How to Practice the Serenity Prayer

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Cloaked in uncertain origins, but usually attributed to Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the Serenity Prayer can help provide direction for individuals who find themselves baffled by life's more troubling circumstances. It is the guiding principle of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery programs, but anyone can practice the Serenity Prayer. Practicing the Serenity Prayer means applying the principles revealed in the prayer's three simple verses: serenity and acceptance, courage and change, and wisdom and knowledge.

1 Recite with prayerful attention

Recite with prayerful attention the Serenity Prayer. "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."

2 Examine any troubling issues in your life

Examine any troubling issues in your life. Begin with the first verse. The first word, "God," means that you are looking outside of your own perceptions for divine guidance. Realize that you may be puzzled by the answers. Believe that you are on a path to freedom and peace of mind.

3 Apply the principle of the first verse

Apply the principle of the first verse to your problem. Determine what you cannot change. If you have received a negative health report, for example, the answer may be that you cannot change, in the present moment, that you are ill. Wishing and praying cannot change that, but you should look for a way to go forward and not get lost in your troubles and fears. When you accept that you are ill, you can begin to take action toward wellness.

4 Identify the aspects

Identify the aspects of your problem that are within your power to change. Perhaps you have an outstanding bill. Instead of avoiding the phone and the mailbox, gather your courage and call the company. Set up payment arrangements. You cannot change that you have the debt, but you can change how you handle it. The relief you will feel is serenity.

5 Find the wisdom

Find the wisdom to "know the difference." Often, confusion about what you can change and what is beyond your power is a source of frustration and irritation. Think about a time when you tried to get someone to do something he would not do. You did not have the power to force the person to do what you wanted. That does not mean you were helpless in the situation. You did have the option--the power--to change your attitude. Sometimes, peace of mind comes from just moving on with your life, knowing that beating your head against a stone wall only leaves you bloody, metaphorically speaking. "The wisdom to know the difference" liberates you from useless endeavors.

Alyson Paige has a master's degree in canon law and began writing professionally in 1998. Her articles specialize in culture, business and home and garden, among many other topics.