January 17, 2010
On July 24, 2008 I posted a piece on the authorship of the Serenity Prayer in which the distinguished Yale law Librarian Fred R. Shapiro questioned the common attribution of the Serenity Prayer to Reinhold Niebuhr. This is especially important in light of the fact that he is also editor of the Yale Book of Quotations. A subsequent conversation on the internet led someone to a 1936 Christian Student Newsletter attributing an almost identical prayer to Niebuhr. Shapiro, while not fully persuaded, altered his view and alerted the New York Times which had published his original findings. They eventually put a teaser on the front page and buried the kind-of, sort-of retraction (which is why I probably did not see it.)
Shapiro has set the record straight in the Yale Alumni Magazine (January/February 2010 p.58) and said “I will list the Serenity Prayer under Niebuhr’s name in the next edition of the Yale Book of Quotations.”
It’s still a great prayer. Just setting the record straight.