The Serenity Prayer Explained

The Serenity Prayer is used in recovery worldwide.  In 12 Step recovery, we close out our meetings with it, and in times of strife and struggle often refer back to it’s comforting words. Let’s break down the serenity prayer today and discuss what it really means, for the more that we understand, the better we can put it to use.

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.


We ask our higher power for serenity


In sobriety, we are constantly reminded to stop trying to control things and to simply live life on life’s terms. To take things as they come without being the grand orchestrator. This was part of our problem all along, wasn’t it? Our attempts to control and dictate our lives regardless of what our Higher Power had planned for us always failed. Under our own control, our lives crashed and burned. We made mistakes and wrong turns and found ourselves in darkened alleys with no idea how we ended up there. So we must continuously be reminded to relinquish our control to our higher power and to let go. We ask our Higher Power to give us serenity, to imbue within us a sense of calm and happy resignation so that we stop trying to fight for control.


We accept what we can not change


This concept is in the same vein as the first line of the prayer – we must accept life as it is. We must accept things as they are and not how we want them to be. When we have defined expectations of ourselves and others, the outcome will never be what we plan. We have to stop trying to change the things that are not within our power and accept the fact that our higher power is in charge. Life is in session and there is no remote to pause or rewind. We have to go with the flow. It is much harder to fight to swim your way upstream than it is to allow the current to carry you gently in it’s wake. We acknowledge those things which are not within our control and then we give it all up to our higher power. In times when I find myself trying to run the show so to speak, I say the serenity prayer to remind myself that I must live my life in acceptance and willingness.


We have courage to change what we can


While much of life is not within our control there ARE things that we can choose to change. Our attitudes, our outlooks on life, these are the things that we can control. We can look at life as a battle to be won or a journey to be experienced. We can see events as blessings or curses. Only we have the power as individuals to change our viewpoints and adapt our outlooks. Life can be beautiful or tragic and it is our choice which will win out. Much of the time changing our mindset takes courage. Walking through things that are uncomfortable or scary takes courage. The instances that are the scariest and most difficult to walk through are often the ones that are also the most important, and so we look to our higher power to give us the courage to do what we know is right.


We ask for wisdom to know the difference


It can be a struggle to recognize those things which are in our control and the ones that aren’t, especially when our will is strong. If we want something badly, even if deep down we KNOW it is against what our higher power has in store for us, we can easily convince ourselves that it is still one of those things we can control or change. We have to take time to be quiet and listen and ask our higher power to help us know which things are about our will and which are about our higher power working in our life. Meditation is often a good time to reflect on our choices and to ask for guidance delineating between the two. When we do not listen to our inner voice and higher power, we often walk down paths not meant for us and find ourselves lost. If you are trying to recognize the difference between the things which you can and can not change, simply take a deep breath, quiet yourself, and then ask if this is God’s will or your own. Listen. Your gut will tell you the truth, and then it is on you to choose whether or not to follow suit.

The serenity prayer comes down to how we exercise our free will and in what ways we allow our higher power to work in our lives. When we can find a balance we will be amazed at how much easier our lives become, but at the times when we are feeling unsure we repeat the serenity prayer to remind us that we are not alone and that all we need to do is look to our higher power, be honest with ourselves, and act accordingly.


Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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