A. A.'s Look at The Lord's Prayer
Our thanks to Bill L. for finding this info.
This is from a series of eight editorial articles on "The Lord's Prayer" in the © Cleveland Central Bulletin, an AA newsletter that began before the AA Grapevine.
These are crucial words. Of all the words of the most universal of all prayers, these two words are of greatest importance to us.
In uttering them, we turn to a Power greater than our own. We turn from complete reliance upon our own egotistical natures, from exaggerated self love and self exaltation. We confess that our efforts to run our entire lives in our own willful way have led to error, frustration, defeat, failure. We admit that the self justification that resulted from our errors has only deepened our defeat.
Even when we have seen the depth of our failure, the folly of self justification and the pitfalls of egotism, we have discovered that our efforts to re-establish ourselves solely through will power have led to more stumbling. Our wills, as one writer has observed, are where we are sickest.
So we, out of desperation turn to the sure Power that has always existed and make that Power the rock upon which we will rebuild our lives.
Many of us had long since lapsed in belief in any Supreme Power. Most of us had not addressed ourselves to that Power for many years, except, perhaps, in an occasional desperate moment.
In the realization of the position in which we have found ourselves, we come to a crossroads. We may continue to rely upon our sick wills and our erring judgments, which so often speak the words of justification. Our experience should show us what the result of following along that path may be.
Most of us find it better to choose the other path. Certainly all who have succeeded in application of the AA program have found this other path better. We turn from our selves to anchor our lives on something outside. Preferably, we anchor our lives to that something outside that we consider greater than ourselves, and eventually, we recognize that something as being the Supreme Power.
We bring that Supreme Power into our lives, and by so doing, we lift ourselves up. We think of that Supreme Power in our own terms, but we know that the realm of that Power is of realm of the Good, where the spirit may find peace.
With these words, Our Father, we address ourselves to the Supreme Power. In the morning when we get up to prepare for the day's work; in the evening when we retire and think for a few moments about our actions during the day that has just past, we place ourselves in the presence of that Supreme Power with the words, Our Father.
When occasion arises during the day, when we are sorely tempted, when we are angry, when we are resentful, when we pity ourselves, when we feel frustrated or worried, we can shift gears and connect ourselves with the Supreme Power by uttering the words, Our Father. There we will find help.
"Hallowed Be Thy Name"
"Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name..."
When we discovered ourselves powerless over alcohol and unable to manage our own lives, we turned to a Power greater than our own.
When we have denied that Power, or ignored it, or when we have turned to that Power only mechanically, we have failed in our efforts to meet our problems. When we have turned to that Power and have done so sincerely, we have succeeded in regaining control over our lives and have progressed in the solution of our problems.
So other test of the existence of that Power, or our dependence upon it, is necessary.
That Power we recognize as being the supreme power in the universe. It has, and has had throughout history, many names. To most of us today, the name of the Supreme Power is simply God.
In our prayer, we say, "hallowed be thy Name." That means that the name of God is to be set aside as being holy; it is consecrated for sacred uses. It is revered, held in profound respect and at the same time regarded with love.
However, these are attitudes that are not limited merely to the name of God, as if the name were magical (as the ancients believed). These are attitudes that we take in our approach to God. We regard God as being apart from the profane world even though concerned with it. And in our approach to God, we are to put off all that is profane. We approach God with reverence, with profound respect, with love, and perhaps with fear. We acknowledge God's power over the universe. We acknowledge that the realm of God is the realm of the good. And we recognize that if we are to receive the help of God, we must strive consciously to separate ourselves from those things that are antagonistic to the good.
It is good for us to use restraint in the use of the name of God (the name being. for most of us, God), simply be-cause the profanation of the name tends to weaken and then destroy the meaning of the word in our minds. The name of God should call God into our minds, and should cause us to think of God's power, God's goodness, God's help to us. Through it, we should be able to shift gears from the profane world.
But again, "Hallowed be Thy Name" must mean something more to us than respect for God's name. It must be the supreme acknowledgment of God himself, and of our entire dependence upon God.
"Thy Kingdom Come"
In our thoughts on the Lord's Prayer. we are inclined to pass over the words, Thy kingdom come. The words seem to us to refer either to life beyond the grave, or to the age-old hope of the prophets and the religious for the day when God's kingdom shall be set up on earth and swords shall be beaten into plowshares.
