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

The Serenity Prayer

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


The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an untitled prayer originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the late1930s to early 1940s. It is believed that Niebuhr wrote the prayer for a sermon. The version under the title of this paper is from a New York Times Book Review which quoted the prayer on July 12, 1942. This may be one of the most popular prayers of today.

The serenity prayer is reported to have been in use in Alcoholics Anonymous since the early 1940s. It has also been used in Narcotics Anonymous and other Twelve-step programs.. The Alcoholics Anonymous version of the serenity prayer omits some of Niebuhr's text: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and (the) wisdom to know the difference."

Niebuhr's daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, wrote an entire book about her father's serenity prayer, The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War.

This simple prayer is a powerful prayer that has been the foundation of many in recovery. What are some truths about this prayer that have made it so influential?

1. SERENITY IS A DESIRED STATE OF MIND. (“O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind…”)

What Does Serenity Mean to you? Serenity means peace of mind, quietness, and calmness. When your mind is clear, your heart is full of love, and you are able to spread love all around you; it’s that moment when you know that you have touched the serenity state of being.

This prayer admits and asks that there is a God and He can move on our behalf. Someone has said that “Serenity is the proof that you have a strong connection with God and you need courage and wisdom to touch this level of divine connection.”

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Many people are unable to deal with the hard moments in their lives. Substance abuse may be one way that people try to comfort themselves. Serenity, however, is the true state that we seek and alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or other addictions cannot fill that void.

The serenity prayer appeals to God to grant serenity.

Why do you think this prayer is so powerful in addiction recovery?

3. ACCEPTANCE AS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS. (“…to accept that which cannot be changed”)

Does acceptance mean that we are not trying to make things better? What are some examples of things you cannot change? Why is it hard to accept?

There are situations where you cannot do anything. Even if you want to, even if you look for a solution.

Kent Doss writes: Sometimes what we want to change most, are other people in our lives, whether they are friend or foe. One of the hardest things to accept in life has to be the inability to change other people, especially the people that we love. Certainly we can provide encouragement and resources, but it is virtually impossible to force another person to change unless he or she is willing to change themselves. Anyone who has loved someone through addiction knows that struggle.

He continues: And anyone who has moved through recovery knows the struggle of not being able to change the past. Every one of us has regrets, a bad decision made here and there. We can do our best to mend a relationship that has been damaged, but the past is the past, there’s no erase in life. There is nothing we can do to change it.

There are things you just have to accept the way they are. You have no power to change them. It’s not about you, it’s just about the nature of the situation. The prayer for serenity seeks acceptance so that we can lay aside worry. This prayer says that we are living in the now, in the present moment while letting go of control and fear.

Philippians 4:11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.

4. COURAGE TO BUILD A NEW LIFE (“…the courage to change that which can be changed…”)

This prayer is an expression of courage to build a new life - to start again from nothing. It takes courage to make a change. To get out of a toxic relationship. To start a new business when a previous business failed. To make new associations that can help you and leave behind those that keep you entrenched in old habits. We all should be bold and confident when we are able to make a change for the better. This prayer suggests we are taking an active part in changing now.

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