01/6/17

The Serenity Prayer and A.A.

Alcoholics Anonymous and the Serenity Prayer are forever bound together. The prayer originated with the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, but its dissemination within the wider culture occurred through A.A. So there are two distinct historical threads that can be followed in tracing the history and use of the prayer. One thread follows its presence through A.A. itself and another traces its origins with Niebuhr. This article will concentrate on the A.A. connection, while another one, “Reinhold Niebuhr and the Serenity Prayer,” will trace its origins with Niebuhr.

Pass It On is the A.A. approved history of Bill W. and how the message of A.A. reached the world. It described how one of its members saw the prayer in an obituary of an early June 1941 edition of a New York paper, the Herald-Tribune. Pass It On quoted it as existing then in its commonly received form: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” An A.A. member had the idea to print the prayer on cards and paid for that first printing out of his own pocket.

It was initially referred to as: “the A.A. prayer” or “God grant us” by A.A. members. But by the late 1940s, it became known as the Serenity Prayer. Nell Wing, the first A.A. Archivist and a secretary to Bill W., wrote “Origin of the Serenity Prayer: A Historical Paper” in 1981. She quoted from a June 12, 1941 letter written by Ruth Hock, the A.A. secretary at that time, to an A.A. member and a printer by trade about getting the prayer printed on a wallet-sized card. He responded:

Your cards are on the way and my congratulations to the man who discovered that in the paper. I can’t recall any sentence that packs quite the wallop that that does and during the day shown it to the A.A.’s that dropped in and in each case have been asked for copies.

In the January 1950 edition of the AA Grapevine, an article appeared that “solved” the mystery of the origins of the Serenity Prayer. Although its origin had been previously attributed to several different sources, the article said it originated with Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr. He was said to have written it around 1932 as the ending of a longer prayer. In 1934 a friend asked Niebuhr’s permission to use the shorter section in a compilation of prayers he was making at the time. Niebuhr was quoted as saying: “Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don’t think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself.”

According to the AA Grapevine article, the original form of the prayer, as written by Niebuhr was: “God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be changed; Give me courage to change things which must be changed; And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.” The article said Dr. Neibuhr didn’t mind the changes from his original rendering of the prayer, saying: “In some respects, I believe your way is better.”

Nell Wing’s article reviewed the variety of supposed original sources for the Serenity Prayer, which included: St. Francis of Assisi, the early Greeks or Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and even ancient Sanskrit writings. Research done by a German member of A.A. Peter T., attributed the first written form of the prayer to a Roman statesman and Christian philosopher named Boethius (480-524). Nell added in a footnote:

While this is a fascinating story in its own right and appears to correct a long-standing misconception, Boethius’ connection with the prayer remains unclear and haunting! What were his thoughts and ideas that so affected succeeding generations of religious dissidents?

Boethius was born in Rome and educated in Athens and Alexandria. In 510 he became a Consul under Emperor Theodoric. He was accused of treasonable dealings with the emperor in Constantinople, imprisoned and eventually beheaded. While in prison he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, his most influential work and that from which Peter T. said the first form of the Serenity Prayer appeared. His commentaries on Aristotle became a major source of knowledge of Platonic and Aristotelian ideas in the Middle Ages. More information on Boethius can be found in: New Dictionary of Theology; and Classical Pastoral Care, Volume 4: Crisis Ministries. You can also read this article on him by Carl Trueman: “Boethius: The Philosopher Theologian.”

In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill W. said when he first saw the Serenity Prayer on that day in June of 1941, “Never had we seen so much A.A. in so few words.” After the cards were printed up, A.A. included one in every piece of correspondence they sent out. This continued for several years, and the Serenity Prayer rapidly came into general use within A.A. After reiterating the possible origins of the prayer, Bill said: “Anyhow, we have the prayer and it is said thousands of times daily. We count its writer among our great benefactors.” Over 950 references have been made to the Serenity Prayer in the AA Grapevine since its first issue in 1944.

What is it about this prayer that gives it so much value for A.A.? Bill W. unpacked its usefulness in his article for the March 1962 issue of the AA Grapevine, “What is Acceptance?” This article is also available in the A.A. published selection of Bill W.’s Grapevine writings, The Language of the Heart. Bill said one of the ways to get at the meaning of the principle of acceptance is to meditate on it within the context of the Serenity Prayer. Essentially it is asking for the resources of grace by which we can make spiritual progress. Emphasized within the prayer is the need for wisdom that discriminates between the possible and the impossible.

Sometimes we need the right kind of acceptance for each day. Other times we need to develop acceptance for what will come in the future. Yet again, we may have to accept a situation that will never change. Then there are misuses of acceptance. “It can be warped to justify nearly every brand of weakness, nonsense and folly.” We can “accept” failure as a chronic condition without failure or remedy. We can pridefully “accept” worldly success as something we did ourselves.

This is why we treasure our “Serenity Prayer” so much. It brings a new light to us that can dissipate our old-time and nearly fatal habit of fooling ourselves. In the radiance of this prayer we see that defeat, rightly accepted, need be no disaster. We now know that we do not have to run away, nor ought we again try to overcome adversity by still another bull-dozing power drive that can only push up obstacles before us faster than they can be taken down. . . .Therefore our very first problem is to accept our present circumstances as they are, ourselves as we are, and the people about us as they are. This is to adopt a realistic humility without which no genuine advance can even begin. Again and again, we shall need to return to that unflattering point of departure. This is an exercise in acceptance that we can profitably practice every day of our lives. Provided we strenuously avoid turning these realistic surveys of the facts of life into unrealistic alibis for apathy or defeatism, they can be the sure foundation upon which increased emotional health and therefore spiritual progress can be built. At least this seems to be my own experience.

