Step 11 in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is about much more than a single prayer, though the 11th step prayers are pretty solid.
The 11th step in AA says, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
If you’ve already learned how to do step 10, then you should be learning how to do step 11 simultaneously.
Here are the prayers as they’re outlined in the Big Book.
11th Step Prayer in AA
On page 86 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 11th step prayer is:
“God, direct my thinking, especially that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives.”
This is meant to be prayed in the morning before we start our day.
Another 11th step prayer is specific to what we do when we are faced with indecision: “God, give me inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision.”
The third 11th step prayer is, “God, show me all throughout my day what my next step is to be. Give me whatever I need to take care of any problems. I ask especially for freedom from self-will.”
This is meant to be prayed at the end of our morning prayer / meditation.
The final 11th step prayer is to simply say, “Thy will be done” whenever we’re struggling.
What’s important to understand about the 11th step prayers is that these are only suggestions.
What you might actually do can be very different and still be valid.
Step 11 in AA Can Be Practiced in Many Ways
Though it’s good to have a solid understanding of the 11th step prayer as it’s outlined in the Big Book, it’s more important to understand that this is not required, nor is it the only way to practice step 11.
In fact, I would argue that it’s barely a way to start practicing the 11th step.
Think about the step logically. Think about the words of the step.
This tells us how to follow the spirit of the step, which is far more important than memorizing a set of words and then repeating them ad nauseam day after week after month after year.
“Sought—through prayer and meditation—to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him…”
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First, it says “sought,” which means “to seek.”
The step is telling me that its main purpose is to seek something—that something being, “the improvement of our conscious contact with God.”
The word “sought” tells me that the prayer and meditation that we should be doing isn’t the end goal. In other words, if I just pray and meditate, I’m not practicing step 11.
Step 11 should have a purpose—improving that relationship with our higher power.
And it is a higher power—not capital G God (even though it says that in the wording of the prayer).
How do we know? Because it says “God as we understand Him.”
This means that it’s any higher power we choose.
This implies that we don’t have to pray at all as there are a number of religious, spiritual practices, and higher powers available that do not use prayer (or use very little prayer) and focus instead on meditation.
Prayer and meditation, in the context of step 11, are just a suggested way to improve your conscious contact with a higher power.
That means however you connect to your higher power is what matters.
This might mean going for a walk in the woods alone, or with your dog, or with your friends, or going hiking on a mountain, or spending time with your children, or any number of things that make you feel connected to your higher power in some way.
It doesn’t have to be prayer or meditation.
However, those are suggested because human beings over thousands of years have found these tools to be useful when trying to connect to a higher power.
So you might want to consider them.
Should Step 11 in AA Be Practiced Every Day?
For me, the answer is yes — if I want to go into my day with a good attitude, I need to pray and meditate that day.
I do try to do both, though I’ll be the first to admit that I do not do this every day — I just know that my life is better when I do.
I can also tell you that one of the worst things I ever did was to just pray the 11th step prayers I listed above.
Remember, it suggests that we improve our conscious contact with God. When I just said these prayers over and over, day after day, they eventually didn’t mean anything — they were just words.
I wasn’t growing in any way — I was just existing as a person who said some nice words.
I eventually got really unspiritual after doing this for months at a time. I thought I could get away with it, but I suffered as a result.
Today, I am much more into meditation than I am into prayer, though I do occasionally pray.
However, I do think that doing step 11 every day isn’t for everyone.
The way you seek to connect with your higher power might be going to an AA meeting, for example.
If that’s the case, then it doesn’t make much sense for you to go to one every single day (unless you have a lot of time on your hands).
So going to a meeting once a week might be the way you practice your 11th step.
If that works for you.
The worst thing you can do with step 11 is to use it as yet another way of beating yourself up.
If you miss prayer in the morning, so what! Try again in the afternoon.
If you miss meditation for a week, who cares! Try again next week.
Don’t let it become a situation where you’re constantly feeling guilt and shame for your actions (or lack of actions).
That’s only going to make you feel worse.
Pray and meditation should make you feel better.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
So yeah, do it every day if that works for you, but don’t hate yourself if you don’t.
Time for Step 12
Once you’ve begun working step 10 and step 11 in AA, it’s time to start working step 12.