The Serenity Prayer is short and sweet, yet used in recovery as a concise way of approaching what it means to combat addiction. Find out below what it is and how it can assist in resisting relapse and getting onto the road to recovery.

What Is The Serenity Prayer?

The Serenity Prayer goes as follows:

“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.”

Thanks to its increased use in the mainstream media and citation on social media, the Serenity Prayer is becoming well-known as an acceptance technique in rehab clinics and focus groups.

By citing the Serenity Prayer, an addict learns to come to terms with their addiction so they can take positive steps towards beating it, particularly when they need a reminder during temptations or times of self-deprecation.

Where Did The Serenity Prayer Originate?

There is some argument about the origins of the Serenity Prayer. Some believe it can be traced back to the days of Aristotle, while others believe it came about through Ancient Christian theologian St. Augustine. Most commonly believed is the argument that it was first written in 1932 by Reinhold Niebuhr, a US Theologian.

However, in terms of addiction, the Serenity Prayer started being used by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 in their meetings. 

It is still used to this day as an effective means of acceptance in other rehab institutions and charitable organisations that help those overcoming addiction, such as Narcotics Anonymous.

Simply put, the prayer gives a simplified version of the 12-step process towards sobriety and sanity, which many rehab clinics use.

How Can The Serenity Prayer Assist in Recovery?

Used in the context of helping an addict to overcome addiction, the Serenity Prayer is a powerful text which encourages those suffering from addiction to accept their circumstances with bravery.

In short, from this text, they learn from their negative experiences and have the strength to move on from them with conviction.

It also addresses an addict’s failed desire for absolute control over both their own actions and the actions of others. Having this level of control isn’t sustainable for everybody; anybody is capable of losing control, and thus, often, a reminder such as the Serenity Prayer is used to remind them that it is okay if this happens.

The prayer teaches those suffering from addiction that an unfortunate part of life deals with circumstances beyond our control or that we cannot change directly.

By focusing more strongly on their own feelings and actions and how they react to such, those suffering from addiction can become stronger and eventually emancipate themselves from their continued abuse of substances or alcohol.

Strength, accepting change and living in your truth are all principles of the Serenity Prayer.

Those who read and follow the prayer are said to discover the gift of inner peace and serenity, which in turn can help them face a new day with courage and happiness.

Understanding The Serenity Prayer: What Does ‘Serenity’ Mean?

To begin to understand the Serenity Prayer, it’s essential to learn the definition of the term ‘serenity’.

Words that are most commonly linked to ‘serenity’ include terms such as ‘calm’, ‘peace’, ‘stillness’ and ‘tranquillity’. 

To feel ‘serene’ is to feel calm and at peace, however, those who are faced with the destructive cycle of addiction often feel the complete opposite of this, which is why this prayer aims to reinforce the true sense of serenity.

To achieve a serene state is to beat addiction. If we do not feel serene, we often feel agitated emotions instead, such as frustration or stress. This is common in those suffering from addiction who feel out of control and make bad decisions with poor judgment.

A person with an addiction also displays irrational behaviour, which stems from a lack of control.

In asking for serenity through the Serenity Prayer, an addict can not only take back control but also work on their emotions, which in turn will lead to positive, calm actions and thoughts.

How The Serenity Prayer Promotes Acceptance

The Serenity Prayer is all about accepting the present moment and circumstances/events in life that you cannot change or influence.

For an addict, this means overcoming negativity and feelings of anger from a lack of control to focus on the present with a degree of calm neutrality.

The prayer teaches the acceptance of failure and that you can progress once this acceptance has been made. 

For those suffering from addiction, accepting an addiction to drugs or alcohol that requires help and support through rehab is an essential first step, which the prayer promotes.

Personal change is not an easy task, but the Serenity Prayer teaches an addict to focus on what they can change about themselves – i.e. their behaviour, reaction and action (in taking drugs/drinking excessively). It teaches that this change is doable if you work on the right mindset to achieve it.

Change also involves sacrifice; in this sense, sacrificing drugs and alcohol can lead to positive steps forward.

An essential part of change is also to limit self-analysis and blame. Rather than dwelling on who or what is to blame for an addiction, an addict must push this aside to clear their mind and focus on the task ahead – rehabilitation.

By taking personal ownership and responsibility for their actions without resentment, a person struggling with an addiction can find the determination within themselves to succeed and put the past behind them for good.

What Does ‘Wisdom’ Refer to in The Serenity Prayer

The last sentence of the Serenity Prayer refers to wisdom.

For a person to learn the difference between what they can and cannot change is to exercise logic and understanding, which gives them wisdom.

By being unafraid to change their behaviour and actions, an addict can learn to make rational decisions that build on experience.

The term ‘wisdom’ in the prayer also refers to faith, which doesn’t always mean religion but can also relate to having faith in him or herself to beat their addiction.

By the Serenity Prayer and adhering to its ethos, one will unconsciously grow in wisdom through self-belief.

Ready to Recover?

If you’re ready to recover, get the help you deserve from a recognised rehab facility.

Using various methods, we can help you find serenity within sobriety and get you back on your feet. Contact us at Ocean Recovery today to find out how we can help you beat addiction once and for all at 0800 880 7596 or email today at

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 18, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.