Applying the Serenity Prayer to Your Everyday Life

The Serenity Prayer is one of the most well-known and memorized prayers in all of Christianity. It was written by an American theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).

Although Niebuhr used several different versions of the prayer in his church sermons over the years, the most common version of the Serenity Prayer is the shortened version:

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.

Reinhold Niebuhr

The simple prayer eventually became so famous and highly regarded that the recovery group, Alcoholics Anonymous, adopted it as their mantra for their 12-step program.

The prayer spread broadly within church groups throughout the 1930s an 40s without attribution to its author, but Niebuhr did not publish it himself until 1951 in a magazine article.

Serenity Prayer (Full Version)

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. 

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
As it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
If I surrender to His Will; 
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life 
And supremely happy with Him 
Forever and ever in the next. 

3 Daily Applications of the Serenity Prayer

Practical application of the Serenity Prayer requires us to adopt three attributes: acceptance, courage, and wisdom. Each of these facets comes with challenges.

1. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

The first line of the Serenity Prayer asks God for the emotional peacefulness necessary to cope with situations beyond our control. Without this inner peace, the trials of life can drive us to act out of character or even commit sin.

It is critically important to realize that there are situations that we will encounter in life that we cannot resolve on our own. It is in these times that we must humble ourselves and ask for God’s help and guidance.

We often hear Christians say jokingly, “Jesus take the wheel!” But sometimes that’s exactly what we need him to do. Allowing God to be the driver of our circumstance places us at the submission to His will. That submission is the only place of spiritual peace in situations that we cannot control.

Bible scriptures promise us peace when we take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there:

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”- Philippians 4:7

“Be still and know that I am God!”- Psalms 46:10

2. “the courage to change the things I can,”

Since we know that God has not given us a spirit of fear, it is important that we not operate fearfully when we face situations within our control. We must recognize that the spirit of fear can appear as the avoidance of challenging tasks and weakness in hard times.

Thankfully, our faith in God provides us with “Holy Boldness,” knowing that God can see us through anything life throws at us. The scriptures give us guidance here:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

– Deuteronomy 31:6

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 

– Proverbs 3:5-6

3. “and, the wisdom to know the difference.”

Wisdom is only acquired through experience. Either we learn from our own circumstance or by witnessing the circumstances of other people.

Fortunately, God’s word says that He will give us wisdom if we ask for it, but we must walk in faith knowing that what we ask God for may be given to us in the form of experienced trials and hardship.

Spiritual intelligence is knowing that God will always see us through hard times. But spiritual wisdom is understanding that Gods’ time is not necessarily our time and our deliverance may not come when we want it:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

– James 1:5

 “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

– 2 Timothy 3:15-17

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