Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"No More Miracles On Demand"

When we’re active in our disease, we find ourselves in all kinds of messes, things that it would literally take a miracle to get out of. We can’t see that we have (more often than not) created our own mess. Our prayers aren’t humble; we don’t ask, we demand. We demand miracles and we don’t understand that our higher power loves us so much that we are given the freedom to get ourselves out of the messes we’ve created—if we choose to.

One of my sponsees shared with me once about how he prayed many times for God to relieve him of his disease, to help him stop using. It never worked before now. He says the reason why, the difference between then and now, is as clear as day to him: he had to do his part. There is a very old saying: God helps those who help themselves.

I have a friend who, when he talks about his faith in his higher power, talks about how he used to pray to the 'Santa Claus' God. That's hilarious to those of us who know what he's talking about. To someone who doesn't, I imagine it's confusing as all hell. Someone else I know will talk about how, when she feels herself starting to get sick, used to pray to God that she didn't; now she prays that if she does get sick, God will give her the strength to get through it as best she can.

Step Eleven: [...] praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

I hear people in meetings share about sending up their 'flare prayer' and I like that idea a lot. No matter where we are, what we're doing, or what we're going through, we can make contact with our higher power and ask for help. Working the program of Recovery retrains our thinking, reconditions the way we pray. Most of us come in to the rooms knowing only how to pray for something specific. "Give me this job," or "let my mother live through her illness". Sometimes our prayers are outright selfish, sometimes they might not seem so at all.

A real hard-line approach would be to say that any time we pray for something we want, it's a selfish prayer. I can't quite buy in to that. I don't think it's selfish to pray that your parent or child doesn't die. Asking for strength and courage to get through a difficult situation is a fine prayer for anyone at anytime, in my opinion. Praying for others' health and happiness? I don't see anything wrong with that.

Prayer is a spiritual discipline, though. When we work the eleventh step, we focus very intently on praying in a very specific way. There is great, deep power in this kind of prayer. We try to let go of everything inside ourselves that keeps us from the fullest acceptance of God's will. It's a prayer of acceptance. We do our best to remove our desires, our thoughts, feelings, and motivations from the equation. We ask some of the deepest questions there are. We ask for direct guidance on living our lives.

The Santa Claus prayer is when we are praying selfishly for what we want. The Eleventh Step prayer is praying selflessly for what God wants. I think it's simplified best like this: Thy will be done. I don't really like the old language there, so I tend to go for the more current: Your will be done, not mine. Either way, it's a prayer for living life according to my higher power's plan, of letting go and not trying to force reality to resemble my design. It's about finding peace and acceptance for what is, and not being stuck in what might be.

There are two people close to me who started Recovery more or less because their spouses delivered an ultimatum: either get help, or I’m leaving. One of them is no longer married, the other is; both of them felt in that moment that it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to them. Now, both of them feel that it was absolutely for the best.

Our higher power doesn’t really answer prayers that follow the format of ‘I want’ or ‘make this happen’. We aren’t given what we want; we are given what we need. Maybe we don’t like it at first, maybe we can’t understand it, but as time passes and more is revealed, we find gratitude and comfort in the knowledge that we are cared for and loved.

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