There is much talk in Alcoholics Anonymous about spirituality and religion, and the mix between the two. There is a fairly simple reason for this.
Many people who look to get sober have had bad if not traumatic experiences with religious organisations, normally as children, but often as adults as well.
The phrase ‘pray as you can not as you cannot’ isn’t terribly well known to a lot of people, but to those who do know it and use it as a literal guide to prayer, it can be an absolute lifesaver.
The phrase originated from a monk at Downside, John Chapman, Abbot in the 1930s, and is as relevant today as it was then.
As with many words and phrases that seem almost overly simplistic, the real strength in many ways lies behind the words, both in terms of intent and freedom.
Most people have normally been asked at some point in their life if they believe in God or not.
In AA and 12 step recovery generally, people are likely to be asked this question more than once, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly and quite often in fairly intense and overbearing circumstances.
There is a paradox about meditation, in that most types of meditation of themselves are fairly simple to do, but many people find meditation as a practice, or a process, fairly difficult.
Sometimes people put this down to a lack of discipline, or more commonly people simply say that they find meditation so difficult that they cannot do it.
Prayer and the nature of prayer and meditation have always been at the heart of the AA 12-step program, both in a formal and informal sense.
Whilst there are many interpretations of what terms prayer and meditation can mean, perhaps the real strength of AA lies in the phrase ‘God as we understood him’ , taken from step three, which also means that prayer and meditation can be freely interpreted in whatever way someone chooses.
There are a number of what may be called more formal prayers that are used in AA, some developed from AA tradition, and some that can be found in AA literature.