recovery and the Lord’s prayer

There seems to be a great deal of harmony and interplay between the Lord’s prayer and 12-step recovery.

To state the obvious, both are spiritual in nature.  They are both concerned with a Higher (indeed, the Highest) Power, which enables and guides the journey.  The adoration which is so clear in the Lord’s prayer (e.g. “hallowed be Thy name”) is perhaps implied in the description of the power as “higher” and the notion of the “care of God”.

But this spirituality is not passive, it is active.  This Power seems to desire (or indeed require) our participation, rather than relate to us as a puppet-master.  So there are specific actions.  In recovery, we do things.  We make and share inventories, identify and surrender character defects, make amends to those we have harmed, admit when we are wrong, pray, meditate and share the message with others.  The Lord’s prayer also suggests activity:  honouring the Lord’s name, doing the Lord’s will “on earth as it is [done] in heaven”, forgiving those who trespass against us.

That work of reconciliation and forgiveness is one of the most striking parallels.  Our Step 4 inventories and our Step 9 amends making lead us to focus on our wrongs instead of the wrongs of others as we experience them.  We cannot wait for others to come to us seeking forgiveness; rather, we take the initiative in focusing on our part, and seeking reconciliation.  Likewise, the Lord’s prayer paints a picture of discipleship in which forgiving “those who trespassed against us” is the norm.

In all of this, the Lord’s prayer, like the Serenity Prayer of the recovery movement, has a two-fold nature: On the one hand, it invites us to worship-fully trust God with those things that we ought not try to control or change, such as the kingdom, power and glory.  On the other hand, it directs us to work for the change we were created to bring about, such as living lives of worship, obedience, gratitude, forgiveness, avoidance of sin and an overall surrender to the overarching sovereignty of God’s kingdom.

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partnership and prayer

The Christian life, and the road of recovery, both involve a collaborative effort of partnership with God.  It’s neither aggressive nor passive, but assertive.

Prayer is an essential component of this assertive way of life.  In prayer, there is both the real dependence on the unlimited sovereign power of God, and at the same time the real commitment to our limited but real efforts in obedience.

We see this in the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer:

In the Lord’s Prayer, it is God whose name is hallowed, whose kingdom comes, who gives bread, and guides us.  But it is us who offer the hallowing, commit to doing his will, and forgiving those who trespass against us, etc.

In the Serenity Prayer, it is God who gives the Serenity, Courage and Wisdom.  But it is us who commit to accepting the unchangeable, changing the changeable, and seeking to know the difference.