Beads…what is it about beads? Seriously, they always make a cameo during prayer time. The Catholics have their rosaries, the Buddhists have their malas, the Muslims have the Misbaha, and the Eastern Orthodox Church has prayer robes which are knotted like beads (a case of one-upmanship if you ask me).
They’re used for a variety of purposes: counting, professing a specific quantity of mantras, chants, or *fingers crossed* even for the purposes of merit to swing on past the fires of purgatory.
Other times they can be donned with jewels and tassels, ostensibly for status but other nifty ritualistic shenanigans I’m sure they serve.
Certainly, I’m not against prayer beads or counting beads – I call them prayerculators.
I don’t think anyone has ever once laughed at that joke. Does it stop me? Never.
Nonetheless, prayer needs to be understood in context. We need to discover what it is we are trying to accomplish? The following is my position…
Spiritual Disciplines Are Directional
The holy trifecta of spiritual disciplines – the esoteric hat-trick as I call it: prayer, meditation, and self-examination.
I tend to associate prayer and self-examination with cognition and meditation with physiology. Spiritual disciplines are present moment exercises, however, each moves in a specific direction.
In my opinion, meditation is centered in the present moment and proceeds nowhere.
Self-examination of necessity leverages the present to peer into the past.
Lastly, prayer is situated in the now yet anticipating and determining future responses.
In terms of prayer, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous provides an excellent example,
“On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.”
Bearing in mind we have a stabilized value system, prayer can be assessed more accurately. We pray to live per our function and, I’d argue, the very nature of a system of values implies our nature as predominantly social.
Therefore, in terms of functionality, we are designed to consider other people in all our affairs, to make their needs our needs, and vice versa.
The term “interdependence” is able to grasp the fullness and connectedness of the concept.
In any event, the substance of prayer is a petition: pleading for thinking-patterns which are laden with honesty, requesting the humility required for consummate self-evaluation, and appealing for motivation to live per our essence, even with a primitive brain telling us otherwise.
In truth, as we pray for these qualities we ultimately step into a wardrobe and select specific fabric to wear for the day, an attitude and lifestyle if you will AKA a set of habits.
Indeed, take addiction for instance. Addiction isn’t one bad habit as it is often misunderstood, instead, it’s an entire lifestyle composed of many maladaptive and poor habits.
Donning a new robe is no easy feat, it takes persistence, determination, diligence, and an entire army of support and accountability – you’re “prayer team” if you will.
Mother Theresa was aware of this reality. She had the ministers in her organization subscribe to daily divine hours, which were specific times of the day to pray to ensure they could stay the course. Additionally, they would hold mass together and break bread together. Thus, employing all the necessary ingredients: persistence, determination, diligence, and the prayer army.
Also, daily devotionals can also be absorbed into this process (see my article on the concept of Daily Devotionals).
Whenever I reflect on the concept of devotionals I cannot help but think of the Chronicles by C.S. Lewis – specifically The Silver Chair – where Jill asks Aslan how she is to carry out a seemingly impossible task, to which he replies she must follow the signs by which he would guide her.
“Remember, remember, the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the Signs…I give you a warning. Here on the mountain, I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind…Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.”
No human being can deny that their brain synapses mimic a fog machine – clarity in abundance one minute only to be a scarcity the next. Undoubtedly, we need reminders!
Hence why I call devotions/meditations “daily reminders,” they are the signs which help navigate the chaos – beginning once the eyes open!
Closing Statements On The Simplicity Of Prayer
Therefore, when I assert that prayer is situated in the present yet anticipating the future this is to what I refer to.
Without question, to be human is to be in a constant state of need and prayer is merely the growing awareness that in community those needs can be satisfied. But why is this difficult?
Well, to put it bluntly, it’s because it requires sacrifice. For example, if we are composed of three basic life instincts, then all three must be equally satisfied.
If for instance we have a security, social, and sexual instinct and put all our eggs into one basket we will fall out of joint and begin a lifestyle of unhealthy habits. To illustrate:
If I am a gossiper, I am putting all my eggs in the social instinct basket. I’m disregarding security for a momentary glimpse of social cohesion. Yet, once security is abandoned no true social or sexual instinct can be satisfied. Or, better yet, if all I focus on is my partner – my sexual instinct – I disregard the social instinct and fall into utter insecurity again.
So, what’s the answer? Well, we have to sacrifice a little bit within each instinctual sphere. To have a true social relationship or sexual relationship, one just gives up a little bit of security and get vulnerable. We have to be authentic, which is a huge social risk! Or at least perceived in that way. And sexually? Forget about it! But the only way to truly advance and develop healthy habits is by sacrificing a little bit in each instinctual dimension.
To be human is to be limited. A core component of limitation is vulnerability and insecurity. Embracing that fact is what satisfies life’s most basic instinctual drives. Ignoring it precipitates the fear-driven “eggs-in-one-basket” mentality.
