Prayer as a daily reminder to help them stay on track as they work toward their recovery. Others turn to it in moments of stress or temptation to center themselves and remember that they cannot have complete control over every situation.

The prayer emphasizes the need to practice acceptance, even when working toward making a change.

The prayer also acts as a mantra. A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is often utilized as a part of meditation practice. Mantras can be helpful tools when a person is trying to distract themselves from negative thoughts, fight temptations, and work toward goals.

Research supports the idea that using mantras can have beneficial effects on psychological well-being. One study found that people who recited a spiritual mantra of their choice experienced higher levels of cheerfulness and improved mental clarity.

Tools such as the Serenity Prayer may help promote wisdom over the course of a 12-step recovery program. Researchers suggest that such wisdom might help people become better at managing their lives through personal insights and reflection.


The Serenity Prayer reminds people in recovery of the need for acceptance, change, and wisdom. All three are key components of AA and other 12-step recovery programs. The use of spiritual mantras may also foster wisdom and self-reflection.

(Video) SERENITY PRAYER Meditation ~ Most POWERFUL Meditation

Potential Pitfalls

While many people do find the Serenity Prayer helpful, that does not mean that it works for everyone. The prayer presents challenges for non-spiritual individuals. While AA suggests that a person's higher power can be non-theistic, some participants may find that this approach doesn't work for them.

For some people, the prayer is too dichotomous, suggesting that there are only two options when confronting a problem. The prayer proposes that problems can either be changed or accepted, without considering any potential middle ground.

This directive to either accept or change situations can leave some people in recovery feeling powerless and discouraged. Accepting that some things cannot be changed quickly or easily might be a more helpful approach. It can be empowering to recognize that there are steps a person can take to make a situation better.

Rather than accepting things as they are, it may be better to focus on the steps a person can take to make the situation better in the present moment and down the road.

One of the criticisms of 12-step programs such as AA is that they tend to take a rigid, all-or-nothing approach that accepts nothing less than total abstinence. This is not necessarily the right approach for every person working toward recovery. For people who do not respond to this approach, other treatment options might be more workable and effective.

A Word From Verywell

The Serenity Prayer has roots in theology, but has become an important spiritual tool in 12-step programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous. If you utilize the prayer, you may find that it can serve as an essential touchstone as you work toward recovery from alcohol or substance use. The prayer acts as a quick reminder that you can accept things you cannot control and still work toward making positive changes in your life.

If you don't find the prayer helpful, remember that there are other options. If AA and the strategies that the program utilizes, such as the Serenity Prayer, don't seem like the best approach for you, talk to a healthcare provider about other approaches to recovery, support, and treatment.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helplineat 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

(Video) Caskey - Serenity Prayer

For more mental health resources, see ourNational Helpline Database.

What Are the 12 Steps of Recovery?


What is the Serenity Prayer saying? ›

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Our Fellowship's Serenity Prayer can be recited either in the first (I, me) or third (us, we) person.

What is the full version of the Serenity Prayer in the Bible? ›

O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

How do you accept the things I Cannot change? ›

12 Ways to Accept the Things You Cannot Change
  1. Control the Controllable. Start to focus on the things you *can* control. ...
  2. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. ...
  3. Let Go of the Past. ...
  4. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  5. Find a Support Group. ...
  6. Seek Professional Help. ...
  7. Don't Resist Change. ...
  8. Focus on the Positive.

What is the short version of the Serenity Prayer? ›

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.

What is the quote God grant me the serenity? ›

Attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, Lutheran theologian (1892–1971) God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Is the Serenity Prayer for everyone? ›

The 12 step Serenity Prayer is a prayer for everyone, not just alcoholics. The prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr and is specifically for people who want to break their bad habits, change their ways, and accept the things that cannot be changed.

Who wrote God give me the Serenity Prayer? ›

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most prominent Protestant theologians of the 20th century and a Yale alumnus, has long been considered the author, though there has been speculation about other writers.

What does Bible say about peace and serenity? ›

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

How do you accept something that hurts you? ›

Tips for letting go
  1. Create a positive mantra to counter the painful thoughts. ...
  2. Create physical distance. ...
  3. Do your own work. ...
  4. Practice mindfulness. ...
  5. Be gentle with yourself. ...
  6. Allow the negative emotions to flow. ...
  7. Accept that the other person may not apologize. ...
  8. Engage in self-care.

How can I change my life to be happy? ›

How to be happier
  1. Manage your stress levels. If you have a lot of stress in your life, find ways to reduce it, such as learning a few time-management techniques. ...
  2. Enjoy yourself. ...
  3. Boost your self-esteem. ...
  4. Have a healthy lifestyle. ...
  5. Talk and share. ...
  6. Build your resilience.

What is the nearest meaning of serenity? ›

1 composure, calm, peacefulness, peace.

What are some quotes about serenity? ›

Serenity quotes to calm your mind
  • “ Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.” – Thich Nhat Hanh. ...
  • “ I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.” – ...
  • “ Serenity is knowing that your worst shot is still pretty good.” –
30 Aug 2021

How many words are in the Serenity Prayer? ›

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have enthusiastically embraced this prayer—known as the Serenity Prayer—almost from the moment they discovered it. In fact, these 25 words are heard in most every AA meeting and widely taken as a succinct statement of a path to sanity and sobriety.

What is the purpose of the Serenity Prayer? ›

The Serenity Prayer reminds people in recovery of the need for acceptance, change, and wisdom. All three are key components of AA and other 12-step recovery programs. The use of spiritual mantras may also foster wisdom and self-reflection.

