|08-07-2013, 10:34 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2013
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.
Thy will, not mine be done.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 41
The Origin of our Serenity Prayer
As published in August/September 1992 BOX-459
(Reprinted with permission)
For many years, long after the Serenity Prayer became attached to the very fabric of the Fellowship's life and thought, its exact origin, its actual author, have played a tantalizing game of hide and seek with researchers, both in and out of A.A. The facts of how it came to be used by A.A. a half century ago are much easier to pinpoint.
Early in 1942, writes Bill W., in A.A. Comes of Age, a New York member, Jack, brought to everyone's attention a caption in a routine New York Herald Tribune obituary that read:
"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can,
and wisdom to know the difference."
Everyone in A.A.'s burgeoning office on Manhattan's Vesey Street was struck by the power and wisdom contained in the prayer's thoughts. "Never had we seen so much A.A. in so few words," Bill writes. Someone suggested that the prayer be printed on a small, wallet-sized card, to be included in every piece of outgoing mail. Ruth Hock, the Fellowship's first (and nonalcoholic) secretary, contacted Henry S., a Washington D.C. member, and a professional printer, asking him what it would cost to order a bulk printing.
Henry's enthusiastic response was to print 500 copies of the prayer, with the remark: "Incidentally, I am only a heel when I'm drunk .. . so naturally, there could be no charge for anything of this nature."
"With amazing speed," writes Bill, "the Serenity Prayer came into general use and took its place alongside our two other favorites, the Lord's Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis.
Thus did the "accidental" noticing of an unattributed prayer, printed alongside a simple obituary of an unknown individual, open the way toward the prayer's daily use by thousands upon thousands of A.A.s worldwide.
But despite years of research by numerous individuals, the exact origin of the prayer is shrouded in overlays of history, even mystery. Moreover, every time a researcher appears to uncover the definitive source, another one crops up to refute the former's claim, at the same time that it raises new, intriguing facts. What is undisputed is the claim of authorship by the theologian Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr, who recounted to interviewers on several occasions that he had written the prayer as a "tag line" to a sermon he had delivered on Practical Christianity. Yet even Dr. Niebuhr added at least a touch of doubt to his claim, when he told one interviewer, "Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself."
Early in World War II, with Dr. Niebuhr's permission, the prayer was printed on cards and distributed to the troops by the U.S.O. By then it had also been reprinted by the National Council of Churches, as well as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dr. Niebuhr was quite accurate in suggesting that the prayer may have been "spooking around" for centuries. "No one can tell for sure who first wrote the Serenity Prayer," writes Bill in A.A. Comes of Age. "Some say it came from the early Greeks; others think it was from the pen of an anonymous English poet; still others claim it was written by an American Naval officer... ." Other attributions have gone as far afield as ancient Sanskrit texts, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and Spinoza. One A.A. member came across the Roman philosopher Cicero's Six Mistakes of Man, one of which reads: "The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected."
No one has actually found the prayer's text among the writings of these alleged, original sources. What are probably truly ancient, as with the above quote from Cicero, are the prayer's themes of acceptance, courage to change what can be changed and the free letting go of what is out of one's ability to change.
The search for pinpointing origins of the prayer has been like the peeling of an onion. For example, in July 1964, the A.A. Grapevine received a clipping of an article that had appeared in the Paris Herald Tribune, by the paper's correspondent in Koblenz, then in West Germany. "In a rather dreary hall of a converted hotel, overlooking the Rhine at Koblenz," the correspondent wrote, is a tablet inscribed with the following words:
"God give me the detachment to accept those things I cannot alter;
the courage to alter those things I can alter;
and the wisdom to distinguish the one thing from the other."
These words were attributed, the correspondent wrote, to an 18th century pietist, Friedrich Oetinger (1702-1782). Moreover, the plaque was affixed to a wall in a hall where modern day troops and company com-manders of the new German army were trained "in the principles of management and . . . behavior of the soldier citizen in a democratic state."
Here, at last, thought A.A. researchers, was concrete evidence-quote, author, date-of the Serenity Prayer's original source. That conviction went unchallenged for fifteen years. Then in 1979 came material, shared with G.S.O.'s Beth K., by Peter T., of Berlin. Peter's research threw the authenticity of 18th century authorship out the window. But it also added more tantalizing facts about the plaque's origin.
"The first form of the prayer," Beth wrote back, originated with Boethius, the Roman philosopher (480-524 A.D.), and author of the book, Consolations of Philosophy. The prayer's thoughts were used from then on by "religious-like people who had to suffer first by the English, later the Prussian puritans . . . then the Pietists from southwest Germany . . . then A.A.s . . . and through them, the West Germans after the Second World War."
