At first, we may be a little dismayed to find that prayer is such a fundamental part of addiction recovery. Most of us low-bottom alcoholics abandon the idea of God long before coming into the rooms, figuring that if there was indeed some ultimate authority, He had retired from our cases long ago. Perhaps our upbringing has something to do with our initial aversion to prayer. If we were raised Jewish, we were taught that we do not pray on our knees. If we were raised Southern Baptist, we were taught to fear God (especially after all of the sinning we had done). Whatever the reason, the concept of prayer is typically one that leaves us unsettled and sore. Bill W. himself once noted, “We recoiled from meditation and prayer as obstinately as as the scientist who refused to perform a certain experiment lest it prove his pet theory wrong.” We may think we can continuously and successfully skirt around spirituality, and then, eventually, we land on the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“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.”
The Right Way to Pray
In order to comprehensively recover, we must incorporate both prayer and meditation into our day-to-day lives. Why? Both prayer and meditation help us to further develop a deep-rooted and unwavering connection with a power greater than ourselves. Relying on something other than ourselves leads to far more peace and fulfillment, and helps us to develop a more positive outlook and way of thinking. Engaging in a daily spiritual practice helps promote stability, and goodness knows – we could all use a little stability.
By the time we reach step 11, we have likely learned a thing or two about acceptance. Although the very idea of prayer may leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths, we figure that we can go about nearly anything with an open mind. The concept of faith is something we have grown more and more accustomed to over the course of our time spent in sobriety. We begin to understand that we were in fact practicing faith long before we were even introduced to the program – that we had consistently been worshipping and relying on a power greater than ourselves for the entire length of our drinking careers. “I worshipped the bottle; I took every problem to the bottle; I leaned on the bottle with almost childlike trust. I persisted in this sick devotion long after the bottle had repeatedly betrayed me and wrecked my life,” writes Mel. B in Step 11: Partnership with a Higher Power. We become open to the idea of prayer, despite our backgrounds and preconceived notions. Contempt prior to investigation, we learn, is the only true barrier to spiritual recovery. So we open our minds to the idea.
A Highly Individualized Journey
Now, the question remains, “What is the right way to pray?” Fortunately, the entire program of Alcoholics Anonymous is founded on open-mindedness and suggestion. There is truly no right way to pray – prayer, just like formulating a personal conception of a higher power, is highly individualized and subjective. So long as we are constantly seeking, we are in good shape. However, this does not mean that the Big Book fails to offer us constructive suggestions. A contrite list of spiritual suggestions pertaining to prayer and meditation can be found on pages 85-88 of the Big Book. These suggestions are broken down into three specific categories: what do do upon awakening, what to do throughout the day, and what to do at night, before bed. For more information on prayer, please see our related blog post “More on Prayer and Step 11”.