The prayer used in 12-step recovery programs is known as the Alcoholics Anonymous and the Celebrate Recovery Serenity Prayer. If you are new to the prayer, you are in for a treat today! We are going to analyze it and show you how it can work to improve your life and make the world a little easier to deal with as you work toward complete recovery.
The Serenity Prayer was created by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and is commonly attributed to the poem or prayer that is used in twelve-step programs aimed at recovery for things such as substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and other additions. Celebrate Recovery is very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is a Christ-centered 12-step recovery program.
While there are plenty of great things to be said about Celebrate Recovery and all it has to offer individuals, today, we are going to focus on the Serenity Prayer and the benefits of learning it. We’ll also dive in to learn more about what the Serenity Prayer really means. Join me in learning more about this tool for recovery! Let’s get started!
The Serenity Prayer for 12-Step Programs
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
By Reinhold Niebuhr
Read an even longer Irish version of the Serenity Prayer on the website of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
What is Celebrate Recovery?
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step recovery program for addicts, abuse victims, people suffering from codependency, and those who have any other hurts, habits, and hangups. This includes life issues, stress, and eating disorders. We all have some hurt, bad habit, or hangup that needs to be addressed.
Why not check out Celebrate Recovery, where you can be yourself and get help at the same time? Check out a Celebrate Recovery meeting near you for more information about how you can get involved. You won’t regret it, and you will quite possibly make lifelong friends if you attend the meetings, groups and join a step study eventually!
The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer
What is Serenity?
The dictionary explains that serenity is the state of being serene, which is calm and tranquil. To me, this is saying you would be at peace. I’m not wrong; the definition of serene is calm, peaceful, tranquil, or unruffled.
So, when we ask God to grant us the serenity to accept things, we are asking for peace. We no longer want to be entangled, “ruffled,” torn or bothered by our hurts, habits, and hangups. We want peace instead.
What Can You Not Change?
You cannot change other people, the weather, external circumstances that affect you, and often the outcome of situations. Maybe you are arguing with a friend. You cannot change how they will react to what you say or do. You cannot control their actions, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.
According to the prayer, you need to understand that there are many things you cannot change, and you must learn to accept those things as uncontrollable. If you cannot do anything about something, you need not worry about it so much. Don’t let it affect you. Watch how it does affect you and your circumstances.
As a quick example, I was recently talking to someone on the phone, and rather than having a civilized conversation about an innocent subject, she got bent out of sorts about something and ended up hanging up on me. In my humble opinion, that was childish.
The thing is I let that conversation bother me all day long. I couldn’t control her actions and make her act like a mature adult. I analyzed the conversation over and over again, but I determined there was nothing I said that made her hang up on me.
However, it still got to me. I did not accept the things (her actions) I could not change.
If I had done things right, I would have walked away from the conversation, saying, “There’s nothing I could have done to prevent that childish behavior. I did my best to get along with her.” Then, I would have shaken off that horrible feeling and changed my attitude, and had a great day, despite the fact that all that happened.
Of course, this is something I’m working on. I’m a work in progress! Aren’t we all, though? Am I alone here?
What Can You Change?
This is the part I love! We can change the way things affect us, our reactions, our feelings, our thoughts, and our actions. Also, we can watch what we say and do. We can control ourselves and how we respond to other people, unforeseen circumstances, and situations we didn’t plan.
We can change ourselves. What we need is the courage to do just that. Courage is hard to come by, especially if you aren’t a naturally strong person, to begin with.
However, you can build courage if you think about your life and your hopes and dreams. How do you want to live?
If you want to be stronger, stand firm in your decisions. If you want to be wiser, listen more and read something that will increase your knowledge. You have the power to make changes in yourself; you just need to do self-investigation to determine where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then you will know what you need to work on.
Changing yourself doesn’t come naturally. When I went through a drastic self-improvement phase, I read self-improvement books every single day, took diligent notes, worked with a qualified therapist, and took baby steps toward my goals every single day. It was not an easy process. However, I can now look back and see the difference in myself.
You may not need to go to the extremes that I did to change yourself, but it’s not a simple path that happens overnight. It typically takes 21 days to adopt a new habit, so it may take you a month to really start something new in your life.
I wasn’t the strongest at reading my Bible every day, but I decided it was a habit I was going to adopt – no matter what. I made a list of everything I needed to do each day, and I made sure I went through the list every single day for months. Because I did this organized method of adopting the new habit of Bible reading, I now read the Bible daily with no problem.
How Can Hardships Be a Pathway to Peace?
This is a tough one. When you overcome strife, struggles, or problems, you become stronger because of them. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I wouldn’t change anything because it all made me the person I am today. We have to reward ourselves for going through this stuff because it made us who we are today.
Also, going through hardships can teach us that there are worse things out there than what we are currently worrying about. If you just had a family member die, you know there is pain out there – pain that doesn’t easily go away, pain that stings, and pain that makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry for hours.
