The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). The best-known form is:
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.
Niebuhr, who first wrote the prayer for a sermon at Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts, used it widely in sermons as early as 1934 and first published it in 1951 in a magazine column. The prayer spread both through Niebuhr’s sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was later adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.
The earliest recorded reference to the prayer is a diary entry from 1932 by Winnifred Crane Wygal, a pupil and collaborator of Reinhold Niebuhr, quoting the prayer and attributing it to Niebuhr. Several versions of the prayer then appeared in newspaper articles in the early 1930s written by, or reporting on talks given by, Wygal. In 1940, Wygal included the following form of the prayer in a book on worship, attributing it to Niebuhr:
O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
Wygal was a longtime YWCA official and all early recorded usages were from women involved in volunteer or educational activities connected to the YWCA.