Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 21, 2010

Agnostic Third Step Prayer

      I just finished a nearly 7,000 word post, and I am ready to give over to my Higher Power. I have a problem, however. I just do not feel the necessary willingness to surrender using the Third Step Prayer as written in the Big Book.

      There is nothing wrong with the Third Step Prayer. This has to do with my resentments against the organized religion of my youth. In fact, I read my entry of November 29, 2009, and I can see the progress I’ve made since then. As much as I said I did not disdain Christianity, I see it. That’s some ugly intolerance there.
      The nice thing is that it appears the Third Step Prayer, as written, is not the only way people got there. Bill W. points out that many people did it using the prayer–not everyone. So, in the spirit of wanting to personalize this, I am going to write a prayer that holds the concept and meaning without triggering me.
      I am imperfect. Some day, I have faith the way the Third Step Prayer is written will do the same thing that I hope this will do today. However, I do not want my current resentment toward organized religion (which I will work hard over the coming year) to get in the way of completing Step Three.
      To be brutally honest, I can’t surrender to the God of the Step Three Prayer because my own defects give me the preconception that it addresses the punitive God of my childhood and of the cult I joined in college. I would turn away simply because I shut down when I hear the Hims, Thee’s, and Thy’s. To really make a go of recovery, I have to get past Step Three to get into Step Four with the rigorous honesty needed to do it. And if I don’t trust the Higher Power I just surrendered to, my addicted mind wins. I wish I could keep my mind open to the Third Step Prayer to complete it as is.
      Well, the Third Step prayer as-is reads:

      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!

      Okay, let’s start with line one: God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Okay, so what does this mean to me? Well, first I’m going to address “God” as HP and change the “Thee” and “Thou” to You. The first part of this sentence is the surrender, itself. The second part tells what I am surrendering to and for. What does “build with me as Thou wilt” and “do with me as Thou wilt” means, then?
      Hm. Let me start with the “Thou wilt” part. Okay, my Higher Power doesn’t have a “will”. For me, a will got me into this mess. This is where I hit a wall regarding surrender versus submission. That part’s gotta go, since I did as my father “wilt”, yet I still got punished for it.
      I’ll start with the “do with me” part because it’s easier. That says I want to be made useful in the Universe. All right, “render me useful”. On to “build with me as Thou wilt”. That really makes no sense. It could mean to build me into a recovered person; it could mean that I am a tool to be used in order to build something else. Since I’m not sure which one, I’ll go ahead and acknowledge both. My new line one: “Higher Power, I surrender my self-will to You in order to be built into a recovered addict and to be rendered useful to other addicts and to the Universe.”
      Okay on to line two: “Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.” I like that part about being relieved of the bondage of self. I’m keeping that. The second part . . . not so much. “That I can may better understand my purpose and act on it,” sounds better. Okay, so line two is now: “Relieve me from the bondage of self, that I may better understand my purpose and act on it.”
      Line three: “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.” That needs to be broken down into three parts. The first part is a request to my Higher Power to remove my difficulties. I can keep that. The second part states that the recovery I find through the program will allow me to share my story with addicts who still suffer. Then . . . ick. Triggering language!
      Well, what does that mean to me, then? Well, I find that the power, the love, and the recovered life that my Higher Power provides me when I follow the program and keep a personal relationship going. How do I distill that? “Through the strength, unconditional love, and recovery I receive from You.” Okay, my revised line three: “Take away my difficulties, so I can live the program and share my story with addicts who still suffer–using the power, the unconditional love, and the recovered life that a personal relationship with You provides.”
      On to line four: “May I do Thy will always!” Hm. That’s rife with triggering language. That’s a hard one to break down because it’s shutting me down emotionally. Okay, c’mon Jess. I got through “We Agnostics” with an open mind this time. I can get through this. It is a petition to a Higher Power to be useful in recovery for life. It’s a surrender, too. It’s supposed to be a joyful surrender of self-will to one’s Higher Power. Okay . . . joyful surrender of self-will. Maybe a thank you instead? A petition for the willingness to keep a personal relationship going? What of recovery makes me joyful enough to ask to do it for the rest of my life? The sanity, for one. The serenity is another. Okay. “May I find the sanity and serenity for the rest of my life that daily surrender gives me.”
      It still sounds very prayer-ish, but I can surrender with that. That’s really all that matters. And since it’s my Third Step Prayer to my Higher Power, that’s what matters.

      Higher Power, I surrender my self-will to You in order to be built into a recovered addict and to be rendered useful to other addicts and to the Universe. Relieve me from the bondage of self, that I may better understand my purpose and act on it. Take away my difficulties, so I can live the program and share my story with addicts who still suffer–using the power, the unconditional love, and the recovered life that a personal relationship with You provides. May I find the sanity and serenity for the rest of my life that daily surrender gives me.

