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The Serenity Prayer Meaning and History

The Serenity Prayer Meaning and History | Just Believe Recovery PA

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The Serenity Prayer simply feels timeless. At just 25-27 words long, the short versions come across as a humble and sincere plea for comfort, wisdom, and strength in a chaotic world. The prayer consists of a long and a short version, but you’re more likely to hear or read the short one. It reads as follows:

“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.”

Today, the modern take on the prayer is most commonly used, which reads as follows:

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The more extended version was first published in 1941 in the Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces. However, the final version, which we commonly see today, wasn’t adopted until 1951, when the word “grace” was added.

“God, give me 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.”

The Serenity Prayer: Origins and History

The Serenity Prayer has become a staple of modern religious prayer and a mantra in self-help and peer support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The prayer asks God for help in finding peace and calm, and to change things we must change and accept things we cannot.

This prayer, which has roots in numerous sermons and diary entries penned between 1932-1944, relates to the author’s thoughts about leaving Germany, his home country, and its involvement in the two World Wars. Today, the message to accept evil we cannot change and the motivation to change that which we can is a powerful reminder to individuals struggling with addiction, thereby leading to its close association with AA.

The Serenity Prayer’s origin dates back to a 1932 diary entry by Reinhold Neibuhr, a German-American theologist. In addition, the prayer has appeared in altered versions in speeches, prayer books, and magazines since the 1930s. Today, however, despite some ambiguity as to whom it should be attributed, we can almost conclusively credit it to Reinhold Niebuhr, originating from his diary entry, which reads as follows:

“The victorious man in the day of crisis is the man who has the serenity to accept what he cannot help and the courage to change what must be altered.”

What Is the Serenity Prayer’s Meaning?

The Serenity Prayer Meaning and History | Just Believe Recovery PA

Niebuhr is often cited as having written the Serenity prayer concerning anti-Nazi sentiment. This would be false, however, considering he originally wrote the prayer several years before Hitler came into power. Instead, Niebuhr composed the Serenity Prayer as a general approach to human suffering, finding faith in God through difficulties, and actively working to improve one’s life and what one has.

The 1944 speech, which included the prayer that some have attributed to being an anti-Nazi sentiment, did, in fact, exist, but it was delivered long after the prayer became common knowledge. This fact is of little importance because the Serenity Prayer’s wording and sentiment can apply as easily to defeating the evils of Nazi Germany as it does to overcoming addiction, improving one’s life, or accepting that one cannot control everything.

When analyzing the more extended version of the prayer, it is evident that Niebuhr intended the passage as a means of offering motivation, reminding others that hardship teaches them and allows them to grow and that we must all work for the things we want or need to be better when they are changeable.

Getting Help for Addiction

Regardless of where you are in recovery, the Serenity Prayer can be motivating, inspirational, and has a message we can all identify with. However, while the serenity prayer asks God or a higher power to give us the courage to make the changes we must, long-term intensive treatment and therapy give us the tools to do so.

Just Believe Recovery Center offers comprehensive residential and outpatient programs intended to address all aspects of each person’s mental and physical health, along with their spiritual health. Evidence-based methodologies and services we provide include but are not limited to the following:

  • Medical detox
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling
  • Group support
  • Addiction education
  • Health and wellness education
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Art and music therapy
  • Aftercare planning
  • Alumni events
We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.
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Just Believe Recovery is a fully licensed, Joint Commission accredited, comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center located in Carbondale, Pennsylvania

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