“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”
Steps Ten and Eleven are the tools that help us trust God more fully, and sustain the progress we have made in Steps One through Nine. In the first three steps we recognized the seriousness of our condition, and established the foundation for dealing with our problems. In Steps Four through Nine we experienced a process similar to that of taking our car to the garage for a long overdue, major overhaul. We devoted the time and energy required to make the necessary repairs, and restore our “engine” to its proper running condition. In Steps Ten and Eleven we have the opportunity to keep ourselves in tune by devoting time to regular service and maintenance. As we continue in this direction, we learn to recognize problems, to correct them promptly, and to continually seek guidance from our Higher Power. This enhances our ability to improve our new skills, and live life to its fullest. If we provide the regular maintenance, we will find our lives run smoothly.
Step Eleven requires that we improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God. To do this we need to be consistent, patient and willing to practice. We have made contact with God in three of the earlier steps. In Step Three, we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God’s care. In Step Five, we admitted our wrongs directly to God. In Step Seven we humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. Step Eleven gives us a means of strengthening that contact, and enables us to bring our Higher Power into our daily lives. Now we can let go of our feelings of loneliness and alienation, and enjoy the quality partnership that is truly life-giving and life-sustaining. It is in Step Eleven that we have an opportunity to exercise the discipline of daily prayer and meditation.
Through the progress we have made working the Steps, we are learning more about what we want to achieve in the Program. To protect what we have learned we must continually seek God’s will for us. A daily regimen of prayer and meditation makes it clear that relief from the pain of the past is just day-to-day reprieve. We must relentlessly seek to know God’s will for us, and how we are to live our lives. Those of us who have experienced the hell and chaos caused by our willful acts, realize that we worshipped false gods such as drugs, money, sex, or addictive relationships. We may have suffered severe losses as a result of our behavior. Surrendering to the Twelve-Step process was not the step that led us to heaven, but was, in fact, the step that led us out of the hell that our lives had become.
Spiritual growth and development occur slowly and only through discipline and reliance upon God. As our self-esteem increases, and our Higher Power becomes a trusted friend, we grow more confident in the fact that God is with us, especially when we pray. And we become more confident that God’s will is what we want for our own lives.
Our intention to do God’s will can sometimes be compromised by the appearance of our old behaviors. As we experience this struggle on a daily basis, the need for help from our Higher Power becomes evident. In Step Eleven, we focus on deepening our relationship with our Higher Power. It is mostly through our quiet moments of prayer and meditation that the presence and guidance of a Higher Power becomes clear to us. As our relationship with our Higher Power improves, we see how we can depend and rely upon that power for courage and strength in meeting life’s challenges. We may experience a spiritual awakening, that comes when we are willing and able to acknowledge, from the depths of our being, that a Higher Power can, and will, direct our lives.
How do we pray? For what do we pray? Many of us were taught to pray before we understood what it meant. In the beginning, we may have used the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” or asked God to bless Mommy and Daddy, and others who were close to us. As we grew, our painful family experiences brought us great grief; those we depended upon hurt us and disappointed us. Perhaps we blamed God for not hearing, and answering, our desperate prayers. Based on the program principles, our attitudes toward prayer change as we work the Steps. We learn to ask that God’s will be shown to us, trusting that our best interests will be served. The old habit of praying for material things will diminish, and be replaced with prayers for guidance. We begin to rely on some of the slogans and prayers, such as, “Let Go and Let God”, or The Serenity Prayer. Our prayers can be a simple sentence prayer, such as, “God, please help me”, or, “Thank you, God”. God will hear and respond to our most humble call for aid.
Spending time in meditation enables us to become better acquainted with God in the same way that we become better acquainted with someone we would really like to know.
Meditation can be difficult at first. We are accustomed to being active, and may feel uncomfortable sitting still and calming our busy thoughts. We may feel we are wasting time, instead of doing something more productive. Actually, nothing could be more productive.
In the act of meditating, we ponder and apply our knowledge of God’s will to our daily lives. It is contemplation in the presence of, and with the help of, God. It is two-way communion with him. Meditation’s purpose is to clear our mental and spiritual vision, and to let Gods truth make its full and proper impact on our minds and hearts. Meditation humbles us as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory. We allow ourselves to be encouraged, reassured and comforted by Gods presence.
In developing a routine for prayer and meditation, we seek times and places to invite God’s presence. Our desire is to be available for him. Some simple guidelines for learning to pray and meditate are:
• Pray and meditate in solitude. Be alone and undisturbed, so you can be totally free from distractions.
• Pray and meditate in silence, or talk quietly to God without interruptions. Outside influences disrupt your concentration, and inhibit your ability to tell God your thoughts and feelings.
• Set aside quality time. Do not wait until you are tired, or your ability to clear your mind is hindered.
• Listen carefully, God has messages for you just as you have messages for God.
• Review your daily inventory with your Higher Power. Admit your wrongs, ask for forgiveness, and make amends as needed.
• End your session by asking for knowledge of God’s will for you, and the power to carry it out.
