New Light on the Twelve Steps
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry it out…
I am changing. I began these steps in deep anger, humiliation and despair. I had disgraced myself with addiction, a lost business and financial ruin, and an eventual divorce. What credibility I once had as a Christian to those around me was destroyed. Family and friends could only shake their heads when they inquired about me. I was a vacuum of need and had exhausted them all.
Surely God was rightfully angry with me. Either the man I was–hound to evil–had to die, or I would die. God and I were both stuck. He was stuck with me because of the blood of Jesus and His faithfulness to His own nature, and I was stuck with Him because there was nowhere else to go.
Powerless over the power of sin, I was ready to take the first step by admitting I was powerless. I came to see this as a fact of my vessethood, not some big humiliation concession I had to make to get help. Surrendering my life and will to God as I understood Him led me to Steps 4-5. He began to systematically break down my self-centeredness and futile self-effort. I had allowed Satan to use my resentments towards others to justify a multitude of sinful retaliations and compensations. I had allowed Satan to misuse my fears by believing his lies about God, thus withholding myself from God. In an inventory of my sexual history, I saw how Satan had misused my God-given desires.
In Steps 6-7 I saw how my wrong believing and behavior patterns were the fruit of the core "seven deadly sins," and only God could remove them. In steps 8-9 I experienced a significant reduction in the degree of shame in my life, by being able to own and make amends for some of the sins I have committed against others. Step 10 is an attitude of openness toward God that will keep me responsive to what-ever area He wants to work on next as well as hold on to what He has brought me to so far.
This brings me to Step 11: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God…." When I became a Christian, I prayed a lot. Our church encouraged morning devotions, so I got up at 5:30 am. and prayed for an hour every day. We had open prayer times at all meetings where any of us could pray aloud for whatever we wanted. We had intercessory prayer meetings on Friday nights where we prayed for hours in a room over a laundromat. On occasion, there were even times of all-night prayer and fasting. Even though I didn’t know what I was saying most of the time, I also prayed in tongues because the Apostle Paul said, "I pray in tongues more than you all." There was also much devotional and practical study of the Bible.
All this was "conscious contact with God" as I understood him. But a lot of it was fervent self-effort. I was still seeing God "out there somewhere" in a high and remote place, as someone who needed to be begged to act on behalf of myself and others. I still had to live life down here under my own power, with occasional guidance from Him now and then. My assurance of contact with Him was measured by the degree of mystical ecstasy I felt when praying — no ecstasy, no getting through. If I felt low, I needed more "juice" from the laying on of hands or a word of prophesy. However, I still despised myself and had a growing resentment towards God for not making me a better man.
But God had changed me into a better man. By joining Himself to me, He had given me a whole new nature: Jesus Christ living as John Shank. My dignity could not possibly have come from my old nature because it was the nature of Satan living as John Shank. My problem was that even though I had become a Christian and Satan had no place in my human spirit any more, I was still seeing God and myself in the old way, from Satan’s perspective. Satan is apart from God, but I am joined to Him.
Do I still pray? Yes, but my understanding of it has changed. I no longer see prayer as a spiritual activity or state of consciousness apart from the rest of my life. In the past I might have prayed, "Oh, Lord, strengthen Joe that he may be able to confront his wife about her drinking. Give him light and courage." Now I see that since I am Christ in my form, my desire is to be Christ to Joe. Christ by me sees the problem and will speak to Joe myself, wrestle with his doubts and fears with him, encourage him, and show him how to be Christ to his wife, if he is a Christian, or how he needs to become one so he can.
As far as praying for my own needs, God will take care of them–I am about my Father’s business. When I am tempted, I am learning to speak to the temptation from the standpoint of what Christ would do, by saying what He would do is what the real me wants to do, even if I don’t feel like I can. Then I must go ahead and do it. I am also learning to seek the counsel of other believers to be open to the guidance and correction of Christ through them.
My boast is in the Lord; I know for an absolute fact that what health and recovery I now have is entirely because of Him. It is Christ as me who is doing what is right. Satan by me was angry and terrified at every step, and at times was able to convince me that I was unwilling and unable to go on. But Christ has prevailed through others and by me. By removing so many distortions and lies from my perception of God, I can now see so very much more clearly that whatever He gives, He gives out of His goodness. Whatever He takes away, He takes away out of His goodness, only to replace it with something better.
In "…praying only for the knowledge of His will…," I now know His will is not only right and good, but the only way to go. And in praying "…for the strength to carry it out," I know that the One who has brought me this far can get me the rest of the way, as well. My whole purpose in life now is really His purpose–to be for someone else. And this makes me glad.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 12 No 1
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Weekend in New York 1995
- The Letter to the Romans
- The Mailbox
- God’s Promises
- A Look at a Book
- Questions & Answers
- The Walk Through The Bible
- God’s Wonderful Plan
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- Excerpt from After C.T. Studd
- Tape Talk
- Words to Live By