The Seven Words of The Serenity Prayer

Barbara posted the Serenity Prayer yesterday and it reminded me of a time in the late 90s when I was a part of ToughLove, a parents support group. Each night before we closed our meeting we would pray the Serenity Prayer and this is what we would pray:
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.
I once led a ToughLove group discussion where I talked about that prayer we prayed each week and examined seven words from the prayer. He is a (word-by-word) recap of what I said:
  • God: The Westminster Catechism defines as a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. If you are going to ask for help you need to ask somone who is willing and able to help.
  • Serenity: Synonyms are calmness, tranquillity, peacefulness, quietness, uncloudedness. Worry is the opposite of serenity; a frustrated attempt to “do something”. When we act out of worry and other emotions we create more problems. When we act out of serenity we can have confidence in our actions.
  • Accept: To receive willingly or favorably, agree to, concur with, release. Wanting a “normal” life causes us to deny the way things really are. Only when we “accept” can we focus on the things we can change.
  • Change: To make different. Often we want things to be different as long as we don’t have to change. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.
  • Courage: The ability to meet danger or opposition with fearlessness, calmness and firmness. The most courageous word in our language is often “no” (i.e. to old habits). Sometimes we need encouragement from others to support our actions.
  • Wisdom: Synonyms are discernment, judgment, uncommon-sense. Like serenity, wisdom often comes through patience and experience. Wisdom often comes from other people who have “been there” before.
  • Know: To be sure of, understand, recognize, distinguish between. To act or not to act - often our knowing is less than perfect. Often we can rationalize ourselves out of doing something we know to do.
If you find yourself worried, troubled, anxious, or just dealing with some angst in your life try praying the Serenity Prayer ... it may help you to cast your cares on the Lord.


  1. Thanks for the encouragement and the breakdown on this useful prayer!

  2. This is GREAT! I never saw it broke down like this before, I am printing this out. Thanks, KB. And nice new pic!

  3. Too bad more 12 Step programs don't use the full serenity prayer as it was written. Of course, I know they can't because they are spiritual groups and not Christ-centered groups. But the full prayer has so much more in it. (Celebrate Recovery uses the full prayer in its 12 step program.)

    Here it is:

    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. AMEN (by Reinhold Niebuhr)

    I used the full prayer in my novel about alcoholism, Beyond the Shadows.


  4. Thanks Robin. I almost posted the whole prayer but got lazy!


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