One Thursday each month I will share a post on one of the 12 Steps. (Although, November’s post is coming 4 days late!) This month is Step 11. Recovery is an area of life that 12 Step groups have done amazing work with, yet many churches (and other community groups) struggle with what to do. My hope is that this series will help those who are not in recovery learn more about their friends and family members who are in recovery. I welcome any feedback, questions, and concerns you may have!
“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” (Step 11).
“We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day, ‘Thy will be done.’ We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 87-88).
“In AA we have found that the actual good results of prayer are beyond question. They are matters of knowledge and experience. All those who have persisted have found strength not ordinarily their own. They have found wisdom beyond their usual capability. And they have increasingly found a peace of mind which can stand firm in the face of difficult circumstances” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 104).
12 Step meetings are literally covered in prayer. And most of the attendees have differing conceptions of God. But they all believe there is a Power outside of themselves that is necessary to continue with recovery.
Most AA meetings begin with the Serenity Prayer and end with the Lord’s Prayer. When reading the two primary texts of AA literature, Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, you will find a number of prayers included; prayers which AA members are encouraged to read, reread, and recite.
In order to achieve and maintain sobriety, recovering addicts must be convinced that they can no longer run their lives on self-control. Doing that led to the addiction in the first place. The only way to break out of a life run on self-will is to spend time in prayer. 12 Step group members will attest to the power of prayer in their lives. They will talk about the strength they found that they never had before. Even AA members who have not figured out all there is to know about God will be people who believe in the power of prayer.
Churches have a lot to learn from 12 Step groups in this area. Which is interesting. Most 12 Step group prayers are prayers from Christian leaders throughout the centuries, yet 12 Steppers often seem to grasp the need to speak these prayers more quickly than church members.
I believe there are three things we need to know about AA as it relates to Step 11 and prayer.
First, AA is not competing with your church. AA, as well as other 12 Step groups, is not a denomination. It is not trying to be a denomination. 12 Step groups have one purpose: to live life sober. The founders of AA recognized the need for acknowledging the spirituality of recovery. In fact, Bill Wilson was active in his church and included a lot of Christian language in his original writings. The early members of AA realized that recovery was needed for people outside the Christian religion, so the language was changed to be more inclusive. AA is focused on recovery.
Second, AA is not an evangelistic organization. I do not actively recruit people to join AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, or any other 12 Step group. If you tell me about someone you know whom you believe to be an addict, I will talk with them. I will let them know about meetings I go to. I will tell them how AA has helped me in my life. I will give them my phone number and encourage them to call me. But I will not tell them they are an alcoholic. I will not pursue them until they agree to come to a meeting with me. All I can do is say, “There is help.” I can share my story. I can even share how my own spiritual journey is intertwined with my recovery journey. But I will not try and convince someone of something they must come to an awareness of on their own.
Third, people who have hit rock bottom know the need for prayer; follow their example. Those who are in recovery have previously lived lives based on self-will. We have tried to do everything on our own. We have gone through the motions of family, friendship, and religion. Sometimes, we have even attained success in life while destroying our bodies. We know what it means to do things based on our will. In order to recover, we have learned (we had to!) to pray, “Thy will be done.” We have learned to ask for help. We have learned to look outside of ourselves in order to be successful at life. We have learned that success in life cannot come without sobriety. Money, prestige, and fame mean nothing if one sacrifices their own life to attain it. The person in recovery knows the only way to maintain sobriety is to start and end every day with prayer; while also praying non-stop throughout the day.
When a person in recovery reaches the 11th Step in their recovery journey, they will be a person of prayer. They will be a person of peace. He or she will know that everything will not always be good, but that they will always have a place to go when things are bad. There is a lot Christians can learn from recovering addicts:
We don’t have it all together. So we pray.