by ProfDave, ©2022
(Jan. 10, 2022) — The process of personal change and recovery from any major wounds, addictions or complexes is spiritual as well as physical and emotional. For some of us, guilt and shame have been crippling but as we work through the Twelve Step process our Higher Power becomes less and less shadowy and more and more distinctly our Heavenly Father, the Living God. We learn to lean more and more upon the “everlasting arms.” The penultimate step is to cultivate our relationship with Him. As we do so, He becomes more and more mighty in our healing.Step Eleven: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out. Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
“We sought through prayer and meditation” and Principle 7, “reserve a daily time with God.” In Step 10, we looked at ourselves. In Step 11, we connect with our Higher Power. In Celebrate Recovery, it is Jesus Christ. We can start with written prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer (a model prayer really) and the Serenity Prayer (the whole thing), but that’s just a beginning. Does your heart really mean those words? For example, are you ready for His kingdom to come into your life? – or to have His will done in you?
But beyond the written words, you can just talk to Him! You can tell Him anything. He already knows it, but He likes to hear your voice, your mind. He takes complaints – His shoulders are broad. And requests – though He reserves the right to say “no, I have a better idea.” Wait for it. Jesus loves you. He wants to spend time – and eternity – with you. And He’s committed to your recovery.
Meditation is listening. If you listen, God will speak to you in His Word, in your mind, through your day. He doesn’t have to go through your ears. Sometimes He just smiles – and it is like a sunbeam on a rainy day. It takes time and growth, but it is possible to live in His Presence all day! He would like that!
We “improve our conscious contact with God” by (Principle 7) “Bible reading and prayer.” The power of the Twelve Steps comes from the Higher Power. So, if we are going to depend on Him, we will want to know Him and talk to Him. To be conscious of His presence in our lives is the best guard against relapse that we can have. When we forget Him, we wander off the path – and when we wander off the path, we forget Him!
Conscious contact is not mindless recitation of magic words, not scanning the page with mind in neutral, not going through the motions. Conscious contact is your mind reaching out to the mind of God through the words. The Lord’s Prayer is a good model. We begin by thinking about the One we are addressing, then submitting to Him, His plan, His way. Then we pour out our hearts to Him – because He really does care. And we walk away changed.
The Bible is the ordinary way the Eternal chooses to speak to us. On the surface, it is the written record of two millennia of human experience with God. Simultaneously, it is His self-revelation to mankind, through the Jews first and then through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Without it, we would know nothing of Judaism or Christianity. It doesn’t change, as our subjective impressions and imaginings do. It is there in black and white. But as we read it in faith, with heart and mind engaged, we hear His voice speaking – speaking to us!
“Praying only for knowledge of His will for us.” The point is, His will, not our own. News flash: we don’t tell God what to do. He is not our servant: we are His. Yes, He does take requests, but the purpose of prayer is to bring our wills and our lives into line with His. Then we experience eternal life even in this world. His will is good, acceptable, perfect: you’ll like it!
His will is freedom. Freedom from our hurts, habits and hang-ups. No, He does not dictate our every move. He doesn’t tell me whether to wear the blue shirt or the white one. I am not a puppet on a string, nor are you. He doesn’t give out insider trading information. My interior status is more important to Him than my geographic location. But He does tell us how to live, makes clear what is right and wrong for us, and directs our thinking – when we ask Him. So ask.
Recovery Principle Seven tells us to “reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.”
“To gain the power to follow His will:” aye, that’s the rub! Any religion can tell you how you ought to live. Your aunt Mabel can tell you how to live. Drink too much? “Just quit!” Eat too much? “Just quit!” Doing drugs? “Just say no!” Looking at porn? “Cut it out, for heaven’s sakes!” No help at all. All the ethical standards do is tell us how bad we are. And the trouble with legalism is, we can always find a loop hole. Self-discipline just makes us OCD. If we could succeed, we would be proud and self-righteous (mortal sin). But since we cannot succeed, it leads us to despair or denial or both.
BUT in conscious contact with God – through Scripture, prayer and meditation – we find not just instructions, but the power to apply them in our lives. We cannot – but God can! Sometimes deliverance is instantaneous, but more often it is incremental. Only by keeping a journal can we see what is happening – we document the miracle. But everything depends on taking time daily to soak in The Presence.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.