But the Lord's Prayer is essentially a prayer for our daily needs, one through which we strive to place ourselves within the sphere of God's works. While the world at large still does not conduct itself as the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom exists today for all those who will turn to it.
For those of us who have found our lives unmanageable, the Kingdom of God is our sure refuge. By acknowledging ourselves as the subjects of a Power greater than our own, as obedient to the laws of life that have grown out of the experience of mankind throughout the ages, we can restore ourselves. We place ourselves in the Kingdom of God within us.
What is the Kingdom of God? The Apostle Paul ssaid it is not meat or drink.
That means it is not the material side of lift. Those whose interests lie alone in bread, in wealth , in the comforts of life, do not find the Kingdom of God. They are more likely to find themselves victims of lust and greet, to find themselves selfish and intolerant, to find themselves where we found ourselves as the result of our one-sided interest in material things.
The Kingdom of God, said Paul, is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Some of us shy away from words like "righteousness," which have a "goody-goodv" sound. But what is a righteous man but one who is upright and honest and fair and free from the will to do wrong.
The Kingdom of God. we might say, is the realm of honesty and unselfishness and purity and love, the four principles that guide our efforts to remake our lives. Some of our members call them the Four Absolutes.
The Kingdom of God is peace: the peace from the tortures of the mind and the flesh that we have suffered so many years. With honesty and unselfishness and purity and love, by being upright and fair and free from the will to do wrong, by casting from us the errors that have troubled us, we can relax and find peace in the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Paul meant to suggest that it is the joy that comes to us through acceptance of the Holy Spirit. And so it is. But many of us, who have spent so many years in error and have been inclined to look with contempt upon those persons who followed the way of God, tend to keep the Holy
Spirit at arm's length. Many are inclined to think that it is not quite "grown up" to find joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus we persist in error, and deprive ourselves of the opportunity to find peace. We have to let ourselves find joy in the Holy Spirit.
It is well to recall the first three of the Twelve Steps. We confessed that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable. We decided that a Power greater than our own could restore us to sanity. We undertook to place our lives and our wills in the hands of that Power.
So now we acknowledge the Supreme Power, "Our Father." We regard that Power reverently. And we ask that we live today in the realm of that Power, when we are upright, where we find peace, where we find joy in the Holy Spirit.
Thy Kingdom come.
"Thy Will Be Done"
So words that we can utter are as vital to us as these words in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done." In uttering these words we surrender to the will of a Power greater than our own. This is the essential act in the third of the Twelve Steps, the step that is the very heart of our program.
The instincts that rule our material selves are largely instincts of self-preservation. They make Self our first concern and they are the causes of most of the troubles that we can fall into. Self-concern leads to egotism, to self-assertion, to vanity, to lack of concern for the feelings of others: It leads to things that destroy us: lust, greed, and similar excesses of body passions.
A sane view of lift is that all things are good in their right use. But we have devoted ourselves to the misuse of a number of things and have regarded ourselves accountable to no man. Now that the bill for our misconduct has been presented, we find ourselves thoroughly rooted in misuse and thoroughly the victims of our impulses.
Now that we are in AA, most of us have recognized our chief errors. Most of us see the need for control, for responsible action, for curbs on selfish acts. We have seen how some of the results of our habits of thought, in resentment, in self-pity, in jealousy, in other aspects of self-love, return again and again to harass us.
Our head strong tendencies demand surrender, demand a yielding of ourselves to the will of an external power. To place ourselves in the hands of that Power, we have to create new habits of action to keep us out of old ruts.
We may continue to do all the things that nature intended us to do, bur it is important that we do those things under control. We must control impulses, particularly those associated with our excesses.
Most difficult, perhaps, are those times when there is an urge that we cannot define, just a general tension under the skin and a hazy hut strong impulsive feeling in the mind. These are times when it is particularly necessary to call on the aid of the Supreme Power.
We must develop the habit of turning to the Supreme Power at all times, at regular daily intervals, at times when we are under stress. Impulses should be discharged by addressing ourselves directly to the Supreme Power and asking for guidance. We must learn to see the signs of headstrong and self-willed action and remember the troubles that such action has brought in the past. Our watchword here is, "Easy does it."
It is the will of the Supreme Power that we love our neighbors, that we be merciful and just in all our action. Perhaps we should be especially mindful of the warning that we should not judge others. We have to learn to be tolerant and to improve our own ways of living.
