Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global fellowship of men and women battling alcoholism. AA is not a religious program, but it is spiritual, and it relies heavily on prayer.
The idea behind AA is fairly simple—if you want to achieve long-term sobriety, you need to admit that you are powerless over your drug of choice and that only a higher power of your choosing can keep you sober.
Simple, certainly, but a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re not religious. However, there is evidence that prayer can be beneficial in certain ways. It’s not going to reverse a diagnosis of cancer, but it likely can help with your sense of well-being and may help with anxiety and depression.
Because alcoholism is a disease that centers mostly in the mind and is often heavily associated with other co-occurring mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, prayer has the potential to be highly beneficial.
AA has a list of prayers that most members will pray regularly. Here are the major prayers and what you need to know about them.
The 3rd Step Prayer
Step 3 in AA goes like this: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
The 3rd Step Prayer only makes sense if the member is completely on board with the ideas behind AA. No 12-Step program will work if you aren’t willing to (or cannot) believe in a higher power.
Although the words do specify a male god, and it’s heavily implied that this is a Christian god, there are several points in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous where they state that they mean a god of your understanding or a higher power generally, which can be anything, and not necessarily a deity from a religion.
The 3rd Step Prayer is designed to help you relinquish control to your chosen higher power, whatever it may be.
The 3rd Step Prayer is a significant milestone in the recovery journey because it’s the point where you stop trying to fight your alcoholism alone and give in to the process of the 12 Steps.
For many people, the 12 Steps themselves is their higher power, so they’re just admitting that they need the program of AA to stay sober, which many find much easier to do. Keep this in mind when reading the prayer—you can substitute the words in the prayer with your own interpretation.
It even says in the AA book that the words don’t matter, that it’s the sentiment behind the prayer that counts.
The prayer goes like this:
“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.”
The 7th Step Prayer
The 7th Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous is a plea for humility and the removal of shortcomings. It’s about acknowledging your flaws and asking your Higher Power to remove them.
A lot has happened between the 3rd and the 7th steps. The 4th and 5th steps are deep dives into your entire life story.
Step 4 requires you to make a long list of resentments, fears, and your behavior in romantic relationships. Step 5 is when you discuss this list with a sponsor and also confess to them all your deepest, darkest secrets—this step can also be done with a priest or trusted friend.
Step 6 asks you to use everything you learned in the previous two steps to create a list of your character defects that you then ask your higher power to remove in Step 7.
This step is about accepting your imperfections and seeking help to overcome them, with the idea being that these character defects can lead to a relapse if not dealt with.
This makes a lot of sense—for many people who suffer from addiction and alcoholism, negative behaviors like lying, stealing, cheating, or gambling can lead them back into bad situations or fill them with negative emotions that then lead to using or drinking again.
By addressing these issues, you have a better chance of staying sober.
Here’s the prayer, which can be rewritten in your own words:
“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.”
The Serenity Prayer
The most well-known prayer in AA is The Serenity Prayer. In most places around the world, some version of it is prayed at each meeting.
There is a short and a long version, both of which focus on some core principles of AA—the idea that your power is limited and that you need the help of a higher power to see what you can change in your life and what you can’t.
The short version goes like this:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The long version is significantly more rooted in the Christian tradition, which is why it’s not used much in AA given that AA is a non-religious program. Here’s how it goes:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen”
The St. Francis Prayer
The St. Francis Prayer appears in the AA book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and is a reminder of Step 12 of AA—the idea that you should always help others and put their needs before your own.
The crux of AA is selflessness and service, which anyone would find difficult, especially if you haven’t had to live that way before.
It’s a big shift to go from a selfish life of drinking and using and living however you want to thinking about others all the time, so it can be helpful to have a prayer that reminds you of this change.
Here’s the prayer:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”
Incorporating Prayer into Your Recovery Journey
Incorporating prayer into your recovery journey can be a game-changer. It can provide you with the spiritual strength and guidance necessary to overcome the challenges of recovery.
Start by setting aside a few minutes each day for prayer. Find a quiet place where you can focus and reflect. Speak from the heart and don’t worry about saying the “right” words. You might just find that it makes a bigger difference than you expect.
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