What do Serenity mean in the Bible? ›

Serenity means being calm, peaceful, and still, which can only come about by focusing on Christ. Focusing on the world or the desires of the flesh will not bring serenity into our bones.

Where does God grant me the serenity come from? ›

It is believed that Neibuhr first wrote the Serenity prayer as part of a sermon, which he then used at the Heath Evangelical Union Church in Massachusetts. He continued to use it in sermons from 1934, where it spread to Alcoholics Anonymous and was quickly adopted by the group.

What is a sinners prayer in the Bible? ›

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.

What is the most comforting scripture? ›

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

How do you move on from a deeply loved person? ›

These tips can help you start the process of moving forward.
  1. Acknowledge the truth of the situation. ...
  2. Identify relationship needs — and deal breakers. ...
  3. Accept what the love meant to you. ...
  4. Look to the future. ...
  5. Prioritize other relationships. ...
  6. Spend time on yourself. ...
  7. Give yourself space. ...
  8. Understand it may take some time.
14 Jan 2020

How do you accept difficult things? ›

7 Steps To Accept Tough Situations In Life
  1. Acknowledge the Situation. Sometimes people try to stay in denial when they face a tough situation. ...
  2. Develop a Plan. ...
  3. Seek Help When Necessary. ...
  4. Change What You Can. ...
  5. Identify What You Can't Change. ...
  6. Develop Coping Skills to Deal with Your Feelings. ...
  7. Focus on What You Can Gain.
22 Dec 2013

What do you do if someone hurts you deeply? ›

What to Do If You Are Feeling Hurt
  1. Let yourself feel what you need to feel. ...
  2. Find healthy ways to express your hurt. ...
  3. Question your hurt feelings. ...
  4. Manage your behaviour. ...
  5. Try new perspectives. ...
  6. Balance it out. ...
  7. Focus on wellbeing. ...
  8. Raise your self-compassion.
26 Oct 2022

How do you forgive someone who hurts you emotionally? ›

Here are eight ways to work on that.
  1. Get mad, feel hurt and grieve. ...
  2. Ask yourself whether your anger is constructive or destructive. ...
  3. Don't worry—you aren't saying the offense was OK. ...
  4. Practice stress-reduction techniques. ...
  5. Remind yourself why you want this person in your life. ...
  6. Set boundaries.
12 Dec 2019

How do you let go of someone who doesn't love you? ›

  1. #2. Admit To Your Feelings. ...
  2. #3. Give Your Wounds Time To Recuperate. ...
  3. #4. Never Blame Yourself. ...
  4. #5. Share Your Feelings With Someone. ...
  5. #6. Cut-off All Ties With This Person. ...
  6. #7. Fall In Love With Yourself And Look After Yourself. ...
  7. #8. Try Some Physical Exercises. ...
  8. #9. Think Of The Positive Aspects.
30 Jan 2021

What are the 3 keys to happy life? ›

The three powerful keys to happiness and freedom we will explore, which have changed my life and the lives of so many others are: 1) Forgive the past, others, and yourself; 2) Bring an attitude of gratitude to life; 3) Let go.

What is the simplest way to be happy? ›

It all comes to this: the simplest way to be happy is to do good. This is instant and infallible happiness. The surest proof that this is the law of cause and effect is, we may try every other conceivable way of being happy, and they will all fail.

What are the three things to happy life? ›

The Three Things We All Need for a Happy Life
  • Someone to love.
  • Something to do.
  • Something to look forward to.

Is Serenity a real word? ›

Meaning of serenity in English. the quality of being peaceful and calm: I admired her serenity in the midst of so much chaos. The hotel offers a tranquil haven of peace and serenity, away from the bustle of the city.

Is Serenity a girl name? ›

Serenity is a girl's name of French and Latin origins. Meaning “peaceful” and “calm,” Serenity is a virtue name that will inspire baby to live a life of serenity and grace.

What are 2 synonyms for serenity? ›

  • calmness.
  • composure.
  • patience.
  • peace of mind.
  • stillness.
  • tranquillity.
  • cool.
  • peace.

What is the strongest short quote? ›

Every moment is a fresh beginning. – T.S Eliot. Never regret anything that made you smile. – Mark Twain.

What is the 12 Step Serenity Prayer? ›

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

What is the biblical meaning of serenity? ›

The first is the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed. The definition of serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. If one will seek to honestly assess a situation, not be complacent, and learn to accept things it can lead to a sense of peace.

What religion is the Serenity Prayer? ›

Now the Serenity Prayer is about to endure a controversy over its authorship that is likely to be anything but serene. For more than 70 years, the composer of the prayer was thought to be the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, one of modern Christianity's towering figures.

How many serenity prayers are there? ›

The Serenity Prayer and 16 Variations.

How do I pray for stress and anxiety? ›

Loving God, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like a turbulent sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me.

What are other names for serenity? ›

  • calmness.
  • composure.
  • patience.
  • peace of mind.
  • stillness.
  • tranquillity.
  • cool.
  • peace.

What does the name Serenity stand for? ›

Serenity is a modern English name taken from the word “serenity” meaning “peaceful”.

Can you pray in silence? ›

Silence and solitude are essential aspects of contemplative prayer, a practice of prayer that waits on God and trusts in God's present love and grace. While silence can be especially helpful in becoming attentive to God while praying, it is hardly an excuse to remain aloof from the needs of our neighbors.


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