Q:

What are the words to the original, unabridged serenity prayer?

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Quick Answer

The oldest published appearance of what is now known as the Serenity Prayer reads as follows: "Oh, God, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and insight to know the one from the other." This version dates from 1933.

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Full Answer

The authorship and original format of what is now known as the Serenity Prayer is disputed. However, as of 2014, scholar Fred Shapiro concluded that 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is most likely the author of the original prayer. Shapiro's research uncovered two complete appearances of the poem in 1933 newspaper articles and a fragment in a 1932 diary entry by Winnifred Crane Wygal, a student of Niebuhr.

The most widely known version of the Serenity Prayer comes from a 1942 obituary and was reproduced by Alcoholics Anonymous on prayer cards for its members. Similar cards were printed for American soldiers during World War II. This version reads: "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference." The Serenity Prayer became popular with AA and other 12-step programs, along with more traditional prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer, and remains in use today.

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