definition of Wikipedia
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.
Though clearly circulating in oral form earlier, the earliest established date for a written form of the prayer is Reinhold Niebuhr's inclusion of it in a sermon in 1943, followed closely by its inclusion in a Federal Council of Churches book for army chaplains and servicemen in 1944. Niebuhr himself did not publish the Serenity Prayer until 1951, in one of his magazine columns, although it had previously appeared under his name. The prayer is cited both by Niebuhr and by Niebuhr's daughter, Elisabeth Sifton. Sifton thought that he had first written it in 1943, although Niebuhr's wife wrote in an unpublished memorandum that it had been written in 1941 or 1942, adding that it may have been used in prayers as early as 1934. Niebuhr himself was quoted in the January, 1950 Grapevine as saying the prayer "may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself." In his book Niebuhr recalls that his prayer was circulated by the Federal Council of Churches and later by the United States armed forces. Reinhold Niebuhr's versions of the prayer were always printed as a single prose sentence; printings that set out the prayer as three lines of verse modify the author's original version.
The original that is attributed to Niebuhr translated into English is:
An approximate version (apparently quoted from memory) appears in the "Queries and Answers" column in The New York Times Book Review, July 2, 1950, p. 23, which asks for the author of the quotation; and a reply in the same column in the issue for August 13, 1950, p. 19, where the quotation is attributed to Niebuhr and an unidentified printed text is quoted as follows:
The prayer became more widely known after being brought to the attention of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 by an early member. The co-founder, William Griffith Wilson, and the staff liked the prayer and had it printed out in modified form and handed around. It has been part of Alcoholics Anonymous ever since, and has also been used in other Twelve-step programs. Grapevine, The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, identified Niebuhr as the author (January 1950, pp. 6–7), and the AA web site continues to identify Niebuhr as the author.
In 2008, Yale Book of Quotations editor Fred R. Shapiro published evidence showing that versions of the Serenity Prayer were in use as early as 1936, years before the first known attribution to Niebuhr. Shapiro also mentions that all early recorded usages, in its various forms of circulation and improvisation, were from women typically involved in volunteer or educational activities. In 2009, however, Duke researcher Stephen Goranson found a variant attributed to Niebuhr in a 1937 Christian student publication:
"Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other."
This form, requesting 'courage to change' before petitioning for serenity, matches the other earliest published forms found to date. The earliest, in 1936, mentions that during a speech, a Miss Mildred Pinkerton "quotes the prayer," as if to indicate it was already in a circulation known to the reporter, or that Pinkerton relayed it as a quote. The 1938 version contains the same order, albeit in a flowing, slightly improvised fashion. Shapiro does not regard the new discovery as conclusively settling the question, but will list the Serenity Prayer under Niebuhr’s name in the next edition of the Yale Book of Quotations.
The prayer has sometimes been attributed to Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782), but this appears to stem from a misunderstood plagiarism of the prayer by Theodor Wilhelm, an ex-Nazi professor at the University of Kiel. Wilhelm printed a German version of the prayer as his own work in his book, Wendepunkt der poltitischen Erziehung, published under the pseudonym "Friedrich Oetinger" (the book did not pretend to be the work of the 18th-century Oetinger; the name was merely a pseudonym, apparently chosen because the author's wife was descended from pastors who shared the theology of the 18th-century Oetinger). Theodor Wilhelm was apparently unaware that the U.S. Army and the USO had been distributing the prayer in Germany since the end of World War II, and later writers who were unaware that "Friedrich Oetinger" was a pseudonym (even though the book was clearly written by a 20th-century author) confused this name with the eighteenth-century Oetinger. Wilhelm apparently chose to publish under a pseudonym because his Nazi past was widely known in Germany at the time.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Serenity Prayer|
"Transcending and Transforming the World," in Niebuhr, Reinhold (1927). Does Civilization Need Religion? A Study in the Social Resources and Limitations of Religion in Modern Life. See especially pages 179-81. http://www.archive.org/details/MN40125ucmf_6
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