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The Serenity Prayer

What is the Serenity Prayer?

“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.”

12 Steps of AA

What Is The Main Idea Of The Serenity Prayer?

The Serenity Prayer is a well-known prayer among both religious and non-religious people.

Anyone who has been faced with challenges in their life can turn to the serenity prayer.

The serenity prayer focuses on four main ideas: serenity, courage, acceptance, and wisdom.

One of the main ideas of the serenity prayer is acknowledging that there are things out of your control and accepting that as it is. Often, acceptance is not an easy thing to do and is something that a person has to practice and take time in processing.

Getting to the point of acceptance can help grant a person peace of mind.

Another main idea is to have to courage to change the things that are in your control and to be able to identify what is in and out of your control.

People often wonder what they can do about things when life gets difficult. There are some things you can change and others you can not. Focusing on what you can change in the present moment can help a person find serenity in their daily lives.

4 main ideas of the serenity prayer and relevant icons of each 4 ideas of the serenity prayer: serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom

How Does The Serenity Prayer Work?

The serenity prayer can work as a way to provide relief, comfort, peace, and a reminder of mindfulness.

Most people use the serenity prayer by reciting it out loud or in their head.

Doing this can work by reminding a person to focus their thoughts on the present moment and remind them of the main points addressed in the serenity prayer.

Who Uses The Serenity Prayer?

Anyone can use the serenity prayer.

However, it is commonly used by those in addiction recovery.

Many twelve-step programs, like alcoholics anonymous, recite this prayer as a daily practice.

But, it is also recited by church groups and others when they are facing hard times.

Anyone who is going through a difficult time or is seeking relief or peace can turn to the serenity prayer.

Why Do People Use The Serenity Prayer?

People often use the serenity prayer in times when they are faced with a difficult situation.

Different people may use the serenity prayer for different reasons.

Some may use it as a prayer, some to meditate, and others to just be a reminder in their daily life.

Benefits of serenity prayer and relevant icons of each 4 benefits of the serenity prayer: Relief, Comfort, Peace, Mindfulness

How Many Versions Of The Serenity Prayer Are There?

Over time, different versions of the serenity prayer have developed as more and more people began to use it.

You can find as many as 16 variations online, along with other prayers that share similar meanings and messages.

What Is The Difference Between The Full Serenity Prayer And The Original Version?

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the original version of the serenity prayer that reads:

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

The full version goes 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.
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 things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Serenity Prayer written on a navy background and a circular digital graphic of serene nature next to the prayer.

What Does The Serenity Prayer Represent?

The serenity prayer represents peace and acceptance of the things that are out of your control. But also the courage to take action with the things that are in your control.

Serenity Prayer & Addiction

How Do You Use The Serenity Prayer?

The serenity prayer may be recited in your head or out loud when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or facing a difficult situation.

Some people may also read it or write it down in a journal.

What Was The Serenity Prayer Written For?

It is believed the serenity prayer was originally written as part of a sermon from Reinhold Niebuhr and was then posted in newspaper articles, where it was found by an Alcoholics Anonymous member and circulated through the community.

What Does AA Say About Serenity?

AA says that in order to achieve serenity, you have to find acceptance.

This doesn’t mean that you accept you can’t do anything, but more so to accept things you cannot control and have the courage to take action on the things you can control.

For those in recovery, this can mean that you have to learn to identify what is in and out of your control and focus on the things that you can change rather than worry about things that have happened and things that you can’t change.

Learning to accept and let go can be a very hard part of recovery and is something that is learned over time.

"Serenity & Acceptance in Recovery" written above 3 action items and a digital illustration of a girl meditating and a woman and a man putting a flag on the ground

How Is The Serenity Prayer Used In Everyday Life?

Many people use the serenity prayer as part of daily reflection.

A person may recite the serenity prayer every day to remind them of acceptance and courage.

The serenity prayer may also be used in daily meditation as a way to find peace in moments of weakness or fear or to find relief from stress.

Is There A Non-religious Version Of The Serenity Prayer?

The serenity prayer can be used by both religious and non-religious people. However, some may prefer to use a version that goes as:

“Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Serenity Prayer- Non Religious Quote written next to a serene nature circular graphic

Serenity Prayer & Recovery

Why Is Serenity Important In Recovery?

Serenity can help a person overcome many of the obstacles of recovery.

Serenity can also help a person feel more content and calm without having to turn to substance use as a way to cope.

How Does The Serenity Prayer Help In Recovery?

It helps you accept the things you cannot control and things that are difficult but can also help remind a person to have the courage to change things they do have control over.

A person with a substance use disorder or addiction may feel the need to have things under their control, which can prevent them from achieving peace of mind.

The serenity prayer is a spiritual tool used in almost all 12-step recovery support groups.

Examples of 12-step programs that use the serenity prayer include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
"Support groups that use the serenity prayer" above a list of "Alcoholics Anonymous(AA), Cocaine Anonymous(CA), Narcotics Anonymous(NA)" and a support group illustration while there's an AA logo in the background.

Why Is Positive Thinking Important In Recovery?

Positive thinking helps get a person through the bumps, challenges, and difficulties that occur on the journey of recovery.

Positive thinking allows a person to see the other side, find joy in sobriety, and learn a new way of living.

Thinking positively can help reduce the risk of relapse, as it can help keep a person from falling into negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may trigger the urge to use again.

What Does Serenity Mean In Recovery?

Serenity in recovery is accepting what is out of your control and finding a state of peace and calmness without the need for substances.

Addiction often comes with chaos, harm, and hardship. Many people start to use substances in a search for peace and as a way to cope or numb their pain, only making it worse.

Finding serenity rids the need of having to find it in substances.

