Leader's Share and Step Questions
Hi, friends. My name is Penny, and I am a compulsive eater and leader for this quarter’s WTS step study.
Step 11: 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.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more action. Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1576-1578). . Kindle Edition.
This step packs a wallop, so let’s unwrap it.
“Sought through prayer and meditation…” More about this later.
“… improve our conscious contact with God …” The point of Step 11 is to continue our relationship with our Higher Power. Like any friendship, we have to work on it continuously. I’ve had friendships that have been deep and powerful at the start only to peter out in time either because interests diverged or one of us stopped trying to communicate. For our continued recovery, we have to make the effort to stay in touch, not just in a shallow, “Hey, how are ya?” way, but with a meaningful effort.
“… as we understood Him …” This is brilliant. Just as many of our relationships change over time, so does our relationship with our Higher Power. How we understand our Higher Power may vary over the years, and I think that’s a good thing. My Higher Power hasn’t changed; the way I conceive of my Higher Power has gently morphed over the years, and our relationship has equally grown and matured.
“… praying only for knowledge of His will for us…” I spent a lifetime demanding my wants, manipulating people and situations to get what I wanted, living a life full of fear and resentment and anxiety. I spent countless hours telling God what I wanted God to do for me. When I got what I wanted, I was sort of happy; when I didn’t, I cursed God for abandoning me. Step 11 teaches me that my prayers need to focus on finding out what God wants for me and how I can be the best Penny I can be. I’ve (mostly) stopped trying to ram the square peg into the round hole, and the freedom my soul and spirit feel are enormous.
“… and the power to carry that out.” The Big Book says, “Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem. Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 978-981). Kindle Edition.
I’m in OA recovery to tap into the power that keeps me from compulsively eating, gives me the ability to let go of my character defects, and to know and do what I understand is my Higher Power’s will for me one day at a time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have power before OA; I had a lot of it. OA taught me how to corral that power for the good of my soul and the people I love and interact with.
So now that I know what I’m supposed to get from Step 11, let’s go back to the directions: “Sought through prayer and meditation …”
I heard a simplistic definition of prayer and meditation: prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening to God.
What prayers should we say?
Prayer can be as simple and brief as a heartfelt, “HELP!!!” or it can be as complicated as any prayer found in a religion’s prayer book.
We can pray from our personal religious traditions. (Big Book: “If we belong to a religious denomination which requires definite morning devotion, we attend to that also.” Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1603-1604).
We can use the words of our hearts or minds.
If we have no religious belief system and still want suggestions, “… we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1604-1606).
(I’m not going to get into a discussion about religion, which is much better left outside “the rooms.” Just please note this: I believe that “… one’s priest, minister, or rabbi” is shorthand for “… one’s chosen religious teacher;” and that includes imams, gurus, etc. Please don’t let words get in the way; find your religious teacher and ask how s/he approaches prayer.)
The Big Book offers prayer suggestions:
Step 3: We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: “God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to 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!” We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1242-1246).
Step 7: “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.” We have then completed Step Seven.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1441-1443).
Step 11 (from “On Awakening”): We usually conclude the period of meditation 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 ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request 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. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1598-1602).
I do not ascribe to the idea that one must physically prostrate/humble one’s self during prayer; the “get on your knees” I hear about a lot at meetings is not part of my practice. I do believe that an attitude of humility – openness and willingness to learn and be taught – is essential. I believe that prayer is a reflexive behavior: I pray so that I can see how the words reflect back on myself, opening my heart to be a better person.
Meditation is a challenge. Sitting still, letting my mind either wander or focus on a thought or a word, is very difficult. That’s the point. Just taking a few minutes to be quiet can seem like it lasts forever. But the benefits are obvious precisely because are so busy and over-programmed.
he Big Book offers a suggested meditation: “On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives. In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service (2014-01-05). Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Locations 1589-1597).
There are other ways to meditate, and each of us can find our own paths. What’s important is not how we meditate but that we do it, focusing again on opening our hearts and minds to our Higher Powers so that we can learn and do our Higher Power’s will for us.
The bottom line of Step 11 is this: We use prayer and meditation to deepen our relationship with our Higher Power, just as we would make regular contact with good friends and people we love.
Questions for consideration:
- Do you pray and meditate on a regular basis?
- If meditating is a challenge (because of time, impatience, etc.), how do you work through the challenge?
- What benefits do you derive (or think you will derive) from your practice?
- If you are not members of a particular religious faith tradition, where do you find your prayers?
- If you’ve ever gone to a “… priest, minister, or rabbi,” or any religious teacher, what was your experience?
- What do you see as the difference between praying to know God’s will and asking/demanding things from God?
Next week we wrap up our step work! Thank you for letting me share …
The Twelve Steps
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