Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Is praying for others part of the programme?

Today I read on an online Big Book forum:

"Praying for others, forgiveness and others are great spiritual sentiments but they keep us from the directions in the Steps rather than help us live these principles."

If you read page 87 (which forms part of the Steps), you will discover that seeing where religious people are right IS part of the Steps, and IS one of the principles we are supposed to apply. Praying for others, forgiveness, etc. are suggested by religious people, and, if you try them out as an experiment, you will discover that, in these two regards, religious people are right.

Page 87 also says we are never to pray for ourselves, except as those requests bear on our usefulness to others. This rather suggests one does pray for others.

Page 87 suggests we use set prayers, and one of the main set prayers is the Lord's Prayer. If you read about early AA, you will encounter references to the Lord's Prayer being used in meetings. The Lord's Prayer embodies the principle of forgiveness. Pages 356 and 406 also recall the Lord's Prayer.

Page 82 suggests forgiveness (or, as it is put, letting by-gones be by-gones), suggesting we pray having the other's happiness uppermost in mind.

The key point is this, however: there is a logical, fear-based fallacy evident amongst many peddlers of the idea that all answers to everything lie inside the first 164 pages and nothing of value lies outside it. The fallacy is the zero-sum fallacy. According to this logic, encouraging people to go to meetings takes the focus off the steps, suggesting forgiveness distracts from the steps, etc.

It is a fallacy because these activities do not detract from each other or cancel each other out.

If that were true, if every activity that is not strictly suggested in the first 164 detracted from the Steps, I do hope the person suggesting this does not go to work, eat, or sleep. These after all, must be an awful distraction, and water down the programme frightfully.

The truth is this: when I was new, I was able to work the Steps as indicated by a good sponsor, go to lots of meetings, apply AA slogans and tidbits from meetings, and do lots of things for my programme that were not strictly in the first 164 (e.g. 'push' my Higher Power out of the front door before I left for work in the morning, to 'sort everyone out so I didn't have to'. Of course one's energies should not be excessively dissipated, but attitudes and activities that actively support what are in the first 164 do not detract from or weaken them, either logically or empirically.

No, it's perfectly possible to be a good 164-er and discover that life is much richer and one's programme is much more fruitful following ALL of the instructions in the first 164 pages, which include learning from what has been taught by God through AA since 1939 and seeking the various additional sources of help (religious, psychological, etc.)

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