Brilliant in its simplicity, the Serenity Prayer is one of the primary spiritual tools used by virtually all 12-step recovery support groups. The following is the customization that is commonly used in these groups:
God give me the serenity
To accept the things that I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Importance of the AA Serenity Prayer
Sometimes referred to as the “AA Acceptance Prayer,” the Serenity Prayer is usually recited at the beginning of almost all 12-stage group meetings and at the end of many meetings. Examples of these 12-step groups include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Al-Anon / Alateen, and Marijuana Anonymous. It has also become part of mainstream culture and has found its way into movies, books, memes, and home accessories.
For so many people in desperate situations – in search of peace, strength, and wisdom – these simple words whispered to a god as they understand him have seen them through their darkest hours. They have come to believe that the qualities expressed in prayer can only come from a power greater than themselves. And because they believe, they find the serenity, courage and wisdom that they need from somewhere outside looking to face a different situation, a different step and another day.
Although millions of people in and outside the convalescence community have been helped and strengthened by the simple lines of Serenity Prayer, few know that the first stanza of Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr was written. He was an American theologian, philosopher, and longtime Dean and Professor of Applied Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
There has been a lot of controversy about when and by whom the Serenity Prayer was written, but it looks like the debate is over. Although Reinhold Niebuhr is now the undisputed author, it is unclear when he wrote the well-known and beloved prayer, but it seems to have been around 1933.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) accepted the prayer when an AA member saw it in 1941 The New York Herald Tribune and asked then AA secretary Ruth Hock if it could be printed in distributable cards. She wrote to an AA member who was a printer in Washington, mailed him the clipping, and asked how much it would cost to print some wallet-sized copies. The printer liked the prayer so much (“I can’t remember a sentence that has so much to offer,” he said) that he sent her 500 cards for free, and the prayer became an integral part of AA’s history.
The complete serenity prayer
Here is the unabridged serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):
God give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed
Courage to change things
what should be changed
and the wisdom to discern
one from the other.
Live one day at a time
Enjoy one moment at a time
Accept hardship as a way to peace,
Take like Jesus did
This sinful world as it is
Not like i would have
I trust that you are doing everything right
When I surrender to your will
So that I am reasonably happy in this life
And extremely happy with you forever in the next.