third step prayer

Third Step Prayer AA: An Unbeatable Mental Shift

Third Step Prayer AA…a make or break opportunity

Third Step Prayer AA

The Third Step Prayer is the watershed moment for many in recovery. 

It’s either the foundation for a new way of living or superficially evaluated, professed, and never carried out.

Why? Because it’s hard. A radical new of life comes with a set of demands that few wish to consider let alone embody.

As Jesus right concluded, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The following is the Third Step Prayer as written in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

To be honest, it’s gate is narrow and it’s way is hard. Nevertheless, it does lead to life.

Chances are if you’re reading this, life is desperately what you need. So cherish that gift of desperation and read on.

What is the Third Step Prayer?

“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.”

Third Step Prayer AA

Usually people arrive at their first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and quickly accept or reject the program of action – the 12 Steps.

If they decide it’s for them, and most people don’t arrive at this conclusion without their fair share of pain, they eventually begin the process in the 12 Step fellowship by finding a sponsor, trudging through the Big Book, and working through the 12 Steps.

Upon arriving at the Third Step they reach yet another difficult turning point. 

Here they are directed to make a firm and resolute decision to abandon themselves to God.

This is the beginning of those set of demands I was referring to.

The Third Step reads as follows: 

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Step Three AA

The Third Step is undoubtedly a difficult one.

It demands a radical reversal in lifestyle. 

When the individual feels ready – committed and motivated to change – they usually recite a prayer. 

The Big Book provides the Third Step Prayer to initiate this momentous event. If you prefer, you can create your own just craft it in such a manner that it captures the same sentiment.

Narcotics Anonymous has their own version which is less poetic but more concise:

Third Step Prayer NA
NA Third Step Prayer

Whatever Third Step Prayer one chooses to utilize once it’s confused and INTERNALIZED recovery begins to truly broaden in scope. 

The Big Book remarks, “This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.”

Most of us recite this prayer throughout the day. It enables us to remain focused and stay the course. 

As the old adage states, “where the attention goes the energy flows.”

In this fashion, it keeps the sober lifestyle we are trying to cultivate in the forefront of our minds Therefore, recovery prayers are truly invaluable.

I understand that praying is not everyone’s, especially in it’s religious form.

However, I wrote this helpful article on prayer that demonstrates its practicality. I pray it helps you 🙂 check it out ==> AA Daily Prayers: What Prayer Is & How To Do It Effectively

Another primary reason prayer is critical is because it enables us to rely on something other than themselves. It gets us out of our own way.

A Breakdown of The Third Step Prayer

God, I offer myself to Thee –

The prayer begins with a shift in power. It’s a firm declaration to give control of the universe back where it belongs – God.

The Big Book calls this idea a “keystone concept.”

What’s a keystone?

A keystone is a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.

In other words, the entire philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous rests upon this idea: that a Power greater than yourself can and will solve your problem if you let Him.

So, declare the shift.

Third Step Prayer AA

To build with me and to do with me as Thou Wilt.

You experience the building process in the action steps of 1-9. It’s fairly easy to comprehend. If self-centeredness is the problem then relationship-centeredness is the solution. 

The second line in the Third Step Prayer is the insight that our life is no longer self-employed, rather we work for a new Employer. 

We allow this new Employer’s mission and values to saturate our mindset. We permit His vision to construct our lifestyle. We allow His will to inform our actions.

The idea of “God’s will” isn’t as mystical as it may appear. His will is simple: “our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.”

Third Step Prayer AA

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will

I believe it was Blaise Pascal who claimed that “pride turns you away from God and lust binds you to yourself.” 

Pride is merely self-centered living. Lust is the insatiable desires that pride produces. 

In the third line of the prayer we are acknowledging that we have been bound to ourselves.

This bondage will be wrestled with for the remainder of our days. There is no escaping the human condition. 

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done. ” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.

Third Step Prayer AA

Why must these thoughts go with us constantly? Because the degree of our selfishness!

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible.

The definition of bondage is the state of being bound by or subjected to some external power or control. 

What happens when we submit to God’s power/control as opposed to our own? 

The answer is found in the Third Step Promises.

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.

The Third Step Promises are in the Big Book to demonstrate precisely what a life looks like that consistently manifests in their lifestyle the Third Step Prayer.

Third Step Promises

“When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.”

third step promise aa

In recovery, we shift our perspective to seeing adversity from the position of the victim to the perspective of the hero.

All misfortunes and obstacles we overcome become healing instruments to help others more optimally.

We transition from a place of learned helplessness to learned optimism.

Our struggles and suffering are no longer in vain. Everything we experience is the curative for those still suffering.

We can do just about anything with the guidance of God’s Love, Power, and Will in our lives. 

I usually have my sponsees write down their own version of the Third Step Prayer. I have them weave it in their own words, with their own spirit, from their own heart.

This prayer can totally change the paradigm in our lives. It’s ability to instil our lives with meaning is unparalleled.

There are a litany of other recovery prayers, I’ve written a post that examines them all in the aforementioned article.

However, as noted, the Third Step Prayer captures the keystone concept and is therefore the nexus upon which all other recovery prayers flow.

Declare the shift.

Allow God to build your life into spiritual structure. 

Experience the promises. 

All it takes is a prayer.

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