The Serenity Prayer Explained

By

Sober Recovery Expert Author

If you’re in sober recovery, you’ve probably recited the Serenity Prayer many times. The prayer has helped millions of men and women in and out of recovery get through those intense addiction-related cravings and tough spots in life. It is interesting how one prayer can be such an asset to those who are in need of some help. It’s as if the words of this prayer, when repeated over and over, create a mindset shift and invite an acceptance of what is, what is not, and what can be.

If you’re not familiar with the Serenity Prayer, perhaps it’s time to take a look at it in its entirety. It was written by a man named Reinhold Niebuhr in 1926. Only the first one or two verses of the original prayer are usually recited in 12-step recovery groups.

We take a look at the entire Serenity Prayer and see just why millions of men and women recite it as often as they do.

Here is a look at those first two verses of 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.

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.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

How can the Serenity Prayer help you?

Much of the time our perspective is what makes life great or terrible. Have you ever met someone who is going through a lot of turmoil and yet he is still smiling and acting genuinely happy? Perhaps he has an optimistic attitude and a rosy perspective on life. Or perhaps he is one who adheres to the principles of the Serenity Prayer. Either way, perspective matters.

The Serenity Prayer can certainly help you with your perspective on life.

Let’s take a look at the first line:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

If you can determine to accept that some things in life you just have no control over, you will experience more peace. You are not in control as much as you think are, and when you realize that you are powerless over many things, life takes on a new perspective.

Let’s take a look at the second line:

“Courage to change the things I can.”

You will need some courage to change some of your attitudes, emotions, and behaviors. As a recovering addict, you are encouraged to take full responsibility for your entire life--including thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You are not a victim any longer. You are not an addict any longer. Asking for courage and strength to help you make the necessary changes to turn your life around gets you in the right frame of mind to actually take steps to making the changes that you can.

Now, let’s take a look at the third line:

“Grant me the wisdom to know the difference.”

Knowing what you can change and what you cannot change is wisdom in the making. For example, you cannot change your partner. You cannot change your boss. You cannot change the weather. What you can do is change your own perspective, attitude, actions, and the way you communicate. Asking for help when it comes to gaining this kind of insight and wisdom will certainly serve you well as you progress through your recovery, and you’d be surprised at just how quickly you can become wise in many areas.

The rest of the Serenity Prayer is not typically recited aloud in recovery group meetings, but it does have much value. For those who do not adhere to the term “God,” you may substitute "a Higher Power."

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.
Amen.

Living in the present moment, accepting life on life’s terms, and trusting that everything will work out in the way it is supposed to ought to provide you with more peace and happiness. The journey is not meant to be a struggle. Will you struggle? Sure, you will. We all do. But accepting the struggles and pain as a pathway to peace is allowing wisdom to come to you.

Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Relax. Now recite the Serenity Prayer from your heart. Repeat the prayer as often as you’d like or when you are in any sort of turmoil. As you do, you should notice that your mindset is changing and your heart is experiencing more peace. You will experience strength, courage, and wisdom, and life will begin to take on a new meaning.

Thank you Reinhold Niebuhr for such a powerful prayer!

If you or someone you know is seeking help with addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the path to recovery today.

Stay Connected
Subscribe to our newsletter to get addiction help, recovery inspiration and community tips delivered to your inbox.
No Thanks. I'm not Interested