praying rightly

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

namaste rainbowSeveral years ago at my recovery meeting the topic of discussion turned to prayer.  It’s a hot button issue to people who are willing to start a minor skirmish over God and the definition thereof.  I had opted to not share but then the meeting chair called on me to speak.  Oh no!

Briefly, I tried not to get into specifics by citing only the need for prayer in our programs. However, I made the mistake of saying that I do not make requests for God to fulfill my wants or desires.  Immediately, I sensed the intensity of the man sitting next to me, a person I had never seen before.  Sure enough, when I had finished, he jumped my frame.

“When I pray, if I want a new car, I ask for it.  If I want a girlfriend, I ask for it.  If I need money, I ask for it …..blah, blah, blah.”

The man was angry and turning red.  Looking around the room I noticed other people smirking and shaking their heads.  I then realized again why I don’t discuss at meetings the actual phrasing of prayer, only the need to pray and the confirmation that a Higher Power will  indeed respond.

What do you pray for?  No, I’m not digging into the privacy  of your prayer life.  Let me share a story.  For years as a teen-aged boy growing up and as a young man caught up in alcoholism, my prayers centered around me.  And they always ended with, “Hear my prayers, give me what I ask and I will live a better life for you.”  I was trying to bribe God and I always ended, as I was taught, with the words “in Jesus name.”

It was an egocentric trip to the candy store where I expected the proprietor to dispense forgiveness, mercy, and heavenly favors and then put the bill on the tab of a man called Jesus, someone I scarcely remembered from Sunday School, someone whose name I used more often in fits of rage than in worship.  But I prayed heartily.

Today we joke about the bowl prayer:  “Oh Lord get me through this night and I will never drink again,” as we hang our drunken heads over the toilet bowl.  But it was a nightly occurrence years ago.  I must remember those nights lest I convince myself that it wasn’t really that bad.  Again, my prayer was a communication with God which invoked a promise that I never intended to keep.

Even in early sobriety, my prayers were centered around me and my needs.  But, I did learn to start with a gratitude list and then a sincere thank you.  Changing habits takes time and work.  Changing prayer habits usually takes a kick in the butt by God interceding on my behalf through the words of another brother/sister in brokenness.  As my friend was praying aloud with me, he emphasized the  words, “….and Thy will be done,” looking directly and intensely into my eyes.

Why was this such a profound revelation to me?   And why was the timing right?  I haven’t a clue.  All my life the words, “thy will be done” were included in my prayers.  But, on this particular day I finally understood that we were not talking about my will, but rather God’s will for my life.  My petitions would be filtered through God’s will.  And that’s how I learned not to pray for specific things, not for specific actions, not for specific favors.  Why?  Because God knows every one of my needs even before I do.  They will be fulfilled, or not, according to the wisdom of a Higher Power.

Today, the reason for my prayer life is to specifically list the things for which I am grateful, list the things which I have done in error, beg for forgiveness, and intercede for other people.  And then, “thy will be done.”

But, that’s not the end.  There is a price to pay.  Self-sacrifice.  Theology says God’s grace is free but the book of James 2:20 says, “faith without works is dead.”  Those works are the things I must pursue in service to my fellow-man.  I am in no way trying to tell anyone how, when or where to pray.  I know better than to go down that thorny trail.  But, I can testify to the miracles that happened for me when I turned my prayer life from one of “me, me, me” to one which implores, “thy will be done.”

“We had not prayed rightly.  We had always said, ‘grant me my wishes,’  instead of ‘Thy will be done.’  The love of God and man we understood not at all.  Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity.”  Bill W., AS BILL SEES IT, pg 295


 

making new

angry emojiWhere do you go in times of emotional turmoil?  A quiet space, a walk in the woods, a favorite book, a mind-numbing movie, maybe a favorite destructive behavior pattern?  Sometimes an escape is essential to my sanity and I have numerous options from which to choose.  Thanks to the fellowship, drinking or drugging is no longer one of them.

That’s where I am at today.  What course of action do I need to take to address a living situation which has been festering for several weeks and for which I see no solution other than packing bags and living in my pickup truck?  It’s a tough mental exercise which has at times led me to believe living on my truck is the better option.  But, I still love the creature comforts of a warm bed under a tin roof and meals at a dining room table.  What I don’t like is the theft of serenity by the constant turmoil.

I would love to say that I immediately go to my Higher Power in these times.  But, I don’t.  There is a vestige of the old Larry which says, “I can handle this by myself, thanks,  but no thanks, God.”  I continue to squirm and wiggle trying to work this out through my own powers of decision-making.  And I grow desperate listening to the voices of ‘self will run riot’.  It is not a safe place to be.

