Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance

A Closer Look at The Serenity Prayer


clouds at sunset

Last week, in “How to Help an Addict (or Alcoholic)” I mentioned using the Serenity Prayer as a tool  that can apply to just about any situation. It occurred to me that some people might not be familiar with the Serenity Prayer:

“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.”

     Before I got into recovery from co-dependency and compulsive overeating, I’d see this prayer hanging on someone’s wall, and think, Yeah okay, that’s nice. But I didn’t pay much attention to it. Maybe it seemed too simple.

I’ve said the Serenity Prayer hundreds of times by now, with varying levels of awareness of its meaning.  Lately, I’ve been taking a closer look at the long version, which can be found here, and just realized the connection with mindfulness in the line, “enjoying one moment at a time.”

The Serenity Prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr, probably in the mid 1930’s, according to this Wikipedia article. The prayer was included in a book for army chaplains and service people in 1944.

Applying the Serenity Prayer, like most things in recovery, is easier said than done.

One way to work the short version of the Serenity Prayer is to clarify what I can and cannot change.

If I draw a line down the center of a piece of paper (sometimes I still like to use old fashioned paper and pen), I can put the things I cannot change, the things I need to accept, on one side of the paper.

On the other side, I can write what I can change.

For example:

I cannot change the past……………………………………I can change my actions now.

I cannot change my mistakes……………………………..I can learn from my mistakes.

I cannot change my childhood……………………………I can change my perspective.

I cannot erase the memory of big hurts………………………….I can forgive and let go.

When I can’t seem to forgive and let go…………..I can turn it over to God.

I cannot change other people’s illnesses………….I can love them and pray for them.

I cannot change that addiction causes irrational behavior…….I can present options.

I cannot make some one get sober………………………I can set boundaries for me.

I can’t keep people from being mean…………….I can try to understand or walk away.


I need to remember that acceptance doesn’t mean I have to like what I’m accepting.

Acceptance frees me to focus on what I can change: me, my thoughts, and my actions.

I can change my attitude. I can focus more on what’s right than what’s wrong. I can cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

People may decide to change as a result of my actions, but that is not up to me.

So, how does this fit in with Anything Is Possible?

Change usually takes more time than I want it to.

God can change things we can’t.

There is usually something we can change about any situation.

(More on that later.)

Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Jesus follower, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again as well as the short version: From Loneliness to Love.

15 thoughts on “A Closer Look at The Serenity Prayer

  1. Great posting. First of all, thanks for reminding me there is the longer version of the serenity prayer and I enjoyed the connection to mindfulness that you pointed out. I like how you transformed the prose into an exercise of realistic change AND acceptance. Thanks for putting an extra spring in my step today 🙂 Harlon

    • Well, your comment puts an extra spring in my step. So, thank you too! I’m 🙂 you found this interesting. The long version is calling me for further study.

  2. Super post, JoAnne! I love how you worked it all a out …and I, too, love the old fashioned pen and paper exercise with a dividing line down the middle!! 🙂 I agree with all you wrote, and then for me I need to take it one step further. I think I need to question why I feel the need to “change” so much!!! Again…the beauty is in the wisdom of knowing what we can …and can’t!!! Many blessings to you ♡

  3. I like this because you mentioned that acceptance doesn’t mean I have to like what I’m accepting. I really need to remember that, and I think I’m going to study more into the serenity prayer & apply it to my life more. 🙂

  4. That concept, that I didn’t have to like it, was quite an eye-opener for me when I first heard it. I still remind myself. I’m so glad you liked this. Thanks for reading and following along. Best wishes on your study and journey! 🙂

  5. Serenity prayer… Great way of riding the wave of change and moulding yourself around it. Interesting concept. First time I am reading about it, maybe I can try as well when things get tough.

  6. I’m delighted to be able to share this with some one who’s not familiar with it. Hope you find it helpful 🙂 .

  7. Pingback: Global Warming and the Serenity Prayer | Anything is Possible!

  8. What a great way of re-thinking the prayer! You are making it work for you instead of just “blowing it off!” You deserve credit for that much, JoAnne!

    Steve 🙂

  9. Thank you, Steve! “It works if you work it.” 🙂

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