In short, prayer is the practice of unconditional acceptance regarding the limitation inherent in human nature and the daily reminder that together, as a social species, we are as close to “unlimited” – to God – as can be imagined.
So if beads help you remember – count away.
If chanting – get those vocal cords trembling.
If prostrating yourself in supplication five times a day – touch the ground with your forehead.
Do whatever you must, for the fog is dense and as crazy as it sounds, the clarity of your vision just might be proportional to the quality of your prayers.
Timmy G. (2020)
The following is a set of prayers specifically drawn from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I credit friendsofbillw.net for composing such a wonderful resource:
Twelve Step Prayers from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
The Twelve Step Prayers were created using the text of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The text used to develop the prayers are shown at the end of the prayer in parenthesis. My hope is that these prayers will provide a framework for you to develop your own or expand on the wording below.
The Set Aside Prayer:
“Dear God please help me to set aside everything I think I know about [people. place or thing] so I may have an open mind and a new experience. Please help me to see the truth about [people. place or thing]. AMEN.” (This prayer comes from the Chapter to the Agnostic, primarily pages 47 and 48).
First Step Prayer:
Dear Lord, Help me to see and admit that I am powerless over my alcoholism. Help me to understand how my alcoholism has led to unmanageability in my life. Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness. Remove from me all denial of my alcoholism. (This prayer is developed from the chapter, More About Alcoholism)
Second Step Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I am having trouble with personal relationships. I can’t control my emotional nature. I am prey to misery and depression. I can’t make a living. I feel useless. I am full of fear. I am unhappy. I can’t seem to be of real help to others. I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity if I am just willing to stop doubting your power. I humbly ask that you help me to understand that it is more powerful to believe than not to believe and that you are either everything or nothing. (p. 52:2, 52:3, 53:1, 53:2)
3rd Step Prayer:
“God, I offer myself to thee – to build with me and 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!” (63:2 original manuscript) (see also the webpage with other Third Step Prayers)
A Pre-Inventory prayer:
“God, please help me to honestly take stock. Help me to search out the flaws in my make-up which caused my failure. Help me to see where resentment has plagued me and resulted in spiritual malady, but more importantly help me to understand my part in these resentments. Help me to resolutely look for my own mistakes and to understand where I had been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened. Please help me to be searching and fearless in my endeavor to write my inventory.” (p. 64:2, 64:3, 67:2)
A 4th Step Resentment Prayer:
“God, Please help me to be free of anger and to see that the world and its people have dominated me. Show me that the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually kill me. Help me to master my resentments by understanding that the people who wrong me were perhaps spiritually sick. Please help me show those I resent the same Tolerance, Pity and Patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend.** Help me to see that this is a sick man. Father, please show me how I can be helpful to him and save me from being angry. Lord, help me to avoid retaliation or argument. I know I can’t be helpful to all people, but at least show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. Thy will be done.”(66:2, 66:3, 66:4, 67:0, 67:1)
**Dear God, I have a resentment towards a person that I want to be free of. So, I am asking you to give this person everything I want for myself. Help me to feel compassionate understanding and love for this person. I pray that they will receive everything they need. Thank you God for your help and strength with this resentment. (BB, Freedom from Bondage: 552)
These instructions are for the above prayer (Big Book, Freedom from Bondage, p. 552):
‘If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free…Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.’
You can, also, include the Freedom from Bondage Prayer in the 4th Step Resentment Prayer.
An Example of Fear Prayer:
“God, thank you for helping me be honest enough to see this truth about myself and now that you have shown me the truth about my fears, please remove these fears from me. Lord, please help me outgrow my fears and direct my attention to what you would have me be. Father, demonstrate through me and help me become that which you would have me be. Help me do thy will always, Amen.”(68:3)
An Example of Pre-Sex Inventory Prayer:
“God, please help me to be free of fear as I attempt to shine the spotlight of truth across my past sex relations. Lord, please show me where my behavior has harmed others and help me to see the truth these relationships hold for me. Help me see where I have been at fault and what I should have done differently.” (From the thoughts on pg. 69)
“God, help me review my own conduct over the years past. Show me where I have been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate. Show me whom I have hurt and where I have unjustifiably aroused jealousy, suspicion or bitterness. Help me to see where I was at fault and what I should have done instead. Help me to be fearless and searching in my endeavor to write my sexual inventory.” (69:1)
A Sex Prayer:
“Father, please help me mold my sex ideals and help me to live up to them. Help me be willing to grow toward my ideals and help me be willing to make amends where I have done harm. Lord, please show me what to do in each specific matter, and be the final judge in each situation. Help me avoid hysterical thinking or advice.” (69:2, 69:3)
“Father, please Grace me with guidance in each questionable situation, sanity, and strength to do the right thing. If sex becomes very troublesome, quiet my imperious urge, help me not to yield and keep me from heartache as I throw myself the harder into helping others. Help me think of their needs and help me work for them. Amen.”(69:2, 69:3, 70:2)
A Pre-Fifth Step Prayer:
