Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.-Step 3 AA
The 3rd Step Prayer
The 3rd step prayer accompanies step 3 and is designed to reinforce the process of working that step. The step is one of the most spiritual of all: ‘Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him’.
There are no hard and fast rules for the recitation of the 3rd step prayer. However, it is typically used as the first action in working that step. In many cases, the sponsor will say the prayer with the sponsee the first time it is recited.
The Step 3 Prayer of AA
God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me, and to do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.-Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Step Prayer, the Big BookThe basic text of AA was the first to methodically introduce the 12-steps. It is still the main source for meetings and is quoted in just about all AA and other 12-step literature. the Library of Congress named it one of the 88 “Books that shaped America.” Read more about the Big Book of AA. More Page 63
The Step 3 Prayer of NA
Many of us have said
Take my will and my life
Guide me in my recoveryThe process by which addicts attempt to break the hold a certain substance or behavior has on their lives. This can refer to participation in a wide variety of methods. What they all have in common, is a sense that life is improving and the addict is regaining control. More
Show me how to live.-3rd Step Prayer – Narcotics AnonymousNA is the second-largest 12-step program. Formed in 1953, it is designed to help those who wish to recover from drug addiction. More
The primary means by which any 12-step fellowshipThis refers to the members of AA and the bonds of support between them. It is this fellowship that allows addicts to share their stories and accept each other in a world that is not always understanding. More encourages its members to approach sobrietyIn 12-step programs, an individual is sober when they are no longer partaking in the behavior or substance to which they are addicted and living a better life following the program. Both are necessary to achieve sobriety. More is by methodically working the stepsThe term "12 steps" refers to the core principles of the approach to addiction exemplified by Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar groups. The 12 steps are a set of guidelines designed to help individuals overcome addiction and rebuild their lives. They were created by the founders of Alcoholics A... More. The 3rd step is a massive one, ending the early stages of the steps. As recounted in the Big Book of AA, this step calls on members to have “decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”
This is a highly significant moment. In the first two steps, we admitted our lives had become unmanageable and that a Higher Power could restore us to sanity. We saw that we have not been good for ourselves. Instead of making good and healthy decisions, we have constantly tripped ourselves up. We realized in this process that we needed to get out of our way. It was time to, according to a well-worn AA saying to “let go and let God.”
Here we take that knowledge and apply it. This is why the third step is considered the first “action step.” The first two, involve a crucial process of acceptanceAccepting an inability to cope with addiction alone, is a major part of the recovery process. The same process involves accepting our flaws, responsibility for our actions, and the need to surrender to a Higher Power. More, contemplation, and reflection. Meanwhile, the third step involves the act of surrendering some of our most destructive behavior in favor of a healthy and productive relationship with a Higher Power12-step programs greatly stress surrender to and daily communication with a Higher Power. Having trust in something greater than yourself is considered essential for returning sanity in the unmanageable life of an addict. This can be a traditional deity, a spiritual entity or a social one such as th... More.
We cease clinging to our attempt to control our own lives, which have led us to increasingly dark places in our lives. Instead, we allow ourselves to believe in and follow the path intended for us by the Higher Power we have chosen.
Due to its importance, many recovering addicts recite this prayer every morning.
What does the 3rd Step Prayer Mean?
It is a call for release from the patterns that have led us to pain. We tend to think of alcoholism as a loss of control, and to an extent it is. But substance abuseThe use of a drug in a quantity that is harmful to the user mentally or physically. Death and serious harm are usually caused by regular abuse rather than the casual use of drugs. More can also be seen as an attempt to control your emotions and reactions through self-medication. While in the throes of addiction and pain, we very often thought only of ourselves. We now realize that by being part of something larger than ourselves, we can release ourselves from the bondage of our self-destructive selfishness. The path of our Higher Power will take us towards empathy and serviceAA and other 12-step fellowships do not normally have employees. Instead, members volunteer and take roles necessary for the operation of the different groups and the larger infrastructure of the fellowship. Common roles of service include secretary, treasurer, and chairing meetings. More to others.
