3rd Step Prayer

The 3rd Step Prayer – History, How it Helps & Why It’s Important

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 3rd Step Prayer

Here is the full text of the 3rd step prayer:

God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and 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!


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.

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 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.

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.

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 workthe 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.

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.

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