Saturday, April 16, 2011

Step 11

An interesting topic came up at a discussion meeting the other night. Step 11 states "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." The topic centered around the part "...praying only for His knowledge for us...", with the focus on the operative word only. Does this imply that it's suggested that we shouldn't pray for others?

Let's look at a situation close to home. Recently many of us prayed for Patrick's Mom. Was that wrong according to Step 11? Can't I pray for the health and happiness of my children and grandchildren? Why do I have to limit my prayers to only knowledge of God's will for me?

Now having been through the previous 10 steps it's obvious to me that my will sucks. My will is what got me into trouble in the first place. Praying for knowledge of God's will and the power to carry that out is critical to my recovery. Jim just mentioned in a recent comment the GV article by Tiebold which tied together surrender, ego, and hitting bottom as being interrelated into a critical requirement for sobriety. So there no problem with that part.

But what's wrong with praying for others, too? There were some interesting answers to the question (and a lot of weaseling) during the meeting. I have my own answer, but would be interested in what you guys have to say on the matter. This isn't a closed book exam, so feel free to refer to Kushner or the 12 and 12. Neatness counts, and points will be taken for spelling and grammar.


  1. Hey Joe. I don't limit myself for what the 12 Step scrolls say. I take step 11 in its long form out of the book from about page 86 and ending on 88.

  2. Good response. A little awkward in wording "from about..and ending on". Perhaps beginning on and ending on? Good choice of references. I'll give you an A-.

    Yet nowhere does this area of the Big Book refer to praying for others. It does say that we can ask for ourselves if others may be helped. It also obliquely addresses the issue in referring to religious denominations, set prayers, and guidance from one's priest, minister, or rabbi. Surely from one religious beliefs one can (and should) pray for others.

    But the Big Book emphasis is still on God's will for us in all our affairs. "Thy will be done." So as good a response as your is, Patrick, I don't think it entirely answers the question.

    And another response which goes through everyone's minds - The steps are suggestions only, I can pray for any thing I want to pray for - doesn't answer the question either.

  3. It has been my experience that praying for others can be convoluted, to many pressing factors play into the equation. My wants, my desires and my ideal outcome for the people I am praying for.
    I sometimes think I know what is best for them, what road they should take, principle they should respect, that there morals and values should equate to mine or be better. I believe at times I understand their spiritual maladies and hurdles.
    I find myself projecting my reality onto them.
    Sponsoring was a very difficult process for me. Staying out of the way.
    The only genuine unconditional prayer I could think of to say for others when I first began coming around was, "Gods Will Not Ours Be Done". But then I would have to assume I knew Gods Will for everyone. I don't.
    Today, I don't pray much for others, I try at times but then I can see this is between God and them. I just pray for his guidance for me. This seems to be enough to help me get back on the path.

  4. By praying for others are we asking God to consider our input and viewpoint when it comes to his "Divine Plan"? Is it once again about what I want as opposed to the way things are meant to be?
    Things are going to happen the way things are going to happen. Regardless of whether I pray or not.
    All I can ask is what is Gods will for me and ask for the power to carry out his will. Then in times of others needs I can be a messenger.

  5. But in our nightly review, it says "Were we thinking mostly of ourselves, or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?"

    I pray for others, whether God likes it or not.

  6. C'mon Jim, Let's hear what you have to say.

  7. (in red letters):

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

    And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    (end red letter)

    Sorry to throw some New Testament (from Matthew 5:43) on your ass... but if it's written there, I'd bet the Big Book either makes some mention of it or at least does not go contrary to it.

    I'm thinking that Step 10 would have more to say about it... or even 9, than Step 11 would. But the steps were not designed to cancel each other out, right?

  8. Patrick, I think God likes it. Compassion is always rewarded.
    I think I sometimes get confused about "Gods Divine Plan, under standing "Gods Will" and being available "To be of maximum sevice".
    The first two I need to let go. This is gods business. The last is where I should be working hard at. Here I am dealing with life on life's terms while walking with god. Random acts of kindness, helping the alcoholic, supporting our families, being loving to our wives and children ect....
    Patrick, a very good passage. Thanks.
    I needed this.

  9. Ok, Jim’s gonna play hooky. Here’s my take on it all. And it’s sort of a summation of what everyone’s been saying.

    To begin with, let’s look at what I can pray for. And the emphasis is on the “for”, as in asking God for something. This differs from praying to God to thank Him.

    I can pray for things I want. Trouble is, everything I want is usually bad for me. And besides, my God already knows what I want. So that’s a non-starter. He gives me what I need, and I’m happy with that.

    I can pray for a hurricane or other act of nature to not affect me. But when God created the universe he gave certain laws to nature (gravity, speed of light, that sort of thing) and natural disasters are going to follow those laws, as such things are acts of nature. So God isn’t gonna steer a hurricane away from the coast and interfere with the laws He created. To do so would be a contradiction, and God doesn’t do contradictions. Think square circles and stones heavier than God can lift. Contradictions. Pat Robertson doesn’t agree with me on this subject.

