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Today it is possible to buy jewelry, candles, and many kinds of embroidery kits that feature the prayer—even Zippo lighters. Mc Clure, Mobile, Ala., associated it with the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, associate professor of philosophy at Union Theological Seminary, N. No further identification given by this correspondent about the passage.The Niebuhr family’s most extensive discussion of the prayer appears in a 2003 book by Elisabeth Sifton, Niebuhr’s daughter, entitled The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War. of January 1950 states that the prayer “was actually written by Dr.He writes the Yale Alumni Magazine’s “You Can Quote Them” column.

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Niebuhr apparently did not publish the Serenity Prayer himself until 1951, in one of his magazine columns.

It had first appeared under his name in 1944, after a friend and neighbor—Howard Chandler Robbins, who had heard Niebuhr use it in a church service—asked permission to include it in a Federal Council of Churches book for army chaplains and servicemen.

For this to have been the case, though, this prehistory would have had to have inspired nationwide usage, left no record, and, both at the time and later, escaped the notice of his family—including his wife, who worked closely with him for 40 years, yet said that his Serenity Prayer “certainly was not then in circulation.” It must also be asked why Reinhold Niebuhr himself, in all the decades of being asked about the authorship of this much-scrutinized text, never suggested that he had used it in the 1930s.

I think the second interpretation is more likely: that the prayer was indeed “spooking around for years” and that Niebuhr unconsciously adapted the Serenity Prayer in the early 1940s from already-circulating formulations of unknown origin.

Billy Pilgrim hung it on his office wall in Slaughterhouse-Five; Bill Clinton '73JD invoked it repeatedly when he campaigned for the presidency.

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