Addiction Treatment

Learning About the AA Prayer: Understanding the Role of Prayer in AA

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Last medically reviewed April 15, 2024

AA Prayer

Key Points

  • The main AA prayer is The Serenity Prayer, but other prayers may be used in the program.
  • The Serenity Prayer and other AA prayers promote inner peace and restore focus on the goal of recovery.
  • Though AA is a faith-based program that uses prayers, it’s a nondenominational program that welcomes people of all faiths and beliefs.

The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-Step program relies on several prayers and daily reflections to find strength in recovery, but the best-known prayers are The Serenity Prayer and the prayers for steps One, Three, Seven, and Eleven.

The Serenity Prayer is consistent across programs, but other AA prayers may have different versions. However, they always have the same essential message to aid recovery.

The Serenity Prayer

AA is non-denominational, but it was founded on faith and uses prayer. Each AA meeting is closed with a prayer or meditation – The Serenity Prayer – with religious overtones. However, the “higher power” concept does not need to be God; it is something you view as larger than yourself.

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.

The prayer serves as a reflection on the association between inner peace and freedom from substance use. For people in recovery, the need for control may be a barrier to inner peace, but the prayer acts as a reminder that relinquishing control can put a stop to the addiction cycle.

Other AA Prayers

Before the Big Book was written and published, AA began with the Bible to guide meetings. One of the program’s initial names was “The James Club,” after the Book of James.[2]

While The Serenity Prayer is one of the best-known prayers, several other prayers are often used in AA:[3]

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.

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!

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.

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.

Who Wrote The Serenity Prayer?

The Serenity Prayer concisely outlines recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and works alongside the spiritual messaging of the 12 Steps.[4] While its origin may be Christian, the message can be applied to any spiritual belief, particularly in the shorter versions.

In AA, the first use of the prayer was in 1948, which came from the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and his sermons in the 1930s and 1940s.[5]

Why Is The Serenity Prayer Important for Addiction Recovery?

AA Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer has different meanings for different people, but the message is a reminder that achieving peace requires wisdom, courage, and relinquishing control, which is a central issue with addiction.

The prayer is used in AA because it reflects the worldview of Bill W., the co-founder. In his book, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill described alcoholics as self-centered, “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 way.”[6]

For people with substance use disorder, the need for absolute control is intense but impossible to achieve. They seek to control their own emotions by medicating them with drugs of abuse, leading to a cycle of addiction. The Serenity Prayer highlights the inability to control some aspects of life, and that we can only truly control ourselves.

Get Help for Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous is a helpful program for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, but it’s not intended as a standalone treatment. AA programs and similar recovery programs are a complement to formal addiction treatment based on your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is AA?

AA is an organization that provides support for people in recovery within a community of people struggling with alcohol addiction.

Is AA Only for Religious People?

AA program encourages spiritual growth and the belief in a higher power, but it is not specifically tied to any religious faith. Participants are not required to adhere to religious beliefs, making the program accessible to individuals regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. Officially, AA emphasizes its spiritual foundation while maintaining that it is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution. Members commit to a power greater than themselves, such as any religion’s God, the universe, or the larger community.

When Is the AA Prayer Said?

The Serenity Prayer is part of AA meetings and may be used as part of the daily reflection, which includes the prayer and an inspirational message. People in recovery may reflect on the prayer whenever they need the strength and wisdom it provides.

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[1][4] Admin. (2024, March 12). The aa prayer – alcoholic anonymous serenity prayer. Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved from

[2][3] Staff. (2021, September 23). Twelve step prayers – spiritual. Alcoholics Anonymous Cleveland. Retrieved from

[5] Goodstein, L. (2008, July 11). Serenity prayer stirs up doubt: Who wrote it?. The New York Times. Retrieved from

[6] Anon Press. Page 62. (n.d.). Retrieved from