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.
The Serenity Prayer is one of the key spiritual tools used by virtually all 12-step recovery group members. I certainly have found it to be invaluable in my own recovery, and it is my “go-to” prayer when seeking peace, strength, and wisdom. The prayer reminds me that to find serenity I must learn to live in acceptance but have the courage and willingness to take action when appropriate. The prayer entered AA history in 1941 when an New York AA member saw the prayer printed in an obituary. The prayer became popular with the other AA members and was printed on cards. Bill W. stated that ” Never had we seen so much AA in so few words.” The prayer, for most of the forties was called “The AA prayer” by members of the fellowship and others but by the late forties became better known as the Serenity Prayer.
There is much debate and controversy as to the origins of the prayer. It has been incorrectly attributed to, among others, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, and ancient Sanskrit writings. Today, the generally accepted authorship is credited to German-American theologian Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr. It was included in a sermon he delivered in 1932 in New York city. In 1944 it was published for the first time in The Book of Prayer and Services for the Armed Forces. The prayer was distributed to front line troops by the USO during World War II. The prayer has become deeply imbedded in the heart and soul of AA as clearly stated by Bill W.’s sentiments concerning it’s impact on the fellowship:
“In creating AA, the Serenity Prayer has been a most valuable building block – indeed a cornerstone.”