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Step Eleven: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
If we had to choose a favorite step, Step Eleven just might be the one! Now that the obsession of our addiction has been lifted, this step (as well as Steps Ten and Twelve) helps us maintain our sobriety and gives us that daily reprieve. I went to the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” and also the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” to renew my understanding before sharing my thoughts with all of you.
Did you remember that the Big Book “suggests” prayer and meditation? I didn’t. Maybe that isn’t even relevant to some of us but if you were not a praying person prior to recovery or had any problems with prayer, this could be powerful for you. It doesn’t club us over the heads and tell us prayer and meditation is mandatory but if you have come this far in recovery, I think we all know that it is. The point is prayer and meditation is a personal decision each of us makes. Taking this one step farther, this step continues to remind us of a God of our own understanding. Step Eleven is a most personal step.
The words “conscious contact” is of great importance. In the past we might have prayed or tried to meditate without any real focus as to whom we were praying. Not to mention much of our praying was not what I would consider “pure”. Our prayers were usually to get us out of a jam. These clearly were never spiritual or about conscious contact with a Higher Power. The principle of Step Eleven is awareness of God. So, this step says that we now have a God that we understand and it would now be a very good idea to pray and meditate keeping that God in our hearts and minds.
The hard part of this step is to pray and meditate not only with awareness of God but so that we know His will for us. This takes us back to Step Three when we made a decision to turn everything over to our Higher Power. It is letting go and accepting His will for us and for everyone else we pray for. The 12 & 12 reminds us that although it is a beautiful thing to pray for someone else, it is not up to us to think we know God’s will for them. Here is a perfect example that was given to me by my youngest brother. He was interviewing for a very important position and there were only a few candidates remaining. Knowing how he wanted this job, I told him I would pray that he got it. Doesn’t that sounds like a loving thing to do? I thought so but he said, “No. Don’t pray for me. Pray for the men who are making the decision that they make the correct choice for the good of all.” I prayed as he asked. He did not get the job. My guess is that my prayers and his were answered not to mention he clearly accepted the decision.
This seemed (and still does) like a most unselfish way to pray so I try to take the focus off of what I want for me or what I want for others. Step Eleven tells us to pray that we know God’s will and sometimes I don’t want to know God’s will. Here is another very real example. My niece of nine months was diagnosed with cancer. When she was going into any one of the many surgeries, I just could not pray for God’s will because I was afraid of it. What if God wanted her? I couldn’t even think of it so I followed my brother’s example and prayed for the surgeons and medical staff that they would be inspired to do the best job they had ever done. Six months after the initial diagnosis, she is presently cancer free and that is God’s will for her today. Was I not trusting or showed a lack of faith in my Higher Power? Perhaps but I don’t think my God expects me to be perfect in prayer. He knows the intentions in my heart and soul and I think the most important part is accepting His will no matter what we pray for or how we pray.
We can’t forget meditation although I am only mentioning it briefly because there is much I will say at a later time. Honestly, I think we make too much of the “how” to meditate. The 12 & 12 gives us a perfect example of simple meditation using the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Read this prayer over and over and then just sit quietly and think about what it means. Of course that is a simple way to meditate but who said meditation had to be difficult? For most of us, that will be as much meditation as we can handle.
I will close this article paraphrasing a few lines from the Big Book that I think are important for us to remember about Step Eleven. The Big Book tells us that we alcoholics (or you could fill that with any addiction) are an undisciplined lot and by asking to know God’s will and the power to carry it out is our way of asking God to please discipline us. But the strongest and most encouraging words about prayer and meditation the Big Book gives us is this: “It works. It really does.”
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
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