What Is the Serenity Prayer Poem?

The most well known part of the Serenity Prayer is its first verse, which reads: "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." It is commonly recited at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous began using the prayer in its meetings in 1942. A member saw the poem in an obituary in the newspaper and brought it to the attention of other members, who quickly appreciated the words. The use of the poem quickly spread through Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction support groups and is now printed in all official AA publications.

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is most often credited with writing the original poem in 1937, but rumors suggest that it may have been written long before. Niebuhr first recited the prayer in a sermon in 1942 and published it in a magazine column in 1951. The version used by AA is slightly modified from Niebuhr's original version, but still captures the essence and meaning of the poem.

Verses expressing similar sentiments have appeared throughout history. Other versions include those written by Epictetus, Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva and Jewish philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol. There is even a Mother Goose rhyme similar to the prayer.