Some people have a problem with prayer in recovery, especially those who are struggling with the whole God concept.
I have heard many who dislike it because there is too much God and some declare that there is not enough. Frankly, I have been on both sides of this fence but am now neutral on the subject. The 12 Step program has been around for a long time and has changed not just my life, but lives of millions of people. Therefore, I have concluded that it works very well as it is. Can it be better? Perhaps. I think Pablo Picasso said it well: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” And are we all not really artists creating our own life, in our own way, the best we can? Maybe. If that’s true, we should be trying to create the best recovery experience we can have. Right?
If you want to add or subtract something that’s in the process of self-discovery called the 12 Steps, you probably should know pretty well what you are going to try and modify. But being addicts, we are inclined to go for the fast track and get gratification as quickly as possible. Therefore, too help you in your quest for a quick fix, here are the references to prayer in Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book so you can see that this is a prevalent topic.
Look at this as a detective who is trying to find some clues on what the motive of the perpetrator could have possibly been. Certainly, to get that answer for ourselves about recovery we don’t have to guess, you can just read what the 12th Step is: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Yep, this process is ultimately about becoming conscious of ourselves and our relationships. And apparently to the founders of modern recovery, prayer is an important part of being able to do that. Here is what co-founder of AA, Bill Wilson, wrote in his sequel to the Big Book, The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions: “A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”
I would like to add in a quote from Mother Teresa: “I used to believe prayer changes things, but now I know prayer changes us and we change things.” Now here is what AA’s Big Book says about prayer:
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.” William D. Silkworth, MD – (“The Doctor’s Opinion”- Preface to Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book)
“God is everything or he is nothing. God either is or he isn’t. What was our choice to be?” Pg. 53. Pg. 59 “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
And Here Is How Prayer Applies To The Steps:
Pg. 63: God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always!”
Pg. 67 – Resentment: “We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”
Pg. 68 – Fear: “We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be.”
Pg. 69 – Sex: “We asked God to mold our ideals and help us live up to them.”
Pg. 69 – Sex: “In meditation, we ask God what we do about each specific matter.”
Pg. 70 – Sex: “To sum up about sex: We pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity and for strength to do the right thing.”
Pg. 75: “We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him better.”
Pg. 75: “We ask if we have omitted anything”
Pg. 76: “If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.”
Pg. 76: “My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding. Amen”
Pg. 76: “If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes.”
Pg. 79 – Legal Matters: “We ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences might be.”
Pg. 80 – Others Affected: “If we have obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help.”
Pg. 82 – Infidelity: “Each might pray about it, having the other one’s happiness uppermost in mind.”
Pg. 83 – Family: “So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.”
Pg. 84: “Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.”
Pg. 85: “Everyday is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.”
Pg. 86 – Night: “After mediation on the day just completed, We ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.”
Pg. 86 – Morning: “Before we begin our day, we ask god to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”
Pg. 86 – Morning: “In thinking about our day, We ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision.”
Pg. 87 – Morning: “We usually conclude the period of mediation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We especially ask for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no requests for ourselves only We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.”
Pg. 87-88 – All Day: “As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.”
Pg. 164: “Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come IF your own house is in order.”
Regardless of what you do or don’t like about prayer, it is an integral part of the 12 Step program. So much so, I would have to conclude that connection with God has been a critical ingredient in transforming my life. I really don’t believe that my life would have changed as dramatically as it has without it. Of course you get to decide if it does or does not work for you but I would like to ask you to approach it as mentioned above before dismissing it. Its worked for billions of people, so odds are in your favor that it will work for you too.