Most of us have seen on cards or in a book what has become
known as the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
These first four lines of the serenity prayer are especially well known – but the prayer
actually continues as follows:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Background to the Serenity Prayer
Originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the late 1930s to
early 1940s, the serenity prayer may have been a part of a sermon. The original version reads as follows:
God, give us grace to accept with
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things that should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the
Researchers believe that the first version of the serenity prayer was quoted from memory in a question
to The New York Times Book Review dated July 12, 1942. The query requests the name of the prayer's author. In
reply, the Book Review identifies Reinhold Niebuhr as its author and quotes the prayer as follows: "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,
The serenity prayer became much more widely known in the 1950s after
it was adopted, in its popular version, by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It has also been used by Narcotics
Anonymous and in other Twelve-step programs.
Reinhold Niebuhr's daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, wrote a book about her father's famous prayer
entitled, The Serenity Prayer:
Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War. In the book, she
discusses the story and circumstances around her father's writing the prayer, the wide range of versions of it,
and the true essence of the prayer's meaning.
The serenity prayer has become one of the most widely known prayers in
the world. It touches the hearts of people from all walks of life. Below are a few references to the prayer
from well-known writers, artists, singers, and songwriters.
· The serenity prayer is referenced in Dan Brown's book, Angels & Demons.
· The back cover of the Neil Young's album entitled Re-ac-tor includes the serenity prayer in Latin.
· Whitney Houston's debut album, Whitney,
includes a reference to the serenity prayer on the back cover.
· The 1970's rock group, Boston, sings about the serenity prayer in the song,
· Sinéad O'Connor, the once famous bald singer of the 1990s, references the
serenity prayer in her song, "Feel So Different".
· Well-known rapper 50 Cent raps the serenity prayer in his song, “Gotta Make It To
· The soundtrack of the movie, Soul Food,
addresses the serenity prayer.
· Famous 1960's writer, Kurt Vonnegut, mentions the serenity prayer in his
· The serenity prayer has made its way into the game, World of Warcraft: The Burning
Crusade, where one of the Blood Elves recites it.
· In 2004, the punk band, Blood for Blood, titled their
album Serenity, sings a song about the serenity prayer on
track 2, and the lead singer recites the prayer on the first and last tracks of the
· Finally, Olivia Newton John's album, Stronger than Before, includes a song entitled "Serenity," and references the serenity prayer within
Information adapted from:
Things we Can or Cannot Change
The following table gives a few principles when deciding what in life to accept and what
to work on changing.
YOU CAN’T CHANGE OR CONTROL
YOU CAN CHANGE OR CONTROL
Your feelings and moods
How you take care of your
The outcome of decisions or
What you do with your day
Any other person
Who you invite into your
Someone else’s opinion of
Your self opinion
Society at large
Fate or time and chance
Your need to control
Karma (cause and effect)
Adapted from Kathy Freston,
Expect a Miracle: 7 Spiritual Steps to
Finding the Right Relationship (London: Bantam Books, 2003), 54.