Step 11 is another of the maintenance Steps. In the first three steps we commit to turning away from our addictive and unhealthy behavior. In Steps 4 through 9 we learn how to deal with our past. In the maintenance steps we are focusing on our present. Most of us have at least an elementary understanding of prayer. Who hasn’t, at some time prayed, “God, if you get me out of this I’ll never do (fill in the blank) again!” Most of us fall in to one of two categories when it comes to prayer. We either believe we know all about prayer and we have this under control, or we think we don’t know anything about prayer and don’t know where to start.
Let’s start with the 2nd category first. Maybe we have grown up in an environment where prayer just wasn’t something practiced or even believed in. Prayer, in the simplest terms, is talking to God. In my experience, prayer flows the most naturally when I talk to God the same way I would talk to a close friend that is seated right here with me. I don’t try to use big words or impress anyone. I just try to be real, honest. What do we pray about? Step 11 is specific. We are praying in order to increase our interaction with God and we are asking only for knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out.
When I began my journey through the 12 Steps I was the guy that thought I knew what prayer was all about and how it worked. My sponsor was quick to let me know that there’s a big difference between religious prayer and Step 11 prayer. He challenged me to write out my prayer and then he walked with me through what I had written. Immediately I began to recognize that most of what I had written were demands disguised as requests. I realized they were demands because my sponsor pointed out over the next weeks how often I was getting angry because God wasn’t giving me what I had demanded. He challenged me to take Step 11 on face value and encouraged me to pray for 30 days only to grow closer to God, for knowledge of his will for me and for strength to do what he revealed. That challenge has forever changed my prayer life. I don’t believe it’s wrong to ask God for specific things but when my focus on those “things” is greater than my focus on my relationship with him and understanding his will for me then I am returning to an unhealthy state of mind.
I was watching my grandchildren one night while my daughter and son in law were out on a date. I had put the kids to bed and they had been asleep for about an hour when my grandson woke up and began to cry. I walked into the bedroom and spoke to him as I sat down on the edge of the bed and placed my hand on his side. Almost immediately his crying stopped and he snuggled into my side. In a few minutes he had gone back to sleep and I moved back into the other room to read. What changed between the time he awoke crying and the moment he went back to sleep? Almost nothing. The only thing that changed was his awareness of my presence. A child finds comfort in presence. In a real way, I am just the same. When I experience God’s presence, I can experience comfort and peace, even if the circumstances don’t immediately change. As I practice Step 11, I am becoming more aware of God’s presence.
Next week we will look at the role of meditation in this Step. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on prayer. Send comments to email@example.com.