• Leigh Gerstenberger

Living One Day at a Time

For years I’ve referenced the phrase, “take it a day at a time” when talking with folks who are dealing with struggles in their lives. Whether due to the loss of a loved one or a job, difficulties in the marketplace, with family members or enduring health related challenges - the advice to, “take it a day at a time” can often be a comforting reminder that helps keep one’s difficulties in perspective.


I never knew the origin of the phrase until the other day when a dear friend in my morning men’s group led a discussion on the long version of the Serenity Prayer.


The prayer which is probably best known in conjunction with Alcoholics Anonymous (and other twelve step recovery programs) states simply:


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.


While the best-known version of the prayer are the first four lines, the entire prayer is a bit longer.


The Serenity Prayer


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 all 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. Amen



While I did not know that a longer version of the prayer existed, the fifth line, “Living one day at a time” jumped out at me since I’ve been unknowingly quoting it for years.


The prayer is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), an American Reformed theologian who served as a professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years.


Composed in the early 1930s the prayer spread rapidly without attribution to Niebuhr through church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. Early versions of the prayer were untitled but by 1955 it was being called the Serenity Prayer in publications by Alcoholics Anonymous.


When you have a moment, I would encourage you to reflect on the prayer and see if some aspect of it might be particularly comforting to you during our current times.


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