The AA Prayer and the 12-Step Program

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Last Medical Reviewer On: April 15, 2024
Updated On: Apr 15, 2024
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Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

AA Prayer
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    What you will learn
    • The Serenity Prayer, or AA Prayer, is a common prayer for people in 12-Step recovery.
    • The key message of the prayer is about letting go of the need for control to achieve serenity.
    • AA members often recite the prayer as part of daily reflections.
    • Though it has religious overtones, the Serenity Prayer is not reserved for religious people only.
    • Along with the Serenity Prayer, AA uses a number of other prayers as part of the program.

    The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) prayer – officially the Serenity Prayer – is a common prayer used by people in recovery going through a 12-Step process. Though it’s often associated with AA, the Serenity Prayer has been attributed to theologians and saints.

    The AA Prayer

    Being a faith-based program, each AA meeting is closed with a prayer or meditation, commonly known as the Serenity Prayer or AA prayer. While it has overtones, it’s not necessary to be religious to find the wisdom in it.

    Religious people take the Serenity Prayer within the framework of religion. For those who aren’t religious, the prayer serves as meditation on their higher power – which can be anything they view as bigger than themselves. For some, it could be the community within AA.

    The Serenity Prayer is as follows:[1]

    God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And the wisdom to know the difference.
    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    As it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make things right
    If I surrender to His Will;
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
    And supremely happy with Him
    Forever and ever in the next.
    Often, the Serenity Prayer is shortened to:
    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.

    With either prayer, the purpose is to serve as a daily reflection on the association between inner peace and freedom from substance use. Often, people with substance use disorder feel a need for control that can be a barrier to peace of mind. They feel frustration because they can’t control the actions of others and turn to substances. This prayer is a reminder that letting go and relinquishing control can end the addiction cycle.[2]

    Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?

    Members of AA embrace the Serenity Prayer. The prayer is often viewed as a concise statement of recovery and the path to sobriety, which perfectly complements the spiritual undertones of the AA 12 Steps.[3]

    Although the origin of the Serenity Prayer is believed to be Christian, it can be applied to anyone’s daily life or spiritual beliefs. There are several versions of the Serenity Prayer, each with different wording. The longer version has the strongest religious overtones.

    Many attribute the Serenity Prayer to ancient Sanskrit text, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Augustine. The AA prayer was brought to Alcoholics Anonymous in 1940 by a group member who read it in an obituary in the newspaper. The group’s founder, Bill W., felt the prayer was appropriate for AA members and had the prayer printed on cards for members to use. It has now become a permanent fixture in AA literature.

    The Significance of the Serenity Prayer in Addiction Recovery

    AA group prayers

    Every individual may take something different from the Serenity Prayer. But for many, the first verse is a touchstone that reminds them that achieving serenity requires wisdom and courage. It succinctly represents the central problem of addiction – control.

    The prayer has been used in AA because it reflects some of the insights from Bill W., the cofounder of AA. In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill described alcoholics as self-centered, which he referred to as “self-will run riot.”[4] He also describes an alcoholic as “an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.”[5]

    The desire for absolute control is intense for people with substance abuse issues, but achieving absolute control is simply impossible. The need for control involves an attempt to control the behavior of others and the attempt to control emotions by medicating them with mood-altering substances.

    This quest for control often leads to misery and can contribute to substance abuse. The need for control can also be a response to the unmanageable aspects of compulsive drug or alcohol use. The cycle of addiction can change when people recognize that there will always be external circumstances outside of their control. The only thing any of us can truly control is our own thoughts and actions.

    Other AA Prayers

    Before the Big Book was published, the early members of AA studied the Bible. In fact, one of the names considered for the program was “The James Club” after the Book of James.[6]

    Along with these prayers, there are also AA daily reflections available to provide upliftment and inspiration.

    Aside from the Serenity Prayer, there are several other prayers that are often used in AA:[7]

    First Step Prayer

    Dear Lord,
    I admit that I am powerless over my addiction.
    I admit that my life is unmanageable when I try to control it.
    Help me this day to understand
    The true meaning of powerlessness.
    Remove from me all denial of my addiction.

    Second Step Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity.
    I humbly ask that you remove all twisted thought &
    Addictive behavior from me this day.
    Heal my spirit & restore in me a clear mind.

    Third Step Prayer

    I offer myself to Thee
    To build with me & to do with me as Thou wilt.
    Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
    Take away my difficulties,
    That victory over them may bear witness
    To those I would help of Thy Power,
    Thy love & Thy way of life,
    May I do Thy will always!

    Fourth Step Prayer

    Dear God,
    It is I who has made my life a mess.
    I have done it, but I cannot undo it.
    My mistakes are mine &
    I will begin a searching & fearless moral inventory.
    I will write down my wrongs
    But I will also include that which is good.
    I pray for the strength to complete the task.

    Fifth Step Prayer

    Higher Power,
    My inventory has shown me who I am,
    Yet I ask for Your help
    In admitting my wrongs to another person & to You.
    Assure me, & be with me, in this Step,
    For without this Step I cannot progress in my recovery.
    With Your help, I can do this, & I do it.

    Sixth Step Prayer

    Dear God,
    I am ready for Your help
    In removing from me the defects of character
    Which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery.
    Help me to continue being honest with myself &
    Guide me toward spiritual & mental health.

    Seventh Step Prayer

    My Creator,
    I am now willing that you should have all of me, good & bad.
    I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character
    Which stands in the way of my usefulness to you & my fellows.
    Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do your bidding.

    Eighth Step Prayer

    Higher Power,
    I ask Your help in making my list of all those I have harmed.
    I will take responsibility for my mistakes &
    Be forgiving to others as You are forgiving to me.
    Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution.
    This I pray.

    Ninth Step Prayer

    Higher Power,
    I pray for the right attitude to make my amends,
    Being ever mindful not to harm others in the process.
    I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends.
    Most important, I will continue to make amends
    By staying abstinent, helping others &
    Growing in spiritual progress.

    Tenth Step Prayer

    I pray I may continue:
    To grow in understanding & effectiveness;
    To take daily spot check inventories of myself;
    To correct mistakes when I make them;
    To take responsibility for my actions;
    To be ever aware of my negative &
    Self-defeating attitudes & behaviors;
    To keep my willfulness in check;
    To always remember I need Your help;
    To keep love & tolerance of others as my code; &
    To continue in daily prayer how I can best serve You,
    My Higher Power.

    Eleventh Step Prayer

    Higher Power, as I understand You,
    I pray to keep my connection with You
    Open & clear from the confusion of daily life.
    Through my prayers & meditation I ask especially for
    Freedom from self-will, rationalization, & wishful thinking.
    I pray for the guidance of correct thought & positive action.
    Your will Higher Power, not mine, be done.

    Twelfth Step Prayer

    Dear God,
    My spiritual awakening continues to unfold.
    The help I have received I shall pass on & give to others,
    Both in & out of the Fellowship.
    For this opportunity I am grateful.
    I pray most humbly to continue walking day by day
    On the road of spiritual progress.
    I pray for the inner strength & wisdom
    To practice the principles of this way of life in all I do & say.
    I need You, my friends, & the program every hour of every day.
    This is a better way to live.

    Seeking Addiction Recovery

    Alcoholics Anonymous is an excellent program for people in recovery, but it may not be enough for everyone. If you need more guidance and support, an alcohol addiction rehab program may be the best choice for you. Contact our compassionate staff at Epiphany Wellness to learn how we can help you or a loved one.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What Is AA?
    Do You Have to Be Religious to Go to AA?
    When Should I Say the AA Prayer?

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