May 08

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer reminds us that the First Step is not something that we “do” once but rather an ongoing process.  The Steps become a new way of living; they become a part of our everyday lives.  Some people have gone through them officially several times but even if you only “go through the Steps” once you are never really finished working the Steps.

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.”  ~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

For some of us this simple prayer has become a mantra, repeated daily, sometimes multiple times per hour as a reminder to take the First Step and let go.  Much of what has led us to behaviors that numb the emotions comes from the struggle to control.  As we ask for serenity we remember that there are some things that we truly cannot change and that we have to release them if we ever want to find peace.  The prayer then takes us further through the Steps as we ask for courage to take responsibility, to take action on those things that really do fall within our circle of control. Finally we’re reminded to look to our Higher Power for wisdom and guidance, to take a deep breath, get quiet and listen.

The mention of God in 12 Step Programs can be a stumbling block for those who aren’t sure how they feel about a Higher Power.  The Steps themselves and the Serenity Prayer that we repeat so often are not intended to infringe on religious beliefs if you have them or to push them on you if you don’t have any.  Finding a Higher Power of your own understanding is an important part of the process, but believing in a specific idea of God is not for anyone but you to decide.

Much like exchanging the word alcohol in the First Step for a word that applies to your condition some choose to replace the word God in the Serenity Prayer with a word or phrase that works for them.  Some say, “Through my efforts I gain serenity” or “My highest self leads me to serenity.”  Reading the chapter called “We Agnostics” in the AA Big Book can be helpful for those in any kind of recovery to come to terms with the use of the word God in the 12 Step Fellowships.

There is great peace that comes from centering prayer or meditation.  If the Serenity Prayer doesn’t work for you do some research to find a few phrases that bring you to a state of calm and clarity.  The following example is an adaptation of the advice given on page 86 in the Big Book regarding the Eleventh Step that is worth memorizing.

As I consider my plans throughout the day, I divorce my thinking from self-pity, dishonesty and self-seeking motives. I now place my thought-life on a higher plane, cleared of all wrong motives, striving always for peace.

For those who embrace the Serenity Prayer, say it often, commit it to memory so that it is always with you.  Meditate on it and journal about it until it has become a part of you.  Any time you begin to feel overwhelmed by things that are outside of your control or by the responsibilities that truly fall on your shoulders take a few deep breaths and repeat the prayer until you return to peace and acceptance.  If you feel confused or unsure meditate on the words for comfort and guidance.

The beauty and simplicity of the prayer have great power.  Take comfort in the knowledge that it is being repeated all day every day somewhere in the world delivering strength and hope.


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