    I can pray for understanding of God’s will for my and the power to carry that out. This is what I do pray for on a daily basis. Big Book tells me I should do this. I agree. Not much to be said here. Everyone understands this.

    I can pray for other people. I can pray for either good or bad things to happen to them. But when I do that, I’m praying for God to act in accordance with my will.I want something to happen to or for these people. It’s my will I asking for here.

    I’m not accepting whatever God’s will is for others here. I’m asking for my will. And I’m not supposed to do that. I’ve surrendered my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him, remember? If I turn my will and my life over to His care, then I have to accept His will, not only for myself, but for everyone and everything. This, I think, is why Bill Wilson put the word “only” in step 11.

    So in praying for Patrick’s Mom, I was asking for my will to be done – that she be made well. I was asking God to place preference on my will for Patrick’s Mom over whatever His will was. Or maybe I was asking Him to consider what I wanted before He made up His decision. I dunno.

    Do I think I was wrong in praying for Mom? Nope, sorry Bill. In some instances I’ll pray for my will, but maybe I ought to be a little careful in how I word it.

    And this is different from what Matthew says. He (and the rest of the New Testament) calls on us to love our neighbor, to help on another, to be good and do good. These are actions, not prayers, however. The New Testament never tells us (that I can find) to pray for one another, although we certainly do.

    So that’s my take on the issue. In a sense we should pray only for God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. To do otherwise would be an indication that we don’t accept God’s will, or that we’re asking for something that even God cannot do (contradictions, remember?). In another sense, though, maybe I can pray for others if I word it in a way that is asking God to perhaps consider my request before He decides. And if He decides against whatever I ask for, then I accept that as His will and move on.

  10. Good points... but when I pray for others I say, "I ask that those who are in need of a prayer may have a prayer answered."

    Now, with regards to my will vs God's Will... I have to differentiate between my wants and my needs.

    When I start doing what I need to be doing, I soon find out it's what I wanted all along- Paul Martin.

    P.S. I can rely upon and use my will today. It's not all bad. I'm no longer insane. I don't think it's up to God to micro-manage my life today.

  11. That's a good way to phrase a prayer for others. It, too, sort of skirts the "my will/God's will" conundrum. And I really think that God is pleased when we pray for the benefit of others. Provided, of course, that we accept the final outcome without hesitation.

    I guess my whole point here was to question the "only" in Step 11. I had never given it a lot of though before, but when the question arose at the meeting it got me to really thinking about it.

    So it does make perfect sense to pray "only" for knowledge of His will for us. And then hope like hell we're doing the right thing. We did, after all, turn our will over to Him.

    But there's a means where we can pray for something other than His will for us without challenging His will for others, too.

    I'll just try and go through the day doing the best I can, hoping that it's what God wants me to do. And I'm pretty comfortable with that.

  12. I hate when people say shit like, "God won't give you anything you can't handle."

    Oh yeah? Try revisiting this bullshit on your death day. People do die eventually. What, was God busy that day?

    Another one is "But for the Grace of God there go I." Oh yeah? Just wait till you're ass up in the gutter and we'll talk to you about God's Grace that day.

  13. I haven't been playing hooky. I was on retreat. Our group just spent the weekend in a cabin by the shores of Puget Sound working with 10 & 11.

    About praying for others. I don't, but if others want to, why not? Maybe I'm here right now because others prayed for me. Myself, I don't. Why? Because it seems to me to be an attempt at influencing The Infinite, when actually the whole point of prayer is to line myself up with it, to get in tune with it. So, mt prayer has been "Thy will be done."

    On praying for myself, Don P. helped with this. It was always about me getting mine. It still is, but now it can be turned to good account. Don taught us a prayer:

    "Dear God, fill me with your loving spirit that it would flow through me into the loves of others."

    That way I get mine and you get yours, because when I help you get yours, I automatically get mine.

  14. Joe wrote:
    So it does make perfect sense to pray "only" for knowledge of His will for us. And then hope like hell we're doing the right thing. We did, after all, turn our will over to Him.

    Danny wrote:
    By praying for his knowledge we seem to intuitively (spiritually)know what the next right thing is to do.
    That is if I choose to pay attention. There are times "I" choose to take care of things and as everyone witnessed they can become ugly.

  15. Good point you guys. I think I can pray selfishly and sometimes I get what I want. Then I say, "God, can you now please take this away?"

    You know... with my mom, I was trying to prepare myself for her leaving us. I was more concerned for my own selfishness in her leaving us not, more concerned about how my dad would get along without her, and most concerned with her pain at the time and the relief from that.

    It appears that it either wasn't her time or perhaps the power of prayer tipped the scales. IDK.

    I had a conversation about prayer with regards to my mom on ST. Here are those comments with response to prayer;

    says Nothing fails like prayer.

