Serenity Prayer in Yale Alumni Magazine

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Sun Jul 13 23:06:06 UTC 2008

This is certainly not an antedating, and you may already be aware of
it, but I thought I'd toss in that the serenity prayer was used by a
character in William Inge's 1950 play _Come Back, Little Sheba_.
Here, for the sake of utility and concision, is Wikipedia's (yes,
yes, I know) info on the play:

While a teacher at Washington University in St. Louis in 1946-1949,
[William Inge] wrote Come Back, Little Sheba. It ran on Broadway for
190 performances in 1950, winning Tony Awards for Shirley Booth and
Sidney Blackmer. The 1952 film adaptation won both an Oscar and a
Golden Globe for Shirley Booth. Willy van Hemert directed a 1955
adaptation for Dutch television, and NBC aired another TV production
in 1977.

The prayer is used in the first scene of the play by the character
Doc, who is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous -- which, I would
imagine, has been a great vector for the prayer (and perhaps the play
helped that along):

Lola: Have you ssaid your prayer, Doc?
Doc: Yes, Baby.
Lola: And did you ask God to be with you -- all through the day, and
keep you strong?
Doc: Yes, Baby.
Lola: The Gd will be with you, Docky. He's been with you a year now
and I'm so proud of you.
Doc: [Preening a little.] Sometimes I feel sorta proud of myself.
Lola: Say your prayer, Doc. I like to hear it.
Doc: [Matter-of-factly.] God grant me the serenity to accept the
things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and
wisdom always to tell the difference.
Lola: That's nice. That's so pretty. When I think of the way you used
to drink, always getting into fights, we had so much trouble. I was
so scared! I never knew what was going to happen.
Doc: That was a long time ago, Baby.

He goes on to talk more explicitly about Alcoholics Anonymous, the
twelve steps, and the twelfth step, which he's on. (H'es "going out
on some Twelfth Step work" that evening.)

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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