"Serenity in recovery is accepting what is out of your control and finding peace without substances." written next to an illustration of a woman in a calm, peacefulstate and images of flowers and birds

Mental Health & The Serenity Prayer

How Do You Accept Things You Cannot Change?

One part of accepting things you cannot change is to focus on the things you can control.

Practicing mindfulness, and living in the present moment, can help a person focus on what is happening now and not worry about the past or future and any stress that may come with it.

Positive thinking can also remind a person of things that are good in their life, things they are grateful for, and motivate them to keep moving towards happiness and the life they want.

How Do You Accept Something That Hurts You?

Accepting something that hurts you can be very difficult and can take a lot of time and work to figure out.

One part of accepting something that hurts you is allowing yourself to feel your emotions and not push them aside or try to ignore them. Doing this can only keep you from letting go and can just cause things to get worse over time.

It is also important to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. When people go through difficult experiences, they may blame themselves, feel negative about themselves, or stop caring for themselves.

Digital illustration of a woman and a garden growing out of her head while there's a man and woman watering and tending flowers and plants to depict positive mindset

It is important to focus on your health and happiness.

Sometimes, it is helpful to take space away from the thing that is hurting you. Take time for yourself and your mental health.

Lastly, if you are hurting, reach out for help. Whether it be friends, family, or professional support. You are never alone, and from supportive friendships and relationships, you can find help getting through difficult times in your life.

How Do I Start Letting Go?

Letting go is a process that takes time, patience, and care.

Many people struggle with letting go, causing resistance that only hinders change.

To let go, you have to be aware and understanding of the situation as it is.

Rather than focusing on the outcome or future, be present at the moment and focus on what is happening now. Learning how to practice mindfulness in your daily life can help ease worries and stress that may come with the past or future.

Sometimes, to let go, you have to get out of your comfort zone.

You have to do things that you thought you never could do and not be afraid of change. In doing so, you are giving yourself more room to grow.

Lastly, a big part of letting go is taking care of yourself and understanding that you are human.

When you start to treat yourself with kindness, you can also learn more about yourself and become closer to who you are.

Tips for practicing letting go are listed in the image. Illustration of a cup of tea, a comfy chair, a woman hugging herself, and a candle illustration surrounding each corner of the infographic.

How Do I Accept Reality And Move On?

Acceptance is one of the main points of the serenity prayer.

But, many find acceptance to be extremely challenging.

Accepting reality starts with becoming aware that you are resisting reality. Part of this is understanding that you cannot go back to the past and change how things worked out.

It is also important not to judge yourself for the feelings you have. You may be upset, angry, or scared, and that is okay. By allowing yourself to feel these emotions, you can learn how to work through them in a healthy way.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to visualize what it would look like to accept reality, even if you are still struggling to do so. By changing certain behaviors and habits, you can also learn to shift your thoughts and accept reality.

Additionally, the mind and body both work together.

Taking care of your body and relieving stress can also help to put the mind at ease and become more open to facing difficult emotions.

Repeating coping statements, mantras, or prayers can also help a person get through difficult moments.

Acceptance does not usually happen overnight and is something that takes time and practice. Be patient and gentle with yourself throughout the process, and trust that things will work out. Focus on the present moment and take action for the things that are in your control.

3 different patient quotes listed out next to relevant icons- "Patience is the ability to stay calm without becoming annoyed." "Have patience with all things. But, first of all with yourself." "Being patient is not doing nothing, but doing the hardest thing." with an illustration of a man meditating in front of a big clock

How Can I Change My Life To Be Happy?

Certain practices and changes a person can make in their life to be happy can include:

  • Practicing mindfulness and living in the present moment
  • Taking care of their body, which can include eating a balanced diet, getting good rest, and exercising
  • Practice gratitude and be reminded of the things you are grateful for
  • Acknowledge your feelings and work through them
  • Learn to trust yourself and a Higher Power if you believe in one
  • Do things that you enjoy
  • Practice meditation and breathing exercises
  • Spend time with loved ones and people that make you happy
  • Accept and let go
  • Consider therapy


You have questions. We have answers.

Our goal is to provide the most helpful information. Please reach out to us if you have any additional questions. We are here to help in any way we can.

The writer of the serenity prayer is thought to be the Christian theologist Reinhold Niebuhr.

However, the serenity prayer is not limited to one religion and is used by both religious and non-religious people.

No, the serenity prayer isn’t just for Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is a main spiritual tool they, and many other 12-step programs, use in their everyday lives.

Anyone can use or recite the serenity prayer, and it is not just for those in addiction recovery.

The serenity prayer is used by anyone who may be going through a difficult time or who needs a reminder to find serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom.

Some people consider the serenity prayer to be a mantra.

A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated for prayer or meditative purposes.

A person may use the serenity prayer as a daily meditative practice to bring them peace, mindfulness, and calmness.

The serenity prayer itself isn’t found in the Bible, but there are some bible verses that offer similar messages and meanings.

For example, in the New International Version of the Bible, Philippians 4:6, it is written, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

The serenity prayer is believed to be originally written by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

However, it is possible to find similar versions of the prayer written by other people.

The serenity prayer recited in many 12-step programs is:

“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.”

Maximilian Kolbe is one of the most well-known patron saints for addiction recovery.

Venerable Matt Talbot is also considered the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism.

The serenity prayer is used in Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual tool in their daily lives.

The serenity prayer can help those who are in recovery find peace and acceptance in a life without substances.

However, the serenity prayer is not only made for alcoholics. Anyone can use the serenity prayer.

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Young black man standing in front of a blue background.

Let’s take the next steps together

The serenity prayer focuses on acceptance, courage, and wisdom and is used by many who experience hardship. Sandstone Care is here to support teens and young adults with mental health and substance use disorders.