In the preceding article ‘The Right Way to Pray’, we explored the dilemma of accepting prayer as a fundamental part of comprehensive recovery. Many newly sober addicts and alcoholics experience some aversion to the act of praying, and find it difficult to settle into a routine. However, a routine centering around spiritual connectedness is vital to ultimate fulfillment and stability in recovery. We reviewed the fact that although there is no right way to prayer (spirituality is a very individualized and subjective experience, always), the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous does offer several constructive suggestions. Bill W. himself organized several ‘definite and valuable’ suggestions pertaining to prayer, meditation, and the 11th step. He categorized these suggestions into three basic headings: what to do upon awakening, what to do throughout the day, and what to do before lying down for bed at night.
“On awakening let us think of the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”
Even when we live thoroughly spiritual lives, earnestly relying on the universe to guide us, we are liable to face many moments of both uncertainty and fallibility. Asking a power greater than ourselves for guidance immediately upon awakening will help to set a tone of humility and surrender for the day ahead – turning our will over before we even get out of bed is not only beneficial in the sense of stability, but relinquishing control often allows us a great sense of relief. I have personally found keeping a daily meditation book on my nightstand extremely effective. I simply set my alarm clock for 5 minutes earlier than I otherwise would have, and upon awakening, I reach for my meditation book and read the daily reflection. I allow myself to contemplate the message and how it might apply to my current circumstances, and I ask my higher power for guidance. Thy will, not mine, be done – short, sweet, and to the point. Others may choose to walk outside and sit in the sunshine, praying for direction and giving thanks. Others still may opt to pray in the shower or on their morning commute. Find what works for you.
Throughout the Day
Our morning practice of prayer and meditation will help to ground us, and hopefully, we will remain open to guidance and direction as we move throughout our day. If we begin to feel overwhelmed or unbalanced, we can simply stop wherever we are and attempt to reconnect, asking our higher power for further assistance. We ask for the appropriate thought or action, and remember to take it easy (both on others and on ourselves). We may also find it necessary to look to some of our spiritual tools for further support, depending on what it is we are being faced with. We may take 10 minutes to call up a close friend or sober support, read a favorite segment from some literature, take an hour to attend a local meeting, or do what we can to help someone else. No matter where we are or what we are doing, however, prayer and meditation are readily accessible.
When We Retire at Night
The personal inventory that we complete at the end of each day as part of step 10 can also be utilized as a method of meditation. Self-reflection is crucial to self-improvement, just as meditation is crucial to an improved connection with a higher power. After we take several minutes to reflect on how we conducted ourselves throughout the day, we can meditate on how much we have accomplished, and how much progress we have made. Were we dishonest, self-seeking, or afraid? Do we owe any apologies? Have we been keeping something to ourselves that we would benefit from sharing with a trusted friend or mentor at once? We do what we can to remedy our wrongs, careful not to drift into self-judgment or negative assessment. Perhaps we can pray to improve in the areas in which we fell short, or for God to take away the difficulties (character defects) that still seem to be cropping up regularly. The prayer we engage in when we retire at night is very open to interpretation, just as the prayer we utilize throughout the day. However, it is always recommended that we avoid praying for ourselves.
Step 11 is open to interpretation, and prayer is a highly personal and subjective experience. So long as we are constantly seeking to bolster our spiritual connection, we will be just fine.