The Serenity Prayer

This simple yet profound prayer was written by American theologian Reinhart Niebuhr. It was adopted, modified and popularized by the 12 step fellowships. 

Serenity Prayer
the adapted serenity prayer

Origins of the serenity prayer

Wikipedia cites Reinhart Niebuhr as the author of the serenity prayer, written around 1933 - 1934. There appear to be several versions of the prayer.

The Yale Alumni Magazine cites this version as the original:


give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other

It's interesting to note the difference in this original version which asks for the "courage to change what must be altered" compared with the later version which asks for the "courage to change what can be changed."

I'm reminded of another quote along the lines of "just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done." Of course, working out what can or must be changed is by no means simple. Which is why the serenity prayer asks for the wisdom/insight to know the difference between what can/must be changed and that which cannot be changed.

The power of the serenity prayer

This prayer is short, simple and easy to remember. It's also deeply profound and when reflected upon it gives us great freedom. Why? Oftentimes the pain or frustration we experience in life comes from thinking we can change things we have no power over. The serenity prayer helps us do a quick reality check by helping us to question our assumptions of control.

If we really accept that we don't have control over a situation then it becomes pointless to keep on fighting. Instead, we should turn our focus towards the things we can change and have the courage to get to work on changing these things.

The principles behind the serenity prayer

Depending on the situation we're struggling with, finding acceptance may also require a combination of humilitypatience and sometimes even forgiveness.

It may be helpful to ask ourselves the following questions to get a little perspective:

  • Humility: Is my ego causing this problem or making it a bigger deal than it really is? 
  • Patience: If I wait, are things likely to change?
  • Forgiveness: Do I need to forgive myself or someone else?

By practicing courage, we have to dig deep and act in spite of our fears. Explore these concepts to help get a perspective on these behaviors and how you can practice them. 

The serenity prayer today

It's no surprise that the founders of AA took to the prayer and integrated it into their literature and meetings. The other 12 step fellowships also adopted it and it's thanks to their work that it's so well known today. But the serenity prayer is not just useful for those suffering from addiction, it's useful for all of us in both our personal lives and relationships and in business too. It helps us make better decisions and steer a smoother course through life.  

How to practice the serenity prayer

I've been using the serenity prayer for over 20 years and it's one of the tools I draw on regularly. It works really well as part of a daily practice too.

But putting the serenity prayer into practice in everyday life is not quite so easy. That's why I created a short online course that breaks down the serenity prayer in detail and then gives you actions you can follow to integrate it into your morning routine. When used with daily journaling, the serenity prayer can be a really powerful tool that helps you be more efficient, confident and capable in your daily life.


While the serenity prayer is short, sweet and easy to understand, it's actually much harder to put into action in our daily lives. My online course helps you do just this, by breaking it down and turning it into a practice that you can use as part of a daily routine or whenever you need some serenity.

Are you ready to transform your life?

The Serenity Prayer Course gives you a profound yet simple way to transform your thinking and your life
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