AA Serenity Prayer - What is it ?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 29, 
| 4 Sources

“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.”
serenity prayerPhoto by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The AA serenity prayer listed above is a condensed version of the prayer commonly used in Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. There are other self help groups that utilize the serenity prayer as well. 

The extended original AA serenity prayer continues:

“…Living one day at a time; enjoying each 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.”

Prayer For Serenity
Who Wrote The Serenity Prayer?

The original serenity prayer was written in the early 1930s or 40s by Reinhold Niebuhr for one of his sermons.

He published it in 1951, but the words of the serenity prayer had already come to the attention of AA and its founder, Bill Wilson and the Rev Sam Shoemaker, who led the Oxford group in the United States.

AA Serenity Prayer
Adopted By Alcoholics Anonymous

Bill Wilson adopted the prayer for serenity as a kind of mantra for the burgeoning AA group. Now it has gone on to become the most famous and popular of the AA prayers.

The serenity prayer is recited by Alcoholics Anonymous meetings by its members.

The Reverend Sam Shoemaker, as mentioned above, was the leader of the Oxford group in America which had its beginnings in the movement begun in the UK, a movement which advocated education for the working man and which in America promoted the spiritual life and the giving of oneself over to the will of God.

Bill and Sam soon realized that they had much in common and shared a similar outlook, especially after Bill and his sponsor Ebby Thatcher opted to become Christians. Bill and Ebby were recovering alcoholics, who were heavily involved in creating a literary and spiritual structure to support the ever-expanding Alcoholics Anonymous Group.

When you read the Alcoholics Anonymous version of the Serenity Prayer above, what did you take away from it? Were there any messages that stood out to you?

For many, the “take-away” from the Serenity Prayer is to recognize things in your life that you have control over and things you don’t. It goes a step further to recognize that spending your time and energy into things you can control, compared to things you cannot control.

This prayer can be a helpful tool to keep us grounded and maintain perspective with what we are investing our time and energy into.

If Alcoholics Anonymous is not for you then why not try these AA alternatives:

Prayer of Serenity
A Lasting Legacy

Bill asked the erudite and literary Reverend Shoemaker to write the now famous Twelve Steps of the AA program, but Sam demurred, saying that they should be written by an alcoholic and so Bill was encouraged to write them himself.

Bill W. went on to add many AA prayers to the organization's growing collection, but the AA serenity prayer will forever be synonymous with that organization.

Sam’s contributions to AA later took a backseat in comparison to Bill’s works, but if it were not for Sam it is doubtful that the organization would have had such a firm spiritual base.

The beauty of it is that the abridged version of the AA serenity prayer can be said by people of all faiths who believe in a spiritual force higher than themselves, so there is no barrier of race, religion or creed to becoming a member of AA.

In addition to this, the prayer for serenity can be used across the board. It is not just a tool of those in recovery from alcoholism, but also those in other 12 step groups such as Alanon and by anybody looking for solace and comfort in everyday life.

"If at any point you're struggling with your sobriety, speak to one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience, they have been in your shoes. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

Barriers to Alcoholics Anonymous Program

Many individuals have concerns about the use of the word God throughout the Alcoholics Anonymous literature as well as in meetings, for example in the AA serenity prayer. This can serve as a barrier for these individuals when trying to fully participate in the Alcoholics Anonymous Program.

So what can you do? First, recognize that most of the Alcoholics Anonymous literature was written quiet some time ago. Second, if it is the specific use of the word God that you are struggling with, try using an acronym.

There are many members of Alcoholics Anonymous who identify as Spiritual and not Religious. As a result, they do not view God the same. One approach is to use the many acronyms. For example, “Good old direction” and “Group of drunks”.

If you have concerns about the use of the word God within the Alcoholics Anonymous program, challenge yourself to have an open mind. Try a local meeting with an open mind. If you are in a place to accept help, this is a great opportunity to do so.

Is AA not right for you? Then there are other options, such as these non-AA alcohol treatment programs. Learn more about the Sinclair method, spiritual recovery, Women for Sobriety, Lifering secular recovery, SMART recovery, Rational Recovery, and other alternatives. Contact us today to know more about these programs

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Information regarding the symptoms of alcoholism that can be observed in the early, chronic and end stage: Signs of Alcoholism: Symptoms of Early, Chronic & End Stages (americanaddictioncenters.org) 

A list of Podcasts related to alcohol use written up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol related podcasts | CDC

A list of Blogs related to alcohol use written up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Blogs | Alcohol | CDC

Facts and statistics about alcohol use provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH): Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

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