    Martha says
    Not that AA has ever embraced science, but there is an actual study in the American Heart Association Journal that says:

    “Nothing fails like prayer
    And now we have scientific evidence backing up the claim! The American Heart Journal has published the best (as in largest and methodologically most accurate) study so far of the effect of intercessory prayer, and it has shown – as any sensible person would have known before spending $2.4 million and a decade to actually do the study – prayer fails to make any difference whatsoever.

    The study was conducted by a team led by Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson, who is sympathetic to the idea that prayer has healing effects, and funded in large part by the Templeton Foundation, an organization devoted to the scientific improvement of our understanding of spirituality (whatever that latter phrase may mean).”
    Prayer and faith healing have not kept you sober, McGowdog only you have kept yourself sober and like the rest of us you should take credit for your own sobriety. Drinking or using is a choice. People can decide to never drink again, not for a mere one day at a time, but for the rest of your life. I set my confidence level to 100% and I no longer call myself an alcoholic. Abstinence is sobriety.

    So, prayer fails and I keep myself sober. Kewl. I rock!

  16. And here's a thought. God created the universe, and with it He created nature and mankind. Nature, as I've said, has certain laws that come with it. Mankind was created with free will.

    Now as to our lives and God's will, consider Kushner's idea that, in essence, what happens to us in life is a result either of our free will (choice) or nature. If I get stabbed by someone, that's because they choose to stab me, exercising their free will. If a tree falls on me, that's gravity acting, a law of nature.

    Did God influence either action? That's where it gets interesting. I like Kushner's idea that both getting stabbed and being hit by the falling tree were acts of fate. They simply happened. Both occurred in accordance with the way God created both man and nature.

    Patrick brought up the point of God micro-managing our lives. I don't think He does. I think He pretty much stays out of things. He made us, gave us free will, set some rules for us to obey, and then watches how we act.

    I believe God's will is simply that we obey His commandments. But He gave us free will, so we have a choice.

    But how then, does that explain my needing God's help if, as Martha says, drinking is simply a matter of choice. For many people, that's true - it is simply a choice. But for me, an alcoholic as I define one, I couldn't successfully choose to stop drinking. I tried, believe me. Will power, for me, didn't hack it. I needed help and asked God for it. He obliged.

    Can I scientifically prove the efficacy of prayer? Can I prove that it was God that lifted the obsession from me and not just simply my will power. No. But then again, I don't have to.

    Does this contradict my idea that God just sits back and watches? Not really. I also believe that God will, if we ask, help us sometimes. He removed the obsession that I had for alcohol, but I doubt He'll tell me the winning lottery number.

    But now that the obsession has been removed, Martha's right. Drinking now is a matter of choice for me. But you see, I'm an alcoholic and therein lies the problem. Not the alcohol, me. I had to change myself in order to be able to keep making the choice not to drink. That's where AA comes in.

    So I believe that Kushner's correct. Shit happens. Bad things happen to everyone, so do good things. God, for the most part, stays out of it. Unless we ask, and then He'll only intercede in certain areas. Like removing the obsession for alcohol. Like letting us know what He wants from us, His will for us.

    My part in the deal is to accept God's will or not. I have a choice.

  17. I agree with you about this nature thing.

    I disagree with the nonAAers who think I have a choice with booze. I still don't have choice.

    Before God removed the obsession, I had no choice but to drink. Now, I have no choice TO drink.

    Oh, and btw... I didn't ask God to take booze away nor do I ask Him to keep me sober. It's just part of the deal.

    Non-AAers are flabergasted at the fact that the AA book does not say... "This is how you get sober." But the instructions to our "Way Out" are in the steps.

  18. It's all semantics at this point. A choice not to drink, no choice TO drink. Whether or not we do drink again is something only we can decide to do or not. We may disagree on the wording or the concept of choice, but we do agree that if we have but one drink, we're fucked.

    I didn't ask God to take away the booze, either. Just the fucking obsession. Give me a period of abstinence so that I can have an opportunity to get sober.

    I got the sobriety thing through AA, and that's how I stay sober. God just pointed out the path, I took the steps. Like Patrick, we have a deal now.

    If the non-AA folks equate abstinence with sobriety, then they don't understand what we mean by sobriety. But that's not our problem.

    Getting back to Kushner one more time, I also like what he said about the evolution of man. What makes us think He's done yet? Look at how man has evolved over the past 10,000 years or so. Is this it? Is this as far as we're gonna make it? I don't think so.

    I think that in the evolutionary process, we've got a long way to go. So God is sitting back watching our progress. Sometimes He's pleased at our progress, and I think He laughs. Other times He looks at what we do and He weeps. But He knows we're not a finished product, so He'll watch us plod along, hopefully learning to accept His will (or not).

    I'm comfortable with my relationship with God, with my life in general. I'm sober today. I can't ask for anything better than that.

  19. Why don't animals lower on the food chain bitch to God like Gunthar does?

  20. My mom is sitting here, twice recovered from cancer... and I read her your questions and she says you're a stupid asshole with no life.