The Power of the Serenity Prayer

You’ve probably read The Serenity Prayer dozens of times before. It’s a beautiful verse that provides you the peace to accept the world around you and the drive to become your best self within it. Even if you aren’t immediately familiar with it, its first verse will definitely ring a bell.

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.

This prayer is ubiquitous in modern society and has been an essential part of many Western religions for over 80 years. The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this prayer in the 1930s for a sermon at Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts. It quickly gained popularity and was widely used in sermons as early as 1934.It was published in 1951 in a magazine column, further increasing its popularity. The prayer spread both through Niebuhr’s sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was later adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.

The beauty of this prayer is the power that resides within it. Its verses are a reminder of the fact that you have the ability to be content with the things you can’t change in your life, and the power to change the things you can. This prayer is incredibly popular for the hope that it instills those who follow the teachings of God. Often, our struggles make us feel powerless. When things are going bad, it’s easy to retreat inward and blame the world around us for our pain. Doing this makes it hard to take personal responsibility and makes it easier for us to give up when things seem bleak. However, when we understand that acceptance and personal responsibility are incredible motivators we’re more apt to make the changes we need to in order to live our best lives.

How to incorporate the Serenity Prayer into your daily life:

This is a great prayer to recite at the beginning of each day to prepare you for the trails and tribulations that you may face. Take a moment to yourself before you rush out the door to take a few deep breaths, set your intention and read this prayer out loud. Many people also incorporate the first verse of this prayer into art or on jewelry so it’s an easily accessible, constant reminder of your personal responsibility to change what you can and accept the things can’t.

If you’re coping with loss, addiction, sickness, or other daily struggles adding this prayer to your self-care regimen is a wonderful way to remember that you deserve happiness, peace, and serenity in this life.

Dr. Amy Rosenberg is a LGBTQ and life transitions counselor Syosset, who provides individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy for individuals across the adult lifespan, ranging from young adults to geriatrics.