If we are progressing satisfactorily with Step Eleven by praying and meditating daily, we will see positive signs along the way. We will feel more at peace in our daily affairs. We will experience a new sense of security, and a deep sense of gratitude, for our ongoing healing. We will feel as though we have finally achieved a rightful place in the world. Feelings of self-worth will replace feelings of shame. Friends and family members will notice a change in us. These signs tell us that God is guiding and sustaining our recovery.
When we combine prayer and meditation with self-examination, we discover the secret to successfully working the steps. We also discover an effective means for maintaining a rewarding spiritual life. No matter how dedicated we are to our recovery, we all have moments of doubt about the direction of our lives. We may even question the need to continue working the steps, or attending support group meetings. Sometimes, we are tempted to regress to our old compulsive behavior. We tend to be especially vulnerable when we feel pressured for accomplishment, or when we expect to see events follow our own time schedule. In our frustration, we tend to seize control from God’s hands, and attempt to hasten the process through our own willfulness. When we do this, we are not following Gods guidance, and must renew the commitment we made in Step Three.
Methods of prayer and meditation may vary. For some of us, it is simply a matter of sharing a few words, or reflecting quietly on our lives. Whatever our style is, it is our desire o hear and feel heard, that counts. Our primary commitment is to deepen our relationship and expand our communication with our Higher Power. This means being honest bout our thoughts and feelings, admitting our limitations, and bringing our failings to God for forgiveness. Through a faithful and disciplined dedication to prayer and meditation, we become aware of Gods unconditional love, forgiveness, and constant presence in our lives. If we continue to pray with patience and trust, we will be rewarded with peace, serenity, and love.
Routine practice of prayer and meditation give us an opportunity to ask for knowledge of God’s plan for us, and the power to carry that out. God gave us intellect and free will, through which we have the ability to think and act. As part of practicing Step Eleven, we must not create excuses to delay our actions, or rationalize that we are “waiting” for God’s will. Part of doing God’s will is taking action and trusting that our Higher Power is working through us.
In unclear situations, it is sometimes wise to seek outside counsel. As God continues to reach out to us in different ways, revelations may come to us through other people or new experiences. After careful review of the situation, our guidance may be obvious and compelling, or still unclear. If unclear, we must be patient and wait for more direction to be revealed to us. If we cannot wait, we should select the best course of action, and trust that God is with us, guiding us as we go. Our faith in our Higher Power’s guidance will allow us to receive what needs to be revealed to us. The way we feel and function clearly shows if Gods will is being done, or if we are trying to control the outcome.
If we place our will in Gods care, and pray sincerely for guidance, we find ourselves trusting that our will is being redirected. We then experience the courage and power to act according to God’s will for us. Seeking higher guidance is an experience in humility, because we are so accustomed to running our lives by our own plan, and making demands on God to give us what we think we want. Our own desires and opinions are so much a part of us, that we may, at times, view the will of a Higher Power as a manifestation of what we think should happen.
Prayer: Prayer is communication with our Higher Power, and the most effective prayer is honest and frequent. Virtually every form of communication that we have with any other person is appropriate with our Higher Power. It is fitting to complain to God, to lament to God, to thank God, to share the details of our lives with God, to praise God, and to talk to God as we would talk to a trusted friend. The only inappropriate prayer in the Twelve-Step program is the “wish list” prayer in which we petition our Higher Power as though he were Santa Claus.
Meditation: Meditation has often been called listening prayer because in meditation we quiet our hearts, minds and even our bodies, so that our spirits might be open to our Higher Power. Although meditation may have physical and mental elements; it is a spiritual exercise. The major challenge in meditation is the challenge that silence presents to us. Many of us are frightened by silence because when the noise of our life ceases, the noise in our head begins. That internal noise is called many things; The Committee, Stinkin’ Thinkin’, etc., etc. But the internal noise and pain can be so strong that some of us avoid silence and quiet at any price. We prefer external noise, distracting activity, consuming relationships, and crisis, above silence.
The discipline and practice of meditation would have us systematically seek periods of quiet, and face our internal noise. Once we face our internal noise we can admit our powerlessness over it, and believe in God’s ability to help us grow beyond it.
Conscious Contact: For many years zealous believers of many faiths have used “prayer rocks” to remind themselves of their constant need for prayer. Tiny pebbles in their shoes reminded them, in every step, to reach out to God. Fist sized stones under their pillows prompted them to pray even as they retired to sleep. Although we may not agree that rocks in our shoes and under our pillows are necessary, we should agree that constant contact with our Higher Power IS necessary. The Twelve Steps teach us that our very best thinking and effort isn’t enough. We need the daily help and support of our Higher Power. We learn that life is best lived in small steps – One Day at a Time, or sometimes one HOUR at a time. This ongoing contact with God, throughout our daily lives, is a must for our continued recovery.
God’s Will: Before any building, highway, or development is constructed, an architect draws a detailed plan for the project. From the architects’ plans and blueprints, the builders and workers can do the work required. In a similar sense, we realize that our Higher Power is the preferred architect for our own lives. God’s will is the plan we prefer to follow. We use prayer and meditation to get God’s blueprint for each new day.