Step 3 – The 3rd Step Prayer of AA & NA

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 Book Page 63
3rd Step Prayer of AA Image
The 3rd Step Prayer of AA

The Step 3 Prayer of NA

Many of us have said

Take my will and my life

Guide me in my recovery

Show me how to live.

-3rd Step Prayer – Narcotics Anonymous
3rd Step Prayer of NA Image
The 3rd Step Prayer of NA

The primary means by which any 12-step fellowship encourages its members to approach sobriety is by methodically working the steps. 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 acceptance, 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 Power.

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.

View & Download Free Step 3 Worksheet

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 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.

An Analysis of the Prayer

The first line of the prayer is a direct reference to the 3rd step. In it, the addict 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 alcohol.” 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 program 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 addict will create their own prayers and establish their own unique relationship with God (as defined by the member).

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 program 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

What is the third step prayer?

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 sponsor to work on the 3rd step. However, it is good to recite it often throughout the process of recovery.

What does the third step prayer mean?

“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.

How to Memorize the Third Step Prayer


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:
https://youtu.be/s1G0_PrzcnI

What are the 3rd Step Promises?

“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

Is the 3rd Step Prayer Religious?

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.

Who wrote the 3rd step prayer?

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.

Where did the 3rd step prayer come from?

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.

Related Resources:

What is the Serenity Prayer?

11th Step Prayer

7th Step Prayer

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