Re-writing the 3rd Step Prayer

I thought I was done with this step. I really did. When I talked with my sponsor about this step back in the winter, he suggested that I say the 3rd step prayer in the big book every day for 2 weeks and then tell him when I felt that I was willing to turn things over to a higher power.

Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: “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!”

A.A. World Services Inc (2013-12-02). Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition (Kindle Locations 1034-1036). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I spent quite a bit of time searching for a way to get through this and feel comfortable with the wording of it. I read the 12 and 12, and the big book, I talked with some people about it.  I struggled with this wording.  It makes my skin crawl.

Now, my sponsor had told me that it was okay if I changed the words, but (perhaps the my inner Catholic school boy is stronger than I thought) I ignored that.  See, when a prayer is written down, it’s in stone.  At least in my mind.  If you change it, well, then it’s not the same.  Words matter.

I never re-wrote the prayer in my own words.

Because I struggle so much with the idea of an omniscient deity, I started to explore this from a different perspective — Secular Western Buddhism.  I’ve read a number of texts from modern Buddhist teachers including Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, Tara Brach, and Jack Kornfield and have felt much more attracted to the language in these books.

As I’ve written before, the book One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, by Kevin Griffin has been exceedingly helpful in my journey.  After reading the chapter on the 3rd step in the book I genuinely  felt like I’d maybe gotten there.  I felt that there is a genuine oneness to human experience, and that there are fundamental principles that govern right and wrong.  Perhaps this is Dharma.

Now, to be fair, I never talked about any of this with my sponsor, I just did it on my own and felt good about it.

I also never said that prayer.

Recently, I’ve been talking about getting on to the 4th step and I’ve felt like it keeps getting pushed to the side, not necessarily by me.  Finally, my sponsor told me that maybe we needed to talk about steps 1, 2, and 3 a little more before we moved on.

He called me out.

Somehow, he knew that I’d never said the prayer.  Probably because I never complained about it to him.

He reminded me that I should find my own words with this.  At first I looked for other prayers written by other people. And, while the Buddhist Third Step prayer I found is really cool, it doesn’t completely  resonate.

So, I decided to give it a shot and write my own,  remaining true to the original meaning without the theistic overtones. I’ve spent a little time with this, and here’s what I’ve come up with.  It’s not perfect.  It may change. But it’s a start.

I can’t do this on my own. When I accept support and guidance, I can get through life’s difficulties and be a living example of loving kindness through my words and actions.



14 thoughts on “Re-writing the 3rd Step Prayer

  1. Beautiful. Thank you. I’ve shared the same struggles both with the wording and the idea of fully surrendering. I appreciate how you got to the heart of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great. Your version of the prayer resonated with me, as did the Buddhist version (though it was a little wordy). The original is also powerful for me, I just kind of edit the text as I say it, taking out the thees and thous. Today I heard someone n a meeting describe their higher power as “Source.” That describes pretty well what I feel.

    Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it useful! I’ve come a long way in my struggle with the God stuff in 12 Step. One of the things I learned is that the God of my understanding isn’t the God of my Childhood. Once I was able to see that and accept that things got much better for me. I still get triggered by some of the things I hear in the rooms but I’ve learned to lean in to those triggers rather than to run from them.


  3. I really enjoyed the simplicity from which you wrote. I also enjoyed a Buddhist version. It gave me something that I could relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is from the paragraph following the prayer on page 63:

    “The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation.”

    I have created my own prayers based of the book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your version. I’m going to create my own too, just so I hear it in my sober voice. My disease talks to me in my voice too, so I’m trusting that this will overwrite it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s