An Analysis of the Prayer
The first line of the prayer is a direct reference to the 3rd step. In it, the addictAn individual with an unhealthy dependence on a substance or behavior. An individual remains an addict even years into recovery and must therefore remain active in recovery. Read more about drug & alcohol addiction & withdrawal at Withdrawal Info. More professes a willingness to relinquish control of their lives. One of the central precepts of the 12-step approach is that addicts have failed to remedy the problem unilaterally. Therefore, the prayer is designed to help the individual stop fighting and resisting and surrender instead. The Big Book of AA tells us, “we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcoholAn organic compound used in many products, most notably intoxicating drinks. Alcohol addiction is known as alcoholism. The first 12-step program was devised to deal with that malady. More.” To recover, addicts must trust a Higher Power of their choosing to help them defeat addiction. Therefore, the prayer starts with a surrender of power and will.
It is a call for release from the patterns that have led us to pain. We tend to think of alcoholism as a loss of control, and to an extent it is. But substance abuse can also be seen as an attempt to control your emotions and reactions through self-medication. While in the throes of addiction and pain, we very often thought only of ourselves. We now realize that by being part of something larger than ourselves, we can release ourselves from the bondage of our self-destructive selfishness. The path of our Higher Power will take us towards empathy and service to others.
The surrender of power is a statement of love and trust. In the second and third lines of the prayer, addicts ask for relief from the addiction’s hellish trap. However, the request is not a selfish one. Instead, the prayer encourages those suffering to do the will of their Higher Power for a greater spiritual good.
The logic behind the surrender is two-fold. First, the efforts of the individual to control their lives have failed to lead them to addiction and misery. Therefore, another path is needed. Second, if we believe that a Higher Power knows more than we do and has a better plan, surrendering to their will is the only logical path forward.
Once surrender is accomplished, the prayer asks for a release from bondage. Indeed, those suffering from addiction know it as a form of captivity. Even though addicts know their behavior is self-defeating and destructive, they cannot break free and alter their state. The 12-step program espouses surrender to a higher power as the solution to this problem.
The final line of the prayer is uniquely essential. Addiction is a selfish state, and altruism is part of the path to redemption. Thus, when the addict prays that a Higher Power “bear witness to those, I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life,” they are asking for the power to help others. In particular, the 12-step programA 12 step program includes 12 steps of recovery to help those struggling with substance addictions or behavioral addictions. The 12 steps are also used in programs dedicated to helping loved ones of addicts. 12 step programs include 12 step meetings where members go to share their experience strengt... More asks that recovering addicts help those still struggling.
The Habit of Prayer
The content of the prayer is highly important. However, part of the reason for the prayer is to open up a direct connection between the addict and their Higher Power. The 12-step principles encourage handing over control to something bigger than yourself. A genuine connection between the addict and Higher Power begins through honest and open communication like any other intimate relationship. When individuals are not used to letting spirituality into their lives, they may not be accustomed to praying. The proscribed prayer provides a template for a conversation with the Higher Power. Once the habit of prayer is natural, it is hoped that the recovering addictThis refers to any individual currently making strides towards overcoming their addiction to alcohol or any other substance or harmful behavior. In many 12-step programs, an individual is considered an addict for the rest of their lives. Some approaches believe this moniker can be harmful to long-te... More will create their own prayers and establish their own unique relationship with God (as defined by the memberAn individual who attends 12-step program meetings and has the desire to overcome addiction. More).
Members begin saying the prayer while working the 3rd step. However, the spiritual message of the prayer is meant to accompany the entire process of recovery. Indeed, some recovering addicts recite the invocation every morning to solidify their spiritual fortitude.
Is The 3rd Step Prayer A Religious Prayer?
Some members are put off by the apparent religious nature of this step. This is understandable, considering the specific mention of God in the text. However, the 3rd step was never intended to dictate what vision of God members may turn to.
Over the years, the fellowship has grown more spiritual, and our understanding of a Higher Power has become even less coercive. As it turns out, the realm of spirituality is limitless and vastly inclusive. Any belief system you are comfortable with, can and should be utilized to discover your own personal Higher Power.