Moreover, Beth continued, after the war, a north German University professor, Dr. Theodor Wilhelm, who had started a revival of spiritual life in West Germany, had acquired the "little prayer" from Canadian soldiers. He had written a book in which he had included the prayer, without attribution, but which resulted in the prayer's appearance in many different places, such as army officer's halls, schools and other institutions. The professor's nom de plume? Friedrich Oetinger, the 18th century pietist! Wilhelm had apparently selected the pseudonym Oetinger out of admiration of his south German forebears.
Back in 1957, another G.S.O. staff member, Anita R., browsing in a New York bookstore, came upon a beautifully bordered card, on which was printed:
"Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,
give us Serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
Courage to change what should be changed,
and Wisdom to know the one from the other;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
The card, which came from a bookshop in England, called it the "General's Prayer," dating it back to the fourteenth century! There are still other claims, and no doubt more unearthings will continue for years to come. In any event, Mrs. Reinhold Niebuhr told an interviewer that her husband was definitely the prayer's author, that she had seen the piece of paper on which he had written it, and that her husband-now that there were numerous variations of wording -"used and preferred" the following form:
"God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
While all of these searchings are intriguing, challenging, even mysterious, they pale in significance when compared to the fact that, for fifty years, the prayer has become so deeply imbedded into the heart and soul of A.A. thinking, living, as well as its philosophy, that one could almost believe that the prayer originated in the A.A. experience itself.
Bill made this very point years ago, in thanking an A.A. friend for the plaque upon which the prayer was inscribed: "In creating A.A., the Serenity Prayer has been a most valuable building block-indeed a corner-stone."
And speaking of cornerstones, and mysteries and "coincidences"-the building where G.S.O. is now located borders on a stretch of New York City's 120th St., between Riverside Drive and Broadway (where the Union Theological Seminary is situated). It's called Reinhold Niebuhr Place.
(A long version of the Prayer)
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;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen
(Another long version of the Prayer from Ireland)
God take and receive my liberty,
my memory, my understanding and will,
All that I am and have He has given me
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
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy in the next. AMEN
(thanks to Noel D. from Ireland for the long version)
THE SERENITY PRAYER - Another Version
GOD SAYING THIS WORD I AM ADMITTING THE EXISTENCE OF A
CONSCIOUSNESS OR? OF? A HIGHER POWER THAT IS
GREATER THAN I.
GRANT SAYING THIS SECOND WORD, I AM ADMITTING THAT THIS
CONSCIOUSNESS OR HIGHER POWER IS ABLE TO BESTOW AND
GIVE TO ME AND TO OTHERS.
ME THE I AM ASKING SOMETHING FOR MYSELF. HOLY BOOKS SAY THAT
IF I ASK SINCERELY, IT SHALL BE GIVEN. IT IS NOT WRONG TO ASK
FOR IMPROVING MYSELF. FOR WITH THE IMPROVEMENT OF MY
CHARACTER, BOTH I AND PEOPLE AROUND ME WILL BE HAPPIER,
AND MY RELATIONSHIPS WILL HAVE A BETTER CHANCE TO IMPROVE.
SERENITY I AM ASKING FOR CALMNESS, COMPOSURE AND INNER PEACE IN MY
LIFE WHICH WILL ENABLE ME TO TRANSCEND MY EGO, TO THINK
STRAIGHT AND TO GOVERN MYSELF PROPERLY.
TO ACCEPT I AM RESIGNING MYSELF TO CONDITIONS AS THEY ARE RIGHT NOW.
I AM LIVING IN THE NOW, THE PRESENT MOMENT.
THE THINGS I ACKNOWLEDGE MY TRAGEDY, DEATH, SUFFERING, ILLNESS AND PAIN,
AS A PART OF MY LIFE, NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD. I ACCEPT MY
HUMANNESS AND FALLIBILITY. I AM ACCEPTING MY LOT IN LIFE AS IT IS.
UNTIL I HAVE THE COURAGE TO CHANGE ANY PART OF MY LIFE I DON'T
LIKE, I MUST ACCEPT IT, WITHOUT DOING SO GRUDGINGLY.
I CANNOT I CAN'T PREVENT THESE EVENTS OR CONDITIONS FROM HAPPENING TO
CHANGE... ME OR TO OTHERS.
