The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer

The Serenity prayer crossed my path recently. I’ve seen it many times but hadn’t given it much thought. It’s one of the most well-known prayers. The words of this famous prayer ask God for His help in achieving what many of us crave- a sense of peace. Serenity is the opposite of a state of anxiety. Let’s break down the meaning of the Serenity Prayer and see how we can apply its comfort to our own lives.

meaning of the serenity prayer- deep blue water with 2 vibrant pink water lilies

Our 24 hour access to the Internet, television, radio, and social media makes it hard to get away from all the bad news, disagreements, unrest, and uncivil discussions happening around us. We can get caught up in reading, listening, and responding to it.

It’s even harder to rise above all the noise and discover ways to make lasting, positive changes.

Maybe that’s why this old prayer touched me so much. It gives incredible Biblical wisdom on dealing with difficult circumstances. 

God sees all our circumstances. He has a wonderful plan for us to rest in His mindset, peace, and wisdom, which brings us the serenity we crave.

What Does Serenity Mean? 

The word serenity means a state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Especially since the state of our world right now seems the complete opposite.

Is it possible to attain a state of serenity? Yes, but not on our own. We need God’s help and strength to make it a lasting reality.

Sometimes in our lives we experience illness, job loss, losing a loved one, etc.- circumstances that are out of our control. Tragedies seem to make daily headlines. It’s hard to accept these things that we can’t change.

But the beauty of this prayer is how we can come to a place of serenity and peace instead of confusion or anger.

Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?

The origins of the prayer are credited to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. He first used the Serenity prayer in his sermons in the 1930s. It then spread to other literature in the early 1940s. 

William Griffith Wilson, who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), began using it in their program. Many 12-step programs for substance abuse and other support groups also include it in their curriculum.

The Armed Forces even included it in a prayer book issued to Army chaplains in 1944. (The Complete History of the Serenity Prayer (

The Full Serenity Prayer

There are different versions of the Serenity prayer in circulation. Dr. Niebuhr published this expanded version of his prayer in 1951.  

I had never seen this version before, but it adds much wisdom to the short version.

“God give me 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 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. 


It is more often quoted and used in its shorter form:

“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.”

the serenity prayer- pale yellow background, green and red apple branch on left, with prayer overlay
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Where is the Serenity Prayer in the Bible?

We won’t find the Serenity prayer in the Bible, but we can find Bible verses which uphold its spiritual principles. Here are just a few:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

​The Holy Spirit attends to our every need and provides God’s perfect serenity.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

When worries and concerns invade your thoughts, practice immediately turning them into prayers. Then, Paul says, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds!

“You keep him in perfect peace who mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 ESV.

Serenity Prayer Meaning Line by Line

Let’s take a closer look at this simple prayer, finding the meaning in each one of its short lines-

Grant me the Serenity

There are so many verses in the Bible which speak about peace. God’s peace in our lives can give us a spirit of serenity and freedom from any inner or outward disturbance.

We have peace with God through Jesus. We also have the gift of Christ’s peace in this world. Jesus explains:

•“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Oh yes, we know trouble; and it’s comforting that Jesus tells us to expect it. But He reminds us we can still claim His peace amid troublesome times.

•“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11.

This message from Paul puts the exclamation point on how he trusted God in all his life’s circumstances- good and bad. He reveals his secret for inner peace and contentment in verse 13- claiming Jesus’ strength- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV)

Accept the Things I Cannot Change

•“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Accepting God’s plan is the only way to find peace when we find ourselves in situations that are out of our control and unable to change. Trusting God to do His work in our lives will bring serenity.

Give me the Courage to Change the Things I Can

•“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.

I love how direct Paul is in his instructions. Be on guard against spiritual dangers (is Satan stealing your serenity?), stand firmly on your faith in Christ, be ready to face difficulties (no shrinking back!), and summon up the strength of Christ.

I just sat up a little taller in my chair. ♥

Courage is not the absence of fear, but is the ability to do something that frightens us. Everyone has things they’d like to change about themselves and their lives.  

Jesus prepares us for change by giving us the strength and courage to push forward and change the things we can for His good.

Grant Me the Wisdom

•“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17.

And I thought wisdom was just wise advice and information! James tells us God’s wisdom is so much more.

We can pray for this abundant wisdom of God when we need to know the difference between the things we can change and those we cannot. His wisdom is perfect in so many ways and can lead you to peace in your situation.

Living One Day at a Time

Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time…

•“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34.

Making plans for tomorrow and beyond is sensible. Worrying about it is not.

I tend to “multiply” worries into lots of “what ifs” that stem from fear. Jesus reminds us it is important to live one day at a time

 It’s not wrong to remember the past or look forward to what’s ahead in our lives, but He wants us to concentrate on living each day with Him at the helm.

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it…

Accepting the difficult things in life is hard. Haven’t we all asked, Why God?” But hardship is inevitable and sometimes out of our control.

But Paul reminds us-
•“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Romans 5:4.

We should not let hardships, and challenges discourage or defeat us. They can help us grow and strengthen our character if we let them.  

It may not be pleasant, but they can deepen our trust in God and give us confidence when the next hardship rolls around. Hardships can be a path to peace when we trust in His sovereignty, love, and promises.

Trust in the Lord 

Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will,

•“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

We don’t always want to surrender.  There are times we want our own way and the outcome we desire. Fear and doubt play a part in those decisions and thoughts. We want to trust Him 100% but we can fear what His “no” or alternate course may look like .

Instead of leaning on our desires and thoughts, we need to trust Him completely.  I need to go to God in prayer with my concerns, use His Word as my guide, and surrender my concerns over to Him.

 So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

•“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2.

Being “heavenly-minded” is a beautiful motivation for living our lives for Jesus here on earth. He blesses us beyond measure, even with all the worldly troubles we endure. 

Our future is safe! Can you imagine when we see our Savior’s face for the very first time? That is our beautiful future!

Amen. So be it!

God, Grant Me Serenity! 

The world was a different place in the 1930s when Dr. Niebuhr wrote this prayer. One thing that has stayed the same is the emotional turmoil and difficult circumstances that come with our fallen world. 

We will continue to deal with them until God calls us home. In the meantime, there is a way to live in the here and now with God’s serenity in our hearts.

God’s serenity comes from knowing He is in control, even when our world is not. Can you see how different our world would look if we all adopted this as our daily prayer?

Blessings of Serenity,


meaning of the serenity prayer- serenity prayer on beach/ocean background

Photo Credit- Canva, Deposit Photos

6 thoughts on “The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer”


    1. God’s blessings be upon you and your ministry as well Ms Vera! Thank you for your encouraging words and blessings. God is so good!!

  2. Oh Jesus, thank You so much for YOUR wisdom to flow through my dear sister in Jesus, AnnMarie in this devotion. Philippians 4:6-7 seems to be showing up in so many devotions these days and for perfect timing of course. Thank you AnnMarie for sharing the “Serenity Prayer Line by Line” and all the Bible verses to help us through the week/life. May many others be blessed by this devotion today.

    1. Thank you so much Nancy! You are such an encourager! I definitely needed all these verses to remind me where my serenity comes from 🙂

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