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The Serenity Prayer: Original Version, Author, and Bible Truths

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What is the Serenity Prayer?

The Serenity Prayer is a prayer asking God to grant acceptance, courage, and wisdom for things in our life we can’t control. This prayer is one of the most well-known today, especially the shortened version found below.

Written by Reinhold Neibuhr in the 1930s, this prayer has been widely used in sermons, Sunday school groups, and studies. In the early 1940s, the group Alcoholics Anonymous began to use a shortened version of the Serenity Prayer in their twelve-step program.

How often have you seen The Serenity Prayer on a card or on a magnet and simply read the inspirational words without fully grasping its message? It’s a powerful prayer, and we truly need to believe in each phrase for its wisdom to enhance our lives. Be inspired to live with serenity through faith in Christ with these Bible verses about giving God our anxieties.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” ~ Isaiah 26:3

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” ~ Proverbs 3:13-14

Serenity Prayer – Full Version

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.

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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;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Shortened Version of the Serenity Prayer

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.

Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?

As noted previously, Reinhold Niebuhr is often the attributed author of the Serenity Prayer. It was composed sometime between 1932 and 1933 and grew highly popular in the 30s and 40s across church groups without proper attribution and recognition to Niebuhr. In 1943, Niebuhr used the prayer in a sermon at Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts. The serenity prayer first appeared in print as part of a sermon in the 1944 Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces and was officially published by Niebuhr in 1951.

William Griffith Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder, liked the prayer so much that he has it printed in its shortened form and distributed to members. The Serenity Prayer has been used in AA’s 12-step program ever since.

3 Biblical Truths of the Serenity Prayer

Chaos continues when we try to change things or people that we shouldn’t or can’t, and serenity is the farthest component of our lives. Accepting God’s plan and His purpose for your life will bring the serenity you seek. Here are three truths from Scripture about peace and serenity that can be applied to the words of the Serenity Prayer.

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

As the prayer acknowledges, when life feels out of control, it’s easy to try to work harder at controlling everything and everyone around us! Some of us do the opposite: throw our hands up and give up on the situation or person. Whichever extreme you go to, peace and serenity continue to move further from your life.

Accepting and submitting to God’s control and plan for your life is the only way to find peace in situations you cannot control or change. We may not always know God’s plan but we can let go of trying to orchestrate and manipulate events and people and let God work through us. God promises a transcendent peace when we bring our worries and concerns to Him in prayer.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:7

“Be still and know that I am God!” – Psalms 46:10

2. “the courage to change the things I can,”

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have received the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to supply you with the courage to follow and act upon God’s plan for your life. Instead of fearfully ignoring hard decisions or running from what seems too difficult, we can call upon the power of God for the courage to move forward into the full life He has planned for us. As the serenity prayer states, we can ask God for courage!

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“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

3. “and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Wisdom is a gift that God promises to give to those who ask for it! You can grow in wisdom each day and make better decisions as you spend time reading the Bible and communicating with God through prayer. God will tell you, through his Word or answers in prayer, when to accept things and when to take courage to change them. The Serenity prayer acknowledges that God is the ultimate source for wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

“and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:15-17