Because of that pain, your spilled coffee seems like a minor issue in comparison. You can now address situations like that with a calm, peaceful attitude because you know there are much worse things that you have been through. Think about that the next time you have a problem. How does it compare to other problems you have had in the past?
How to Trust God
To trust in someone you cannot physically see and have a face-to-face conversation with is considered to be faith. You believe that He is up in heaven, touching your heart as you pray to Him. If you struggle with prayer or are just learning how to pray, I encourage you to start a daily prayer journal. That will help you in your prayer life.
Praying is crucial because it’s how we talk to God. He wants to hear from us! Part of trusting God is speaking to Him. Believe that He hears you and knows what is in your heart. Your prayers may not be answered in the way you wish, but have faith that God will do what is best for your life.
The second part of a conversation with God is listening. You can listen to God by reading the Bible. Study the Bible and memorize scripture. This will help you understand what He is wanting you to do in your life.
This is another tough situation because faith isn’t something that comes naturally. You have to work on it daily. At least, this is the case for me.
When I was torn on the direction to take this blog, I was doing a Bible study and Psalms 96:3 spoke to me.
Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.
I added a section for Christian Life because I heard God speaking to me to do that.
When I felt like everything was falling at my feet and I couldn’t catch my breath, I stumbled across Psalms 142:3.
When I am overwhelmed, You alone know the way I should turn.
This showed me that I needed to spend more time reading the Bible and listening to God so that I would turn my life in the right direction. I knew God would be there to guide me even through the many obstacles I was facing.
How to Memorize the Serenity Prayer
According to the National Catholic Register, you might be able to quickly memorize a prayer if you use visualization methods. They use an example of a grocery list. You would picture the items you need to purchase as they would look to you in different parts of a room. Peanut butter might be smeared on the wall by a child, and orange juice was spilled.
For the first few lines of the prayer, let’s give it a try.
The prayer starts by saying the name of God.
I picture my hands reaching for the sky as if to catch a balloon coming down.
Then, you ask God to grant you Serenity.
What does that look like to you?
I picture a cloud being placed in my arms – something peaceful and serene.
Next, we want to ask God to help us accept the things we cannot change.
In my mind, I see my hand going to my heart for acceptance, and then I point to an invisible red box to my left that contains the things I cannot change.
Then, we’d like to get the courage we need to change the things we can.
I picture myself being strong with a fist going toward my chest.
Next, I point to another invisible green box to my right that contains the things I can change.
Finally, we need the wisdom to know the difference.
I point to my temple because that’s where my brain is, and my brain has wisdom!
I then point back and forth to the two invisible boxes to “tell the difference.”
Can you picture what I said and remember those few lines of the prayer? What method will work best for you to memorize the Serenity Prayer?
When I did memorize the Serenity Prayer many years ago, I just said it over and over again – so many times that it stuck in my brain. That’s another way to memorize the Serenity Prayer. Just repeat it multiple times to get it stuck in your head. This is a very important thing to do because you want to have it in your head when you need to hear those words!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the meaning of the Serenity Prayer?
The Serenity Prayer can help you memorize the principles of recovery as you struggle through life. It can also help you determine if a situation is worth getting upset over or not. It can help you start your day off on the right foot, too. There are numerous benefits to the Serenity Prayer like this.
What religion is the Serenity Prayer?
According to the New York Times, the Serenity Prayer is thought to be of the Protestant religion. It is a Christian prayer created by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It is used in 12-step recovery programs to encourage and help those who are struggling with addictions and abuse.
What did Reinhold Niebuhr do?
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was born in 1892. He was an American theologian, a commentator on politics and public affairs, and an ethics professor at Union Theological Seminary for over 30 years. He created the Serenity Prayer, which is used by 12-step programs to help addicts learn the principles of recovery.
Where did the Serenity Prayer come from?
According to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous, the enthusiasm for using the Serenity Prayer began in 1942. AA started implementing the prayer in its materials and literature for all members of the group. It was written by Reinhold Niebuhr and was viewed as having strength and wisdom in it.
How do you pray?
You can pray out loud if you find that to be easier. If you want to know how to pray, you should search in your heart to find the best way. It may be easiest to keep a prayer journal or follow prayer prompts. If you have loved ones with whom you can pray, you can join forces and pray together for even more powerful prayers.
You have now learned all about the Alcohol Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery Serenity Prayer. What have you learned? I encourage you to take the time to memorize this prayer to help you through your problems, struggles, and strife in life.
If you’d like to learn more about Celebrate Recovery, find a location near you and go to a meeting. You will most certainly agree that the benefits of going to a Celebrate Recovery meeting far outweigh any hesitations, excuses, or fears you have of going there!
I’d enjoy hearing about your take on the Serenity Prayer. How did you memorize it? How do you pray today? What is your relationship with God like?
I’d love to hear your take on the subject. Please leave a comment, check out my many free resources, and read more of my blog posts!