The final steps of a marathon are tough. You’ve been running for 26 miles, and the finish line is in sight. There is pressure to finish strong. That is how saying the 11th step prayer felt to me.
When you’re this close to completing the 12 steps, it’s normal for some exhaustion to set in. You’ve worked hard, sacrificed a lot, and stretched beyond what you thought was possible.
So, before we go any further, take a moment to be grateful for all that you’ve accomplished thus far. As I list out each step, remember something brave that you did at that point in your journey, and thank God for carrying you along the way.
You’ve gone through…
Step 1: Admitting you are powerless over your addiction
Step 2: Believing that a power greater than you could restore you to sanity
Step 3: Deciding to turn your life over to God’s care
Step 4: Making a fearless moral inventory (Whew, that was a tough one!)
Step 5: Admitting to God, self, and another what you’d done wrong (Even harder!)
Step 6: Being ready to make changes
Step 7: Asking God to remove your shortcomings
Step 8: Listing out everyone you’ve harmed
Step 9: Making amends
Step 10: Continuing to take inventory and admit wrongs
Remembering how far you’ve come will give you the courage to keep going. It even helps to think all the way back to the origins of A.A. and all of the hundreds of thousands of people who have gone through these steps before you.
Bill Wilson and Bob Smith started A.A. in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. They based some of their new organization on the Oxford Group, a religious movement focused on self-improvement through admitting wrongs, making amends, and using prayer and meditation to connect to God. However, they also drew on other sources of inspiration.
We see one of those on display in the 11th-step prayer, which is called the Peace Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis in other religious circles. In the context of A.A., this beautiful prayer takes on new depths of meaning.
The 11th step focuses on improving your connection to God by praying for the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out. This is a time of deepening your relationship with God through prayer. And prayer can be understood most simply as just conversing with God. You don’t need fancy words or a religious degree, all you need to do is talk and listen. God is right there with you, always happy to hear from His beloved child. (That’s you!)
So, I encourage you to read through this prayer, stopping along the way to pay attention to the lines that stick out to you. If a line prompts a memory, talk to God about it. If a line causes you to question something, ask God about it. Then, listen for His answer.
The 11th-Step Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Because this is one of my favorite prayers, I wrote another blog about the first half of this prayer. So, in this article, I’ll focus on explaining the second half of the prayer and how it connects to your journey through A.A.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
Seeking God is not passive. It requires your participation, and that is what you have done in the first ten steps. You’ve let go of many of the distractions that kept you far from God, and you’ve opened up your heart and mind to connect with Him. You’ve discovered that God is the exact opposite of alcohol. God promises to love you, be there for you, support you, and see you through your hardest moments. And then, unlike booze, He actually delivers on all of those promises.
To be consoled as to console
The life of an alcoholic is a selfish one. You’re always focused on your next drink and don’t care who you hurt along the way. In this prayer, you are reversing that old pattern. You’re asking God to help you help others. There’s a beautiful promise in the Bible that says: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17).
So, keep looking for opportunities to lend your time, talent, and treasure to anyone in need.
To be understood as to understand
Some people may not understand your sobriety journey. People might laugh when you order a non-alcoholic drink. Your old drinking buddies may mock you for not hanging around anymore. But that’s okay. In this prayer, you’re releasing your need to be understood and focusing on trying to understand. Here is a great verse to guide you in that effort: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
To be loved as to love
Everyone wants to be loved. And thankfully, God is love. So, love is all around us and available to us always. When you know how deeply and completely God loves you, it’s easier to extend that love to others. Remember that “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
For it is in giving that we receive
This line is an echo of Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Be generous to others because God has been so generous to you.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
Our spiritual muscles get stronger each time we forgive others. Forgiveness makes us more like Jesus, who died so that all sins would be forgiven.
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life
This line truly packs a punch! It’s a good one to sit with for a while. How can you die to yourself? The Bible shares this insight: “God Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
I encourage you to memorize this 11th-step prayer and turn to it again and again throughout your sobriety journey. It was a game-changer for me, and I pray it will be for you, too.