I Used to Despise the Serenity Prayer

It turns out that it’s not meaningless after all

Image by mleonascimento0 from Pixabay

II used to roll my eyes every time I heard or read the Serenity Prayer.

I thought it sounded stupid. I couldn’t believe people actually prayed it. The concept of serenity sounded like sweet, flowery words with no meaning, something a person who wanted to teach me how to manifest my destiny would use.

In my defence, I had often seen it on a plaque coupled with a Thomas Kinkade painting which, for me, is puke-worthy or another equally outrageous wall decoration.

The Serenity Prayer says:

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 changed my mind

Then, something happened that changed how I viewed the Serenity Prayer. I reached a low point and realised I needed to sober up. Suddenly, in the context of recovery, the prayer made so much sense.

I pray it every day in my morning prayers when I review steps one through three, and I add it at the end of each decade of the rosary in the afternoons, right after the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer.

It’s useful for more than just recovery

The Serenity Prayer is useful in other contexts as well, not just recovery. I find that I like having words I can pull from my brain quickly when I’m in one of those situatons where a therapist would tell me to count to ten.

In those moments, I take a deep breath, recite the prayer in my head, and then deal with the task at hand. Having words available when frustrated can change everything about how I deal with something that is upsetting me.

Using the Serenity Prayer as a grounding technique

I think that most people could benefit from memorizing and using the Serenity Prayer, because, if nothing else, it’s an excellent grounding technique that can be done in the moment.

Being able to ground ourselves in moments of stress is a necessary skill and great use of prayer. It’s something that is useful for anyone. Grounding is an essential coping skill, one of the first things taught in therapy.

Grounding is used in times of:

  • stress
  • anger
  • anxiety

and much more.

God wants us to reach out to him in moments of distress

The Serenity Prayer contains three lines, all connected together by a common theme, which means it’s not difficult to learn. It’s a prayer to send up in times of distress.

It’s not just a distress prayer.

I pray the Serenity Prayer in the mornings so that I have it on my mind throughout the day. Words uttered before coffee can help set the tone of the entire day.

It’s not the only prayer I pray in the mornings, but it’s an essential part of my morning prayer hour.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

There are a lot of things that happen every day that we can’t change. Good, bad, or indifferent, these things just happen. We don’t really get a choice in them, it’s life, and it happens, and sometimes life surprises us with something awful.

Grant me the courage to change the things that I can

Then come the things that we definitely can change, and those are things that we can recognize and ask God to help us work on correcting.

Grant me the wisdom to know the difference

Sometimes it’s not easy to know the difference between the two, which is why we need the wisdom to figure it out so that we can have the serenity of letting go of and accepting what we can’t change, and the courage to recognize and admit what we can change.

Work through the first three steps in the mornings

This is a helpful practice even for people who aren’t addicts as the steps are universal but especially those first three. I go through each of those first three in the morning before I say the Serenity Prayer.

  • Step One, we admitted that we were powerless over (addiction/situation) — that our lives had become unmanageable.
    I admit and even meditate on my powerlessness, maybe even work it through on a particular issue, such as “I’m powerless over the fact that I don’t have enough money to get through to the end of the month.”
  • Step Two came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    I tell God directly that I know he can restore me to sanity and trust that he delights in doing so.
  • Step Three made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him.
    I spend some time working through things to turn over to God. I also listen to see if God has anything for me to do.

The first three steps and the Serenity Prayer are something that I also review during the day if I need to, and doesn’t take more than a minute if I’m stuck in a situation where I need it. It’s very helpful, and if you want something new to try and haven’t tried this yet, maybe it would work for you, too.

Let us pray.

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MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.


She/her. I write memoirs, feature articles, essays, poetry, and more.