My old nature is to be confrontational, to become self-righteous about the perceived wrongs committed against me.  The old me walks away in a huff muttering about the stupidity and insensitivity of other people.  The old me would stew for days over an incident that was misunderstood by all involved.  The old me will get me drunk or dead.  I don’t like the old me anymore.

One of my daily prayers inspired by the writing of Marianne Williamson in ILLUMINATA sets the stage for an assessment of my character defects while asking for relief:

“Lord, cast from me all harsh and critical nature; cast from me all anger and violence; cast from me all doubt and insecurity; cast from me all demons from my past, for I would be made new.” 

“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  The grouch and the sudden rage were not for us.  Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”  Bill W. writes in AS BILL SEES IT.

My answer is staring me in the face.  I know what the spiritual response needs to be.  Now, the action part of this discovery must be pursued.  Namaste.namaste rainbow

humbled

“a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become who we could be.”  Bill W. 12 AND 12 pg 58cropped-brilliance.png

Bill Wilson’s definition of humility can be extremely difficult if I try to cover it with my old ideas about being humble.  I don’t want to be weak.  I don’t want to be submissive.  I don’t want to turn the other cheek.  Humility is not the American way.  We are proud, strong, and invincible.  Then I take a look at my flawed condition and my brokenness.  “Yeah, and look where your pride has taken you,” a voice inside says to me.

That inventory which we are guided to do early in recovery can be a very excruciating experience when we go into it honestly with courage.  I shuddered at the list of transgressions and defects which had to be shared later with God and another person.  I did not want anyone to know my deepest, darkest secrets.  Exposing myself like that would shatter the self-image I presented to the world.  “Yeah, and look where that image has taken you.”  Damn that voice inside.

“His admission is the beginning of humility – at least the newcomer is willing to disclaim that he himself is God.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT pg 191, from a letter of 1966

“a clear recognition of what and who we really are….”  Like most newcomers to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I had lived a life apart from the concept of God.  Some of us never knew God, some of us refuted the God which we knew.  When my new sober friends advised that initially the group itself could be the greater power necessary to begin me on the road to recovery, I cautiously accepted that idea.  I had no choice.  My way was described as ‘self-will run riot’ and I had to reluctantly agree.

I love Bill Wilson’s connection between Higher Power and humility.  It tells me that I am not in charge, that I am not in control, that I am not God.  And Bill goes on to say “this is the beginning of humility.”  In my active alcoholism, I had never given credence to the thought of not being the master of my life.  It was an alien idea and totally un-American.

I am not God.  When the miracle of Alcoholics Anonymous is undertaken with this understanding, the 12 steps are not a daunting, unpleasant experience, especially steps 4 and 5.  I am humbled in a fellowship which advocates honesty and courage.  Sober living becomes second nature because I am no longer forced by ethic or tradition to be the man in charge.  No, I don’t control the miracle happening.  I am still a work in progress.  I am still flawed and broken.  But today I know a Higher Power who can heal and fix me.

“Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  1 Peter 5:6

namaste rainbow

 

 

surveys

CANDLEBill W. in AS BILL SEES IT urges me to “survey the past”.  Step 4 is an integral part of my recovery program which then guides me in subsequent steps to release those deep transgressions, which have darkened my soul, to the Higher Power of my understanding and to another human being.  It is a fundamental process which leads to clearing the past that exists in my mind as a monumental impediment to a joyful and fulfilling future.  This release enables my Higher Power to then use me in the work of recovery and discovery of my divine purpose.

However, it is not a ‘one and done’ deal.  Step 10 then urges me to continue this inventory-taking and promptly clear the slate of any further hindering thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is also means that I should continue surveying my past for those things which had been forgotten or deeply buried within my soul.  This soul-searching is an ongoing endeavor which enhances a “joyful” recovery and frees me of self-loathing and doubt.

What also needs to be realized is that quite often those transgressions, which can be catastrophic in my mind, are usually a mere blip on the screens of victims of my selfishness.  If I were to ask one of them, “Do you remember….”, they would probably reply in the negative or they would have processed that happening and moved onward with life.  Rarely has my indiscretion devastated his/her life.  Even if I have caused extreme hardship or harm to another and their forgiveness is not offered, I have a merciful, steadfast Higher Power which has the amazing capacity to forgive and restore.

It is not a selfish undertaking to view the damage I heaped upon myself physically and emotionally as the ultimate, most important target of my inventories, self-assessment and amends.  Making amends to others is, of course, significant.  However, I am the brokenness that needs to be fixed.  As an alcoholic, I suffered a deep hatred of myself.  It colored every day of my life and every relationship in which I participated.  As a recovering alcoholic, I must see myself as deserving of a loving and compassionate God.  When that happens I can get on with the work of serving in a meaningful way the humanity to which I belong.rainbow-solidarity

 

as “BILL SEES IT”, pg 111

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