3rd Step in 12 Step Programs and the Third Step Prayer

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.

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The 3rd Step Prayer

Some groups and sponsors will ask those reaching the 3rd step to recite or memorize a relevant prayer. This is normally done at the very start of work on the step, and the prayer is normally first recited in the presence of your sponsor.

“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.”

Due to its importance, many recovering addicts recite this prayer every morning.

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.  

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.

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.

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