COURAGE A QUALITY WHICH ENABLES ME TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEMS AND
REALITIES OF LIFE WITHOUT RELIANCE ON ALCOHOL OR DRUGS. A
DETERMINATION TO STAND MY GROUND AND "SLUG IT OUT" WITH
ALL ISSUES, PLEASANT OR OTHERWISE, THAT MIGHT RETURN ME TO
DRINKING OR USING. A STRENGTH OF MY SPIRIT TO FACE AND HANDLE
THE NEGATIVE. FEARLESSNESS IN THE PRACTICE OF FAITH, HUMILITY
TO CHANGE IN FACING THESE NEGATIVES DIRECTLY AND HONESTLY, I AM ASKING
FOR MYSELF AND MY LIFE CONDITIONS TO BE DIFFERENT FOR ME.
I AM TAKING AN ACTIVE PART IN THIS CHANGING.
THE THINGS I AM ASKING FOR HELP TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS.
I CAN EVERYTHING IS NOT THE WAY I WOULD LIKE IT TO BE IN MY LIFE.
I MUST CONTINUE TO FACE REALITY AND CONSTANTLY WORK TOWARD
MY CONTINUED GROWTH AND PROGRESS.
AND WISDOM I AM ASKING FOR THE ABILITY TO RISE ABOVE MY EGO AND FORM SOUND
JUDGMENTS ABOUT MYSELF AND MY LIFE. I THEN USE MY ABILITY TO ASK
FOR GUIDANCE FROM MYSELF, OTHERS AND A HIGHER POWER.
TO KNOW THE I WANT TO BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND CLEARLY TRUTHS OF FACT. I WANT
DIFFERENCE... TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY IN MY LIFE SO THAT I WILL BE MORE AWARE
OF MYSELF AND OF OTHERS. I NEED TO SENSE A DEFINITE VALUE IN LOVING
OVER BEING SELFISH.
From: "Alcoholism & Spirituality"
by Charles Whitfield
From "Using the Serenity Prayer:"
"That word 'serenity' looked like an
impossible goal when we first saw the
Serenity Prayer. In fact, if serenity
meant apathy, bitter resignation, or
stolid endurance, then we didn't even
want to aim at it. But we found that
serenity meant no such thing. When it
comes to us now, it is more as plain
recognition -- a clear-eyed, realistic
way of seeing the world, accompanied by
inner peace and strength. Serenity is
like a gyroscope that lets us keep our
balance no matter what turbulence swirls
around us. And that IS a state of mind
worth aiming for."
c. 1975, Living Sober, page 19
The Serenity Prayer Broken Down
GOD Grant ME....Not my spouse, my kids or even good friends like you....altho they all may need it toooooooooooo......(smile).
the Serenity... That is, the capacity to be tranquil, unruffled, unflappable in spite of it all.
To Accept.... not just endure, suffer, or bear.
The Things.. As well as people in my life
I Cannot Change..even tho I have tried and tried.
The Courage...which can only come from God or your Higher Power
To Change the Things I Can...particularly about myself----and you and I.
And The Wisdom...perceptiveness, forsight, disceernment and sound judgement.
To Know..not just to guess or hope.
the DIFFERENCE... when i'm in your will and when I simply want my own.
The Serenity Prayer Broken Down
GOD ....With the saying of this word I am admitting the existance of a Higher Power; a being far greater then I.
GRANT... With the repeating of this second word I am admitting that this Higher Power is an authority who can bestow and give.
ME.... I am asking something for myself. The Bible states that if I ask, I shall be given. It is not wrong to ask for betterment of myself for with the inprovement of my character, people around me will be made happier.
SERENITY.. I am asking for calmness, composure, and peace in a life which will enable me to think straight and govern myself properly.
TO ACCEPT.. I am resigning myself to conditions as they are right now.
THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE.. I am accepting my lot in life as it is. Until I have the courage to change any part of my life I don't like, I must accept it and not accept it grudgingly.
COURAGE... I am asking for conditions to be different.
TO CHANGE... I am asking for a quality of spirit to face conditions without flinching.
THE THINGS I CAN..I am asking for help to make the right decisions. Everything is not perfect in my life. I must continue to face reality and constantly work towards continued growth and progress.
WISDOM..I am asking for the ability to form sound judgments in any and all matters.
TO KNOW.. I want to be able to understand clearly, truths of facts.
the DIFFERENCE... I want to see things differently in my life so there can be some distinction. I need to sense a definite value in love over selfishness.
Dear Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me.
Received in email
"No matter what you have done up to this moment, you get 24 brand-new hours to spend every single day." --Brian Tracy
AA gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves, with God's help, one day at a time. --Rufus K.
When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. --Franklin D. Roosevelt
We stay sober and clean together - one day at a time!
God says that each of us is worth loving.
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