      Okay, can I make it cleaner? Cut the You’s? Replace that second “with You” and make it “with a Higher Power”. And the last line . . . “I joyfully surrender for today, knowing the sanity and serenity a HP-driven life brings.”

      Higher Power, I surrender my self-will in order to be built into a recovered addict and to be rendered useful to other addicts and to the Universe. Relieve me from the bondage of self, that I may better understand my purpose and act on it. Take away my difficulties, so I can live the program and share my story with addicts who still suffer–using the power, the unconditional love, and the recovered life that a personal relationship with an HP provides. I joyfully surrender today, knowing the sanity and serenity a HP-driven life brings.

      That’ll work. Okay, I have an agnostic third step prayer for this afternoon’s call to my sponsor. Since she’s been getting me through the steps, I consider this to be the day we would do the Third Step prayer. She had me stop just where Step Four will start.
      I really hope she won’t push to do the Third Step prayer as-is. But I will talk to her about it. I mean, I am fine to say the Third Step Prayer, too, but real surrender for me isn’t going to come from it.
      Oh well. At worst, I can do my agnostic Third Step Prayer with someone else or alone. But I’m pretty sure I can do both with my sponsor.
      Yeah, I think I’ll discuss doing both. I want to honor the Big Book stepwork we’re doing, since it’s cementing my recovery. The surrender’s the big part of it, not how I get to it. While I cannot surrender using the Third Step Prayer alone, I can do it in concert with my own.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. I don’t want to “act as if”. I want to live it.

@>—–>———-

      I am smiling and laughing a little because my Higher Power works around my self-will to get my recovery going.
      Okay, so I had the phone call. We talked about the chapter up to that point. I talked about what I wrote here earlier, about how overwhelming it would be to actually have a perfect life, how lonely, how exhausting. How thinking it would be easier to change 7 billion people’s attitudes and beliefs instead of my own attitudes and beliefs has to be part of the insanity that is addiction. And we got through the first part of Chapter Five, to the point I was willing to give over to a Higher Power. I wanted the relief of giving control of the Universe to the Universe. So, when we got to the point of saying the Third Step Prayer, I let go.
      I said the Third Step Prayer, and, for the first time, I felt relief instead of nothing (or resentment). I said the words in the Big Book and felt the words I wrote in this blog above as I said them. And I felt relief and peace that I don’t have to worry about what the rest of the world is doing. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act if the need for me to help someone is presented; this just means that it makes not one whit of difference if John Doe has eggs and bacon instead of whole grain cereal for breakfast or whether or not Jane Doe decides to take out her frustration on me in words in the parking lot at the grocery store. Or if it’s raining. Or if I can see the moon tonight. Or if my car starts tomorrow morning.
      No, I’m not thinking life is perfect from now on. It just means that life is in perspective . . . and I accept that other people’s lives, situations, or things are completely out of my control–as those things should be. I feel really unburdened. And I feel really free and pretty happy with life right now.
      Now I have to go get in the car and potentially be yelled at by Jane Doe in a grocery store parking lot . . . or something other real-life event that I cannot control. I can control getting groceries for my family so we have milk for breakfast and bread for lunch, and fruit so I won’t lose abstinence because I have no fruit in the house (and therefore not meet my minimum abstinence requirement) and that is what I am about to go do.

@>—–>———-

      Just a second ago, I re-thought it in my head and I like this final revision best:
      I surrender my self-will to the Universe, in order to be built into a recovered addict and to be rendered useful to other addicts and to the Universe. I release to the Universe the bondage of self, that I may better understand my purpose and act on it. I release to the Universe my difficulties, so I can live the program and share my story with addicts who still suffer–using the power, the unconditional love, and the recovered life that a personal relationship with an HP provides. I joyfully surrender today, knowing the sanity and serenity a HP-driven life brings.


Responses

  1. The third step prayer has always made me uncomfortable because of it’s religious tone. I replace it with the simple: God, show me the next right thing to do and give me the willingness to do it.

    This is very much derived from my understanding of the eleventh step which, it seems to me is the implementation of step 3.

  2. BTW, I don’t know if you’re in Region 6 but if you are and you’re coming to the convention in Burlington VT, say hi! I’ll be the baldish skinny guy.

    Oh. Never mind.

    • Hi Steve!

      I’m Region 3, otherwise I would definitely make the trip to the conference in Vermont. :-)

  3. I love the thoughtfulness you brought to this process, and admire the choices you have made to align the prayer with your life.

    This post is a tremendous help to me as I tackle step 3. Dissecting the gnarled, pseudo antique language has been a struggle: you have elucidated it wonderfully. And brought clarity and meaning to the words. I am recasting the thoughts into my own version, but really appreciate the groundwork you have laid.

    Thank you.

    David W


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