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The roots of the Serenity Prayer


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The Serenity Prayer has gained in popularity though the years and is often used by groups that deal with addictions such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The origins of the prayer have divergent roots back into the early 20th   century but others say it goes back to the 1700s It is believed that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the prayer and maybe as part of a sermon. Controversy arose on this and he said the prayer may have been around for years but he really felt he had written it.

The actual text of the Serenity Prayer is as follows:

                “God, give us the grace to accept with the serenity the things that cannot by changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other”

The prayer was included in a book by Reinhold called the “The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected Essays and Addresses “Additionally the prayer also appeared  in Niebuhr’s Daughter in her book appropriated named ?The Serenity Pray, Faith and politics in Times of Peace and War.”

The prayer was, as reported by Niebuhr, made its way through the Federal Council of Churches and later made it into the United States Military during World War II. The prayer has always appeared as one sentence although its always been listed as three separate lines.

However, although Niebuhr wanted to claim the Serenity Prayer, maybe believe it actually was penned in the 1700s by a German named Friedrich Christoph Oetinger who was a know Theosophy, a person who worked with religious philosophy, The words Oetinger wrote were a bit different than Niebuhr, but it can be argued that is it as paraphrase of the Oetinger’s Serenity prayer:

“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.”

The prayer was found on a plaque in the wall in an German army training center and was held up as a code of conduct for those German Soldiers prior to the control of Nazi German. It is interesting side note that the prayer was handing to the US troops as they fought Nazi German in World War II.

As we came into the modern age the researchers of AA wanted to give the proper person credit for this prayer that had become such a tenant of their work. In 1979, they traced the prayer back to a Roman Philosopher named Boethius who lived in 480 A.D.

But if all these different origins weren’t enough there was a third version of the prayer that appeared on a prayer card from England that dated back to the 14th century. That particular prayer said:

                “Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, give us the Serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the Courage to change what should be changed and the wisdom to know one from the other, though Jesus Christ, Our Lord”

All three of versions have the same tenants and it would seem that though time more versions of this prayer will keep surfacing mostly because the words expressed are a great prayer to show your commitment and faith in God as well as to ask him for the Wisdom to discern the difference. The serenity prayer is not only a great gift for AA, but for Fathers Day for Dads with stressful jobs.  But most of all it reminds us not to stress over things and to stand up and face challenges.

This article was published on Sunday 11 May, 2008.



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