Where Did The Serenity Prayer Come From?

Most christian prayers that are in popular use today, have a Catholic background or author that no one knows about.  Most of us have benefited from the Serenity Prayer.  So I thought I would do some research on where it came from.  The most popular opinion is that it was composed by Reinhold Niebuhr, an American protestant minister.  This is suppose to be the original prayer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGod, 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.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.  Amen.

Alcohol Anonymous adopted the prayer and from there it has become famous.  There are many versions.  As the idea that christianity alienated people from getting help from A.A., the later part (about Jesus) was dropped and the short form has used by A.A.  This is the short 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.”:

Procession Fête-DieuHere are some different short versions:

God give me the detachment to accept those things I cannot alter; the courage to alter those things which I can alter; and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.’

God grant me the courage to change the things I can change,
The serenity to accept those I cannot change, And the wisdom to know the difference.  But, God grant me the courage not to give up on what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”

I also found this prayer on the internet.

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. Amen

From a fourteenth century prayer often called the “General’s Prayer” ??????

Many people believe that the roots of this prayer actually comes from pagan Greek philosophers.  The ancient Stoics, like Epictetus, (a slave under the Emperor Nero), taught and believed that we do not have control over other people, places or things.  They taught that the only thing we ultimately have real control over is what is going on inside us, inside our own heads.  They divided reality into 2 categories:

1) Things that are not up to us to change.

2) Things that are up to us to change.

The Greek stoic philosophers used these beliefs to fight against interior tensions which cause fierce passions.  And these passions would lead to a disordered life.

11_06_19_Augustine_Trinity_GimignanoThe Catholics, St. Augustine was very much influenced by Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas was influenced by Aristotle.  So some believe that the Serenity prayer was written by one of them.  Here is a  Prayer for Guidance by St. Thomas Aquinas:

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe. 

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin. 

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak. 

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

Francis_CARAVAGGIOAn other Catholic prayer used in A.A. is called the “Peace Prayer” Of St. Francis.  It is also called The St. Francis’ Serenity Prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying of the self that we are born 
to eternal life.

You can see some similarity in these Catholic Prayers that could have given rise to the Serenity Prayer.   But the Bible is also full of wisdom too.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?  For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.  Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.  Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”  Matthew 31:34

Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

photoWe Catholics have faith that God is with us and very concerned about every detail of our lives.  He loves us and provides for us.  Having this great trust in God leads to peace.  And when we have faith in God’s power we can do great things, with His help.

We are so fortunate to be traditional Catholics and to have the Holy Bible, traditional wisdom, the saint’s prayers and above all, God dwelling with us in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.  May each one of us pray, reflect and act to help restore the Holy Catholic Church.

The original author of this blog and passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.