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.
History of the Serenity Prayer
Niebuhr used various versions of the prayer widely in sermons as early as 1934. The prayer spread rapidly, often without attribution to Niebuhr, through church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. The Serenity Prayer appeared in a sermon of Niebuhr's as part of the 1944 A Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces, while Niebuhr himself first published it in 1951 in a magazine column.
When can you use this prayer?
Sometimes life can get out of hand. Maybe you are suffering from addiction and trying to recover, or maybe you are subconsciously choosing to care about many different things that are making life tough. The intent of the prayer is to help you recognize what you can and cannot control and find wisdom to discern what you can change in your life versus some things that you cannot. In addition, the serenity prayer, despite its length, is full of core Christian values that are important reminders to any follower of Christ.
For example, you may have some bad habits that you want to change but know it is incredibly difficult to reverse bad habits. This prayer aims to ask God for help to help you identify what small steps you can take to start making positive change. Wisdom comes with experience and the serenity prayer helps you ask God to attain this wisdom so you do not waste efforts trying to change things you cannot - such as other people, or macro-level issues that truly are out of reach.
How can you accept things you cannot change?As the prayer mentions, there are things you cannot change, even though you would like things to be different. There is peace in letting go of strong expectations and let God help you understand what is worth changing. Here are some ideas to start living the prayer:
Identify what is in your immediate control
As the serenity prayer says - "live one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time," you must create a habit of focusing on the present day's issues and blessings. Each day is different and brings its own set of challenges and pleasures. It is useful to recognize that truly the only thing you can control is what is happening in this current moment. It does not serve any purpose to worry about what your high school bully said 20 years ago, or dwell on unpleasant interactions with coworkers, it'll rob you of peace and serenity that we all desperately need in this life.
Recognize God's hand in your life
The full serenity prayer also says, "trusting that He will make all things right if i surrender to His Will." Sometimes taking time to count your blessings and realize God has helped you in your life helps ease the stress of worrying about things outside of your control. It also reaffirms in your heart that God is with you and will bless you as you strive to change your life for the better.
Get busy after you pray
After praying, try taking action and seeing how your prayer sets you up for success on things you can change. As the Bible says, "faith without works is dead." It does no good to believe in changing, and not taking action toward those changes. As you train you mind, with the help of the prayer, to focus on actionable changes in life, you may find you worry less about things you cannot control.
There may be many more things you can do to make the serenity prayer more meaningful in your life. God wants to bless you for your efforts in prayer. This prayer is a great starting point for many, as it asks the Lord for peace, for help to discern what to change, for focus, happiness, and to obey His will.