The Serenity Prayer in Recovery

The Serenity Prayer is one of the most cherished prayers in the recovery community. Its simplicity and profundity provide a beacon of hope and a guidepost for those striving to overcome addiction. Universally accepted across various faiths, it carries a profound message about peace of mind, the willingness to act, and humility.

A Pursuit of Inner Peace

What I admire most about this prayer is its singular objective—serenity. Unlike prayers for wealth, relationships, or material possessions, the Serenity Prayer’s ultimate aim is peace of mind. This goal aligns with the pursuits of spiritual seekers throughout history. Serenity, or being at peace with oneself, is a central component of spiritual attainment.

The Pathway to Serenity

Next, I appreciate the formula for peace outlined in this prayer. It implies that serenity comes at a price—of action and mental refinement. Change, it suggests, is crucial to achieving tranquility. You must alter what you can and adjust your mindset accordingly. Without this amalgamation of physical and mental action, serenity remains elusive.

A Call for Help, A Gesture of Humility

Lastly, the prayer’s essence lies in its humble appeal for assistance. By acknowledging that we can’t do everything on our own, we position humility over ego—an always beneficial exchange.

Tracing the Origins

The Serenity Prayer has a fascinating history documented in numerous recent books. It is often attributed to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whose prominence coincided with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Legend has it that a member introduced the prayer to the group, and AA co-founder Bill W. promptly began using a modified version in meetings.

Interestingly, earlier versions of the prayer predate Niebuhr’s interpretation. Some assert that the prayer’s roots may extend back hundreds of years.

The original version presented to AA in 1940 was:

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.

Niebuhr’s version, with its more apparent Christian tone, reads:

God, give us the 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.Amen.

Nevertheless, the version widely accepted and used today encapsulates the prayer’s essence succinctly:

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.

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