Big Book Recovery

Working the 12 Step Programme

Step Eleven

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Reading:  pages 85-88.

We have the framework for Step 11 in place if we are doing the Daily Suggestions. These contain the prayers with which many of us initiated our conscious contact with God. Daily adherence has steadily improved our conscious contact with God and will continue to improve it. The Just for Today card and the gratitude list are examples of meditations. One allows us to consider how we can improve in doing the right things in our life before resolving to do so and asking for His help; the other allows us to meditate upon the blessings that God has given to us and to thank Him for them. As the second part of the sentence of the Step, above, indicates, we cannot pray for our selfish desires. {p87} However, we can pray for ourselves if it improves our usefulness to others. “Then only might I expect to receive. But that will be in great measure.” {p13} The Step, as detailed in the Big Book, gives us prayers for when we get up, for during the day and when we retire at night. The following format contains the principles outlined (though it is by no means the only prayer and meditation routine that would do so).


• Please keep me sober today

• Please give me honesty, openmindedness, willingness and humility. Four essentials for recovery {p570, p13}

• How best can I serve thee? Thy will not mine be done {p85} (or some other reminder that we have taken Step Three and so we are being looked after today as well).

• Read the Just for Today card and review your gratitude list, thanking God for your blessings

Morning Meditation or ‘Quiet Time’

The book outlines a way of setting ourselves up to do God’s will, in planning the day ahead, we say:

• Please show me today what I can do for the man who is still sick.

• Please show me the way of patience, kindness, tolerance and love.

• Please direct my thinking, let it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. For it says that free of these self-centered impulses we can throughout the day “employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use.”

Now what some of us do is follow the book and sit quietly for, perhaps, 10-20 minutes. During this period we write our list of things to do for that day. There’s no hurry.  We just sit out the period quietly putting down on paper what occurs. At the end we say:

Please show me all through the day what my next step is to be and give me whatever I need to take care of such problems. Please give me freedom from self-will.

There are two points of experience worth noting in regard to the directions for the day that appear on the list. First, the spiritual life is one lived by right principle – we try to do ‘the right thing’. The items on our list of things to do for the day, which will come from this meditation are very often actions that are straightforward for many, but represent a turnaround in attitude for the alcoholic, for example: pay the electricity bill, clean my teeth, return a video, go to work (and even, perhaps, try to get there on time). For most of us, these actions constitute as much a participation in the spiritual life as the meditation that generated the ideas in the first place.

Second, as the book says on page 87: “… it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas.” We should not slavishly follow all the jottings of this period taking everything to be direct revelation from God. Sometimes this meditation will generate ideas that are unusual. For example, it might suddenly occur to you that it is a good idea to sell up and emigrate to Papua New Guinea. This might be a good thing to do... but then again it might not. We have found it best to consider the product of meditation as ideas that can be “tested with the new God-consciousness within” {p13}. We test our thoughts by asking ourselves if what we propose to do is based upon thought for others, or upon self-centeredness. If any major decisions are to be made, it is always best, we feel, to consult our sponsor first. Sometimes the responses are surprising. You never know, he might tell you that he’s heard that there are some great opportunities for people with your skill set in Papua New Guinea these days. Very often our motives for doing things are mixed and this leaves us uncertain as to what to do. In this case we just make the best decision we can and trust God that the right thing will happen even though our decision may not be the right one.

There are some other points to make about this period of quiet-time, meditation: as long as we are trying our best, we shouldn’t be worried if our meditation seems full of distracted thought. We are not looking for altered states of consciousness, out-of-body experiences or the like, as any sort of indication as to the quality of our meditation. We find it best to remind ourselves why it is we have to do prayer and meditation at all: we are powerless over alcohol and so we need that contact with a Higher Power so that He will intervene at those moments when otherwise we would have drunk. Prayer and meditation is the process of actually establishing a relationship with the Higher Power, opening the door to Him. When opening a door, the hinges can be rusty and it can make a lot of noise, but it doesn’t mean that the door isn’t opening. So, just because our meditation might seem full of random and noisy thoughts, it doesn’t mean it isn’t working. As with all matters in the program, as long as we give it our best shot, God will do the rest.

After this quiet-time, it is the end of our morning prayer and meditation. The whole thing probably takes about 2 minutes plus the 10-minutes quiet time.

During the day

• When agitated or doubtful:

Please give me the right thought or action.

• If we have to determine which of two courses to take {p86; cf As Bill Sees It, p243}:

Please give me inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision.

• Also it is suggested that we constantly remind ourselves throughout the course of the day that “we are no longer running the show” that is, that we have taken Step Three. We say:

Thy will, not mine, be done.

The Serenity Prayer combines all of these sentiments into one prayer and so is an appropriate to any of these situations. It also fulfills the phrase in the Step “…praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry it out.”  So the easiest thing to do in moments of either uncertainty or anxiety is to repeat the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

When we retire at night

Do a review of the day considering where we could have done better, and which includes a Step-10 style inventory of any resentments. A gratitude list can allow us to consider the blessings we have received that day. If we are inclined to consider what we have done well, it is good for our humility to put those items down on the gratitude list also. This ensures that we give God the credit and do not take it ourselves.

Finally, thank God, on your knees for the greatest blessing of the day, sobriety. It is also suggested that we incorporate any devotions of our religion, if we have one; that we read spiritual books. Your sponsor might suggest some if you are unsure, but we could always start with AA literature. Otherwise, as long as the suggestions we receive are not contrary to the principles of our program (again, if in doubt, ask your sponsor), then we can consult our “priest, minister or rabbi” {p87} for advice on these matters.

Difficulties with relationships — “the imperious urge”

Earnestly pray, as most appropriate:

• Please God, mold my sex ideal and help me to live up to it; {p 69, cf p70, paragraph starting “To sum up about sex:”}

• Please give me guidance in this questionable situation …(describe the situation); {p70, paragraph starting “To sum up about sex:”, cf p69}

• Please give me sanity and please give me the strength to do the right thing {p70, paragraph starting “To sum up about sex:”}

And then if sex is very troublesome, “we throw ourselves the harder into helping others.”

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