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We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood [God], praying only for knowledge of [God’s] will for us and the power to carry that out.
— Step Eleven of the Twelve Steps
I have heard that Step Eleven is the least followed of the Twelve Steps. This is probably why the Twelve Step Program often became a program for mere sobriety from a substance, and never moved many toward the “vital spiritual experience” that Bill W. deemed absolutely foundational for full recovery. If we can speak of the traditional Christian stages of the spiritual journey as (1) purgation, (2) illumination, and (3) union, too many addicts never seem to get to the second stage—any real spiritual illumination of the self—and even fewer get to the rich life of experienced union with God. In that, I am sad to say, they mirror many mainline Christians.
It is the prayer of quiet and self-surrender (“contemplation”) that will best allow us to follow Step Eleven, which Bill W. must have recognized by using the word meditation at a timewhen that word was not common in Christian circles. And he was right, because only contemplative prayer or meditation invades, touches, and heals the unconscious! This is where all the garbage lies—but also where God hides and reveals “in that secret place” (Matthew 6:6). “Do you not know,” Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is within you!” (Luke 17:21). Contemplation opens us to the absolute union and love between God and the soul.
Prayer is not about changing God (to do what we want), but being willing to let God change us, or as Step Eleven states, “praying only for knowledge of [God’s] will for us and for the power to carry it out” (actual inner empowerment and new motivation from a deeper Source). People’s willingness to find God in their own struggle with life—and let it change them—is their deepest and truest obedience to God’s eternal will.
Remember, always remember, that the heartfelt desire to do the will of God is, in fact, the truest will of God. At that point, God has won, the ego has lost, and your prayer has already been answered.
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