These things are hard at first because they run so contrary to the habits we have developed. Our task is to develop new habits in which we place the direction of our lives in the hands of a Power greater than our own. We have to do it first by conscious effort. Eventually we find that when we turn to the Supreme Power and accept the guidance of that power, the painful shackles fall away and the driving impulses lose their force and we find a measure of peace.
"Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread"
This is the 21-Hour Plan of life in the Lord's Prayer, and as such it is far from being the simple petition for the gift of food that it seems. This petition is worthy of our particular consideration, since it has special meanings for us in AA.
"Bread" in the Lord's Prayer means all the things that man needs to sustain life. The petition is concerned wholly with material things. Every material thing, whether it is food, clothing, shelter, a convenience of life or a means of pleasure, is solely the product of the labor of man applied to the gifts of nature. We get nothing without labor, but our labor would not be fruitful were it not for the gifts of nature, which are the fruits of the labor of God. It is a fundamental law that man must work if he is to live. It is a fundamental truth that life depends on God's bounty.
"Give us this day our daily bread" is first of all an acknowledgment that we are dependent upon God's bounty. But those who will take the trouble to read the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord's Prayer appears, will discover ample evidence that the word "daily" in this petition is of greatest importance.
"Give us today bread for today," the petition means tomorrow's bread we will seek tomorrow. Thus, this is a renunciation, one that grows out of the last of the Ten Commandments (covetousness). It is linked spiritually with the declaration that "Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Granted that man must have bread, he must not make the pursuit of material things the ruling passion of his life.
Now this is of particular interest to us. For most of us in AA became alcoholics largely because of our concern over material things. A few of our younger alcoholics are simply undisciplined children who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of pleasure and escape from the responsibilities of life. But most of our older alcoholics are men and women who have suffered frustration and disappointment, who have discovered that the aims they had in youth never are to be realized. We have had to cut our patterns to fit our opportunities, to walk when we had hoped to soar aloft. Moreover, the depression that preceded the present war made alcoholics of many men who ordinarily would have escaped.
Devotion to material things made tragedy out of disappointment.
No one would suggest that we turn away from the material entirely. We must care for our needs and our family's needs. And in our present economic order, a prudent man will save something if he can.
But if we are to have health, economic pursuits must not be our ruling passion. Ambition and pride and covetousness, the desire for wealth and the demand for power must be curbed, and with them, the resentment and jealousy that come in the wake of frustration. We have to learn to be satisfied with what we can achieve, and in learning to be satisfied, it is well to renounce something of our aims. We may start by being practical. We may
go on by finding interest in higher things. The man who has given up greed is on the way to happiness.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
No one who has completed his moral inventory can pass over this petition lightly.
First, what are trespasses? Any act contrary to the moral law, a neglect of duty, an injury or wrong to another person, is a trespass. "Moral" is used here in its proper sense as pertaining to action with reference to right and wrong and obligation of duty. It refers not only to things we have done but also to things we have neglected to do.
Some of our trespasses are easy to recognize. We have no difficulty in seeing our guilt in them. Others may be more difficult, partly because we have spent so much time in justifying and excusing our acts or neglects that we have come to think of justification as answering the accusation. It is precisely at this point that our moral inventories must become fearless. Every excuse or justification must be challenged as being in itself evidence of guilt.
We should examine our conduct in detail and specify each trespass. This is important. The Lord's Prayer does not excuse us from responsibility for our acts. Nor is it a license for repetition of wrongful acts. We are bound to make reparation for harm that we have done, and we are bound to cease doing harm.
Our prayer is made daily. So should our inventories be made daily. In our prayer, we should keep in mind the things the inventories have revealed, so that we may make progress in correcting our faults.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This petition is conditional. No one who is not willing to forgive can expect to be forgiven. No one who harbors hatred, malice and resentment in his heart can expect to find peace.
This condition is of particular concern to us, since so many of us suffer through resentment, self pity, jealousy, self love. It has been the experience of all of us who try to control resentment that most of the causes of our resentments are found to be either imaginary or petty, and that they actually have done us no real harm. When we can rid ourselves of these resentments, we shall make progress.