God, please help me to complete my housecleaning by admitting to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. Please remove any fears I have about this step and show me how completion of it will remove my egotism and fear. Help me to see how this step builds my character through humility, fearlessness and honesty. Direct me to the right person who will keep my confidence and fully understand and approve what I am driving at. Then help me to pocket my pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past so I may complete this step and begin to feel near to you.” (72:1, 72:2, 73:0, 74:2, 75:2)
Fifth Step Prayer:
Higher Power, Thank you for helping me complete my housecleaning. I can now look the world in the eye. I can be alone at perfect peace and ease. My fears have fallen from me. I have begun to feel your nearness. I have begun to have a spiritual experience. I feel I am on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. (75:2)
A Quiet Hour Prayer:
“God, Thank You for giving me the strength, faith and courage I needed to get through my 5th Step. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to know you better, by showing me what has been blocking me from you. Father, please show me if I have omitted anything and help me to honestly see if my stones are properly in place or if I have skimped in any area of this work.”(75:3)
A 6th Step prayer:
“God, Thank you for removing my fear and for showing me the truth about myself. Father, I need your help to become willing to let go of the things in me which continue to block me off from you. Please grant me your Grace Lord and make me willing to have these objectionable characteristics, defects and shortcomings removed.” (76:1)
Sixth Step Prayer:
Dear God, I am ready for Your help in removing from me the defects of character which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery. Help me to continue being honest with myself & guide me toward spiritual & mental health. (76:1)
Seventh Step Prayer:
“My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good & bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you & my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do Your bidding.” (76:2)
A Pre – Eighth Step Prayer:
“God, Please remove my Fears and show me your truth. Show me all the harms I have caused with my behavior and help me be willing to make amends to one and all. Help me to be willing to go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.”(76:3)
A 9th Step Prayer:
“God, with regard to this amend, give me the strength, courage and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. Help me not to shrink from anything. Help me not to delay if it can be avoided. Help me to be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping.”(79:1, 83:3)
A 9th Step prayer for the Spouse:
“God, please show me how to make amends to my Spouse. Father , Help me to keep my Spouse’s happiness Uppermost in my mind as I try, with your Grace, to make this relationship right. Amen” (82:1)
A 9th Step Prayer for the Family:
“God, please show me how to find the way of Patience, Tolerance, Kindness and Love in my heart, my Mind and my Soul. Lord, show me how to demonstrate these principles to my family and all those about me. Amen.” (83:1)
A 10th Step prayer for Growth and Effectiveness:
“God, please help me Watch for Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. When these crop up in me, help me to immediately ask you to remove them from me and help me discuss these feelings with someone. Father, help me to quickly make amends if I have harmed anyone and help me to resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can Help. Help me to be Loving and Tolerant of everyone today. Amen”(84:2)
Tenth Step Prayer:
My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you,
I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness;
Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear;
Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once;
I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately;
I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone;
And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else;
Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others. (84:2)
Tenth Step Amends Prayer:
“God, please forgive me for my failings today. I know that because of my failings, I was not able to be as effective as I could have been for you. Please forgive me and help me live thy will better today. I ask you now to show me how to correct the errors I have just outlined. Guide me and direct me. Please remove my arrogance and my fear. Show me how to make my relationships right and grant me the humility and strength to do thy will.”(86:1)
The 11Th Step Prayers:
A Prayer On Awakening:
“God please direct my thinking and keep my thoughts divorced from self – pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Please keep my thought life clear from wrong motives and help me employ my mental faculties, that my thought-life might be placed on a higher plane, the plane of inspiration.” (86:2)
A Morning Prayer:
“God, should I find myself agitated, doubtful or indecisive today, please give me inspiration, help me to have an intuitive thought or a decision about this problem I face. Help me not to struggle, instead, help me to relax and take it easy. Help me know what I should do and keep me mindful, that you are running the show. Free me from my bondage of self. Thy will be done always.” (86:3)
A Morning Prayer:
“God, please show me all through this day, what my next step is to be and please grace me with whatever I need to take care of the problems in my life today. I ask especially that you free me from the bondage of self-will.”(87:1)
An 11Th Step Nightly Review Prayer:
“God, help me to constructively review my day. Where was I resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do I owe an apology? Have I kept something to myself which should be discussed with another person at once? Was I kind and loving toward all? What could I have done better? Was I thinking of myself most of the time? Or was I thinking of what I could do for others, of what I could pack into the stream of life? Please forgive me for my harms and wrongs today and let me know corrective measures I should be take.” (86:2)
Twelfth Step Prayer:
Dear God, Having had a spiritual experience, I must now remember that “faith without works is dead.” And PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. So, God, please help me to carry this message to other alcoholics! Provide me with the guidance and wisdom to talk with another alcoholic because I can help when no one else can. Help me secure his confidence and remember he is ill. (89:1)