The Ultimate Guide To AA Prayers (2024)

The Ultimate Guide To AA Prayers (1)

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on May 8, 2023

The Ultimate Guide To AA Prayers (4)

Medically Reviewed By:

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Last Medically Reviewed on February 23, 2024

  • The pivotal AA prayers is The Serenity Prayer.
  • AA's approach, including the use of prayers like The Serenity Prayer, can be adaptable to individuals regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, though individual experiences with the role of spirituality in AA may vary.
  • Practices in AA, including the use of The Serenity Prayer, aim to aid in recovery by promoting serenity and aligning with core principles.
  • Scientific studies and the experience of millions around the world have shown 12 Step programs to be effective in the treatment of substance abuse disorder.

While each step in the 12-step program is supported by a prayer, the most powerful prayers for the program are often cited as The Serenity Prayer and the prayers for Steps One, Three, Seven, and Eleven.

Other than The Serenity Prayer, there can be different versions of the prayer for a step. You’ll find that while wording varies, the essential meaning remains the same.

In the context of the 12-Step program, the terms “God” and “Higher Power” are often used interchangeably, reflecting the program’s spiritual but non-denominational approach and allowing members to interpret these concepts according to their beliefs.

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer is the best-known AA prayer, often recited at the beginning and end of each 12-step meeting[1].

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

The prayer emphasizes the core AA principle of acceptance. To change something, you must first accept its reality – to “accept the things I cannot change.”

What things can you not change? For example, you can’t change things you’ve done in the past. You can’t change other people.

Remember that while there may be things you can’t immediately change, you can take steps toward making positive change.

That’s where the next part of the prayer comes in: “the courage to change the things I can.”

What can you do today that is a step toward making the changes you want in your life? If you believe those steps will be difficult, this prayer helps you summon the courage you need.

It can be hard to assess what is yours to change and what is not. That’s what the last part of the prayer addresses: “the wisdom to know the difference.”

Often, this wisdom comes from looking at a situation as if you were a third party who was objective and reasonable. What would a reasonable person do?

What would they accept as something they couldn’t change, and what would they see as something they could take steps to change, even if it requires some courage?

The First Step Prayer

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

The prayer for this step helps sweep away the denial you may have about your situation to see it clearly.

Higher Power,
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.
The Ultimate Guide To AA Prayers (5)

The Third Step Prayer

Step Three: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.

The prayer for this step states your decision to surrender to the guidance of your Higher Power.

Note that making a decision to do something isn’t necessarily the same as actually doing it. For example, when you decide to go to the store, that doesn’t mean you’ve already done it.

Turning over your self-will to your Higher Power usually isn’t a one-time event. It takes practice. You may find you revise this step and prayer often.

This version of the third-step prayer is simple and straight to the point.

Higher Power,
Take my will & my life,
Guide me in my recovery,
Show me how to live.

The Seventh Step Prayer

Step Seven: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.

The prayer for this step comes from your willingness to set your ego aside and acknowledge all aspects of your character, whether positive or negative.

It’s a direct request for your Higher Power to release you from the parts of yourself that have undermined your ability to have the life you want.

Higher Power,
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.

The Eleventh Step Prayer

Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

There is more than one prayer for this step. Regardless of the one you choose, the prayer for this step is about asking for guidance from your Higher Power and whatever it takes to follow that guidance.

In the original Big Book of AA, there are three prayers for the eleventh step, often used by people in the program at different times of the day.

God, direct my thinking, especially that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonesty, or self-seeking motives.
God, give me inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision.
God, show me all throughout my day what my next step is to be.
Give me whatever I need to take care of any problems. I ask especially for freedom from self-will.

However, one of the most popular prayers for the eleventh step (often incorrectly attributed to St. Francis) is beautifully worded:

Higher Power, as I understand you,
make me a channel of your peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love,
That where it is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
that where there is an error, I may bring truth,
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith,
that where there is despair, I may bring hope,
that where there are shadows, I may bring light,
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
to understand than to be understood,
to love than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.


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What if I don’t believe in God?

That’s Ok. A 12 Step Program is not about you converting to any religion or set of beliefs.

The key is to identify a Higher Power, meaning a Power greater than yourself, that works for you personally.

For some, it is a deity. For others, it’s a cosmic force. Or it might be a group of people, for instance, the people in your 12-Step group. Nature, the Universe, Spirit, The Power of Music, Love, or the Source of your inner sense of resiliency, have all been identified as a Higher Power by people who’ve been successful in the program.

What’s the purpose of the AA prayers?

The prayers used in AA serve several purposes.

The most obvious one is to connect you to your Higher Power.

In addition, the prayers serve as a reminder of the program’s core principles: honesty, acceptance, hope, courage, patience, humility, willingness, self-discipline, and service.

They help you gain a deeper understanding of each step as you encounter it.

They can help you avoid relapse.

They can serve as a mantra when you want to work toward your goals or distract yourself from temptations or negative thoughts. When you recite the words of AA prayers as a mantra and breathe deeply, it helps to calm your mind and your body.

Are 12-Step Programs Effective?

Yes. Evidence not only supports 12-step programs but also favors using prayers as a part of the program.

The A.A. 12 Step program started more than 80 years ago has been used by millions to help overcome the disease of substance abuse disorder. Many who experience success with it initially doubt it will work. Even its most famous founding member, Bill W., was at first skeptical that any type of practice involving faith would help him.[2]

In addition to its proven history of success, the AA program has been shown in scientific studies to be effective in the treatment of substance abuse disorders.

Research strongly suggests that participation in a 12-step program means you’re more likely to overcome substance abuse disorder and achieve long-term abstinence than you would if you were only treated with other therapies.[3]

Studies also indicate that if, as part of your 12-step program, you develop strategies to help you avoid relapsing, your outcome is even more likely to be positive. AA prayers can be part of your strategy to avoid relapse.

A strong majority (84%) of scientific studies show that faith in something greater than yourself is a positive factor in recovery, while just 2% of studies indicate any risk from 12-step programs.[4]

Bottom Line: Your chances of achieving long-lasting sobriety are increased by using the AA prayers in a 12-step program.

We take our music-focused treatment for addiction very seriously, so we are going to hold our content to the same precision standards. Recovery Unplugged’s editorial process involves our editing safeguard and our ideals. Read our Editorial Process.


[1] The AA Prayer—Alcoholic Anonymous Serenity Prayer. (2020, December 23). Alcoholics Anonymous.

[2] A.A. Timeline | Alcoholics Anonymous. (2024).

[3] Kelly, J. F., Humphreys, K., & Ferri, M. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12‐step programs for alcohol use disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3.

[4] Grim, B. J., & Grim, M. E. (2019). Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse. Journal of Religion and Health, 58(5), 1713–1750.


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