12 Step Prayer

Hand-prayerIf there were one prayer, more than any other that is associated with 12 step programs, it would be the serenity prayer. The longer version looks like this:

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.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Powerful words. They embody the essence of what a spiritual program is – a willingness to ask and receive help from a higher power.

There’s another type of prayer that 12 steppers use even more often. It’s the “help me now” prayer and it has no set form. It has no exact words because it rises out of a sudden need and is specific to the challenge at hand. It can be a rushed, under-the-breath plea for help or it can be an extended, agonizing pouring out away from others.

The critical thing is that prayer comes from a heartfelt need, and that’s why individualized prayer is so helpful. Sometimes, the repetition of some rote saying just loses the point and dulls the meanings. I would rather hear someone truly speaking their heart at a meeting than just repeating something I’ve heard a hundred (or a thousand times before). That said, the traditional prayers of AA and other 12 step programs do draw us into a community when we say them together.

The bottom line isn’t so much what prayer is said, but that some authentic expression is at the root of it.

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