Honest inventory often will reveal that in those cases in which we have suffered in our dealings with others, some of the fault, much of the fault, or even most of the fault has been ours. But even in those few instances in which we have suffered genuine injury at the hands of others, we are bound to forgive. Certainly we gain nothing but harm to ourselves when we allow resentment to fill our minds and consume our energies. When we forgive, we heal our minds.
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation"
These words of the last petition of the Lord's Prayer come from our lips with greatest fervor. We have turned to prayer in a desperate hour to plead for deliverance and we ask that we may be taken out of the path of temptation.
There is no doubt in the mind of any one who is in trouble what the words of this petition mean, and there is rather little doubt, at least at first, what we wished to be saved from.
Temptation has sly ways, however. After we have all the gaps plugged. Temptation begins to whisper fairy tales into our ears, trying to get us to open up at least one of the gaps. Temptation hints that the diagnosis we made when we took the first of the Twelve Steps was not quite right. Why not take just one now and then? And why not ask to be delivered from the temptation of taking more than one? But then, three would be better, why not never more than three?
Or, Temptation may make a more direct assault. We're as big as God is: we can step off that cliff!
Well, maybe not quite; but we are capable of handling ourselves, and there is no reason why we cannot go down to the water's edge and wade around abit! We forget that for us there is no shallow water.
Temptation stays with us, trying to build up our confidence, trying to make us believe that we have been cured, scoffing at the old troubles. Temptation slips in at the side door when we become proud and satisfied. It is the greatest to those who have persisted in remaining at the threshold of evil by always having that "Some day!" in the back of the mind. The most persistent temptation we have is the temptation to change the diagnosis. When we turn our backs firmly against that temptation we are likely to stay out of trouble.
Self love is a great pitfall, and the source of the great sins. Many of the temptations here seem rather innocent. But they lead, step by step to denial of the Supreme Power, to exaltation of the self.
For us, deliverance and temptation go together, and one of the most important evils that we seek to be freed from is temptation. Drink has become so much a part of our lives that we associate virtually every act with it. The result is that the idea of drink, the urge to take a drink or to go to get a drink constantly pops into the mind for no apparent reason. The Devil here is experience.
As our sins may be forgiven if we are truly contrite, so may we be delivered from the evils we have created for ourselves, by being sorry for our misdeeds, by undertaking to make good for any injury we have done to others, and by striving not to offend again. We are bound to take positive action for the right and the good, and we are bound not to allow ourselves drift with our inclinations. We place ourselves in the hands of the Supreme Power and follow the lead we receive from that power, away from temptation, away from evil.
"For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever."
Thus the Lord's Prayer ends, with words of surrender. The kingdom of God is God's kingdom. The power in the kingdom is God's power. And the glory for the works in the kingdom is God's glory.
The kingdom is not ours, though we are part of it. The power is not ours, though God gives us a little of his power for our own use. The glory is not ours, but God's
We should do well not to mumble these words when we say the Lord's Prayer, and not to hurry through them. We should do well to think as we say them. The kingdom and the power and the glory are God's, not ours.
Many of us thought the whole kingdom ours, or thought it should be. Many of us thought the power ours, and abused such power as we had. Or we thought the power should be ours, and WE kicked at everything when we found it was not. We finally kicked ourselves down. And many of us, all too may of us, thought the glory ours. Big shots. Important guys. Bigger than our neighbors. Bigger than God. Spoiled children when no one else agreed with our notions.
Now, the sin that the Bible talks about is the sin of imagining ourselves bigger than God. We start by imagining ourselves bigger than any other person. We insist on running everything our own way, regardless of the rules that men have found necessary throughout civilized life. We went from the great sin to the deadly sins and thence to the gutter. We fount it hard to learn, and some of us find it is easy to unlearn.
When the bad days are gone and good days come again, some of us forget the lessons of those evil days. Old yearnings stir up in us. Pride awakens, with perhaps an extra urge to wipe out the memory of the bad days and to show the world that we are great. Some want power in business, some in politics, some in AA, some elsewhere. Some of us want others to bow to us, to admit our power and our glory. Some of us go so far as to act on these urges. The result is trouble. Eventually, it is the same old trouble. We have seen it happen many times, sometimes with men quite old in AA.
The kingdom and the power and the glory are God's not ours. The wise man yields first place to God. The wise man avoids seeking advantage over others, or even seeking equal place with others. The wise man keeps himself on a leash and thus gains peace. The wise man is humble.
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