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Monday, December 9, 2013

The First Step and Prayer

The 12 Steps, as they are laid out in Alcoholics Anonymous, begin with a 'surrender.'

We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Until we admit that we cannot manage our disease, then we cannot recover.  This truth stretches across the boundaries of all addictions.  If you can manage the disease, you really don't need God.

God is not an option.  He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life, and this makes Him not just superessential but essential.  We need Him in order to exist and to be human.  It is only when addiction threatens to deprive us of our humanity that many of us figure this out.  We need Him.

What this means is that our admission of powerlessness is a return to reality after years of indulging our egos and thinking that we can manage the world, 'our world,' with our thoughts and actions.  Hitting the 'bottom' of addiction means awakening to the fact that everything we have done has led us to utter despair and hopelessness.

If you look at Orthodox prayers, they assume the Christian has assumed this same 'bottom' on a daily basis:

As I rise from sleep, I thank Thee, O Holy Trinity, for through Thy great goodness and patience Thou wast not angry with me, an idler and sinner, nor hast Thou destroyed me with mine iniquities, but hast shown Thy usual love for mankind; and when I was prostrate in despair, Thou hast raised me up to keep the morning watch and glorify Thy power....

Having risen from sleep, I offer unto Thee, O Saviour, the midnight hymn, and falling down I cry unto Thee: Grant me not to fall asleep in the death of sin, but have compassion on me, O Thou Who wast voluntarily crucified, and hasten to raise me who am reclining in idleness, and save me in prayer and intercession; and after the night's sleep shine upon me a sinless day, O Christ God, and save me.

Those are just a couple from the Morning Prayers.  They all assume the powerlessness of man and the necessity of God's merciful intervention.

All of us, addicts or not, need God.  Whether we are addicted or not, we all must have this realization of our powerlessness because we are truly powerless over our own lives.  After all, who has beat death?  The most powerful men in the world still grow old and die.  What are we masters of?

In this age of wealth and excess, it is easy for us in the developed world to think of ourselves to be above 'primitive' religion, and so such prayers may seem abundantly morbid to the modern mind.  But, that does not make them any less true.  If you want to test the theory, just try this little experiment: the next time you catch a cold, determine to use only your mind to stop your nose from running.  If you can't control your own nose, how are you supposed to manage the rest of your affairs?

Modern man thinks that he is in control, and that he does not need God.  We are taught to exult ourselves.  So, when we approach God with this modern mind, it is in a very different spirit.  We do so with arrogance, demanding that God do what we want Him to do, perhaps if only because He somehow left an instruction manual on how to say things just the right way so that He will automatically grant what it is we demand.

Yes, most 'religion' offers man a 'manageable God.'  We can boss Him around, and get Him to fulfill our wishes.

This is very different from begging God to save us.  The First Step is setting man up for this 'begging.'  Without the First Step, we are just ordering God around like a servant.

If God is so malleable and pliable, then it is any wonder that we should believe He can help us at all.  This is why so many young people have stopped going to churches with this 'slave-god' who resembles a Genie more than a Divine person.  Many addicts can look back on their previous religious beliefs and find this 'god' occupied their opinions far more that a Powerful, Independent and Loving God.  At least one of those three adjectives is always missing in modern religion, which means that the real God that everyone is looking for cannot be found.

But, can this 'weak' god really help us when we have lost our personal power and control?  That's the question that arises when we realize that we ourselves have lost control.  If we are the ones to boss God around, and we fail, how can we expect Him to save us?

This is, of course, why we have the next two Steps, which I will discuss in a later posts.  What is important to remember is that we are all indeed powerless and helpless in the face of reality, whether we are addicts or not.

Christianity requires us to hit our own 'bottom'... and remain there.  We must remain powerless in our attitudes because that is precisely what we are... powerless.  We have no control, and only God can manage our lives.  We must all stop fighting with Him and start letting Him save us and be our God. 

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