In Step Eleven we are encouraged to improve our conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation. The second half of the step also notes to only pray for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.
Many people upon entering a twelve step program have little to no interest in developing a relationship with a higher power. For many of us the first act of prayer felt awkward. Meditation felt confusing. These habits like many other ones in the program do become stronger and more routine over time. If you’re not accustomed to praying, the act can feel a little silly at first. If you’ve never meditated before you might be sitting there wondering what you should be doing while running through your to-do list in your mind. Don’t worry. The practices of both prayer and meditation are ones that we all continue to develop and refine over a lifetime. And they are also practices that we will never do perfectly. The only important part is that we begin. And once we have begun, that we continue.
Let’s talk about prayer. You may have heard the act of prayer simplified to the practice of talking with God. This visualization can be helpful. So what do I say? Good question. Early on, and often throughout recovery, many members of the fellowship find it helpful to simply read or recite standard prayers rather than riffing on their own. Popular favorites include: The Serenity Prayer, The Third Step Prayer, The St. Francis Prayer, The Seventh Step Prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer. A brief comment on the Lord’s Prayer. While Alcoholics Anonymous is not aligned with any religion, the Lord’s Prayer (a traditionally Christian prayer) has found its way into many meetings. That being said, if the Lord’s Prayer does not align with your personal religious convictions feel free to say a prayer of your own choosing to yourself. Despite its leanings, however, it is also a prayer that contains many good elements. So we also encourage you to have an open mind. A good way to think about exposure to prayers that may not be cut from the cloth of our particular faith is to liken it to attending a church service with a friend. While we may not fully believe in everything we hear there, we can still participate with reverence, take what is meaningful for us, and respect the importance that it has in that person’s life. So get started with some of the standard prayers that you like. You can memorize them or read them off prayer cards. Talk to others about how they pray. Start coming up with your own prayers and having an actual conversation with God. And remember you don’t have to do it perfectly.
Now let’s talk about meditation. Meditation often becomes the forgotten part of the twelfth step. It is also a practice shrouded in so much mystery that many members don’t even begin. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Meditation can simply be considered the act of sitting quietly in a room while attempting to connect with a power greater than yourself. Meditation is not “not thinking”. This is simply not possible. We will always be thinking. But meditation helps us to be less attached to our thoughts. We can let a thought arise and then fade away. This practice is helpful for many of us who can be rather obsessive about our thoughts. When beginning to practice meditation start small. Think about trying five minutes a day rather than signing up for a week long silent retreat. It’s also important to remember that we can introduce meditation into smaller moments throughout our day. The practice does not have to be completed while seated in the lotus position surrounded by tapestries and silken pillows. We might consider pausing for a moment upon getting into our cars. Taking a moment and connect with the larger world around us and our Higher Power before turning the ignition. Much like prayer, the only important thing to consider is that we get started and we continue.
Now onto the last part to Step Twelve. Seeking only to pray and meditate for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. Put simply don’t pray Dear God please give me a Lamborghini. We are not developing our spiritual muscles to make requests or further attach ourselves to the realm of the material. These physical gifts may come as a result of our efforts, but they are not the end goal. The development of a spiritual life is built around a surrender to the will of our Higher Power and knowing that we are but a small part of a much bigger picture. Many people who practice the spiritual life come to realize that it holds gifts much more valuable than can ever be experienced in the realm of the material.