Religion vs. Spirituality
Some individuals believe in a traditional monotheistic God, while others believe in elements of nature, polytheistic gods, the universe, or the power of the group. For some members of AA, G-O-D stands for “group of drunks.” For these addicts, it is the benevolence and wisdom of the entire group which replaces the influence of an omnipotent God.
The only true requirement is that you believe in a power greater than yourself and abandon harmful attempts to control your own life. The Big Book of AA reminds us that once we have completed this step, “we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.” Instead, our Higher Power is now firmly in control of our path. Our job is now to make sure we are aware of and keep to this better path. By doing so, we are destined to improve our lives tremendously. Once the 3rd step is completed, our recovery will be on much firmer footing.
The Christian Origins of the Prayer
The 12-step program is built around a spirituality that feels right and comfortable to the individual. Correspondingly, the prayer is as religious or irreligious as the addict wants it to be.
If this is so, you may be wondering why the phrasing is so religious and veers towards a Christian worldview. To answer that, we need to remember the context in which AA, the first 12-step program, was organized. The founder of the programThis refers to any official course of treatment for addiction. This could be anything from in-patient facilities, to 12-step programs to harm-reduction programs. More was Protestant and was inspired by the evangelical Oxford Group. For Dr. Bob and Bill W., their personal spiritual program was an extension of the religion they embraced. Bill published the 3rd Step prayer in 1938 when pluralism and openness to other traditions were less widespread.
However, AA encouraged non-Christian members to join from the onset. They understood that spirituality is a personal journey. The language in the 3rd step prayer is best understood in this light.
Self-Will vs God’s Will
Even in recovery, we continue our unhealthy attempts to manage relationships (which often amounts to an attempt to manage other people) or situations we cannot even remotely control. This adds completely unnecessary stress to our lives and burdens us on the difficult road to recovery.
It is also self-will which stopped us from embracing our Higher Power and receiving help from friends and family when we needed it.
Due to our destructive tendencies, we must now seek spiritual surrender. We stop trying to control our behavior, how people see us, and what we feel. We humbly accept the will of our Higher Power.
3rd Step Prayer FAQs
The prayer signifies the beginning of the spiritual bond with a Higher Power necessary to work the steps. The prayer opens communication between the recovering addict and their chosen Higher Power. It is first recited with the sponsorAn individual in a 12-step program requires a sponsor to help them work the steps and hold them accountable for their recovery. The sponsor should be readily available when help is needed. A member with a sponsor is considered to be the sponsee. More to work on the 3rd step. However, it is good to recite it often throughout the process of recovery.
“God, I offer myself to Thee—To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.”
The prayer urges us to surrender our will, which has let us down a destructive path. Instead, we allow our Higher Power to take control. Believing that they know the best way for us is love and compassion. Surrendering to a higher power is the heart of the 12-step process. Therefore, the prayer is an inseparable part of recovery.
The Third Step Prayer is one of the more important 12 step prayers. It is also often recited at 12 step meetings. Brad Yates put together a video guide on how to memorize the 3rd Step Prayer:
“When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs.
More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.” – Big Book, Page 63
One of the most common questions related to the prayer, and the 12-step program in general, regards its religious content. The reasons for the question are obvious. Not every recovering addict considers themselves religious, and the idea of praying directly to God can make many members uncomfortable.
The question is warranted and is an important one. However, there is no substantive and generalizable answer. The connection between an individual and their Higher Power is personal and utterly unique to each member.
For some, the connection is a conventional monotheistic religious one. To these members, the connection is the direct continuation of one they may establish in church and through the framework of organized religion.
Meanwhile, others may feel no connection to God in the traditional sense. To them, the spirituality they can relate to is abstract or focused on the universe or elsewhere.
Many people believe that founder Dr. Bob wrote the 3rd step prayer. According to a commonly heard myth, he wrote it early in the 20th Century before AA was founded. However, it appears that well-known member Harold Hill wrote it.
The prayer apparently derived from a 1976 book written by Harold Hill called How To Be a Winner. The book looks to bring Christianity into everyday life in a relatable and non-preachy manner. The prayer entered into everyday AA use during the 1980s.
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