I’ve read an article that sees the Serenity Prayer as creating an either/or, black-and-white dichotomy, “as if all of the situations and challenges that a person in recovery is confronted by can be neatly placed into one or the other bucket.” But I don’t see Bill W. using the Serenity Prayer as a black-and-white dichotomy. He said it emphasizes the need for wisdom to discriminate between the possible and impossible. He also said there can be misuses of acceptance—when it is used to justify “weakness, nonsense and folly.” The goal of acceptance in the Serenity Prayer, at least for Bill W. and A.A., is to have humility; to avoid turning a realistic assessment of the situation into an alibi or excuse for apathy or defeatism.

06/1/15

The God of the Preachers

© Soul by Lom | stockfresh.com

© Soul by Lom | stockfresh.com

On December 11, 1934, a thirty-nine- year-old man named Bill was admitted to the hospital for the fourth time in fifteen months because of his alcoholism. As the withdrawal effects of alcohol wore away, a former drinking buddy, Ebby, came to visit. At the time, Ebby was in the midst of an extended period of abstinence. He had looked up Bill a month previously to renew their friendship and to tell him about his abstinence. Bill noticed the difference in Ebby immediately because he refused the offer of a drink. When Bill asked him what had happened, Ebby said, “I’ve got religion.”

Ebby then told Bill how he’d almost landed in prison, but had his own encounter with a few men from the Oxford Group who became sober by practicing its principles. Ebby said he gave the program a try and it worked for him. He stopped drinking. Bill wanted the sobriety Ebby had, but he couldn’t believe in the God Ebby talked about. After Ebby left his hospital room, Bill fell back into a deep depression. Ahead of him, he saw only madness and death. Science, the only god he had at the time, had declared him hopeless. Without faith or hope, he cried, “If there be a God, let Him show Himself!”

Suddenly his room was filled with a white light. He was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. Every joy he had known was pale by comparison. Then, seen in the mind’s eye, there was a mountain. I stood upon its summit, where a great wind blew. A wind, not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength, it blew right through me. Then came the blazing thought, “You are a free man.” . . . . “This,” I thought, “must be the great reality, the God of the preachers.” (From the A.A. conference approved book, Pass It On, pp. 111-125)

This man was Bill Wilson, one of the cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous. As he retold this spiritual experience in the years to come, he’d add that never again did he doubt the existence of God. He also never took another drink.

When Ebby returned for another visit, he wasn’t sure what to say about Bill’s experience. Ebby himself had neither stood on a mountaintop nor had he seen a bright light when he stopped drinking. But he did give Bill a book that others suggested might help him begin making sense of his encounter with the “God of the preachers.” That book was The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Bill started reading it the moment Ebby left his hospital room.

Bill said he gleaned three principles from reading William James. First, spiritual experiences like his were the product of utter desperation when all human resources have failed to solve the problem. Second, this experience involved the open admission of that defeat. The person admitted his own defeat as utter and absolute. Third, there was an appeal to a “Higher Power” that could take many forms, “and it might or might not be in religious terms.” From his initial reading of James, Bill was exposed to the idea that a spiritual experience was not necessarily a religious one, that spirituality was not necessarily religion, and that a Higher Power did not have to be the God of the preachers. This distinction became a cornerstone expression of what was to become the spiritual (but pointedly not religious) program called Alcoholics Anonymous.

When Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book” from which the movement took its name) was first published in 1939, chapter one told “Bill’s Story” of how he first became sober. Interestingly, he did not retell his so-called “hot flash” encounter with the God of the preachers. Bill related Ebby’s assertion that he was sober through religion, and that he’d come to pass his experience on to Bill—if Bill cared to have it. As Bill recounted his personal struggles with religion in the Big Book he wrote, “I had always believed in a Power greater than myself.” Despite the “living example” of Ebby before him, Bill said, “The word God still aroused a certain antipathy.”

Ebby suggested that Bill choose his own conception of God. The suggestion hit him hard, melting his “icy intellectual mountain” of doubts. “It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.” This ability to imagine God to be whatever an individual has imagined Him to be has remained a hallmark of the spiritual worldview of A.A. In a 1949 address before the American Psychiatric Association, Bill Wilson explicitly stated that A.A. was not a religious organization because it had no dogma. He also stated that the only theological proposition—of a Power greater than one’s self—would not be forced on anyone.

In 1961, Wilson wrote in the AA Grapevine, “Our concepts of a Higher Power and God—as we understand Him—afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action.” He suggested that this was perhaps the most important expression to be found in the entire vocabulary of A.A. Every kind and degree of faith, together with the assurance that each person could choose his or her own version of it, opened a door “over whose threshold the unbeliever can take his first easy step into the realm of faith.” (“The Dilemma of No Faith,” AA Grapevine, April 1961. The AA Grapevine is the international journal of Alcoholics Anonymous)

This remains true today in AA. The December 2006 edition of the AA Grapevine has an article by a Muslim member of A.A. who was fearful that while sobering up, he would be “transformed into a Christian through osmosis.” He reported that nothing could have been further from the truth. “As a Muslim AA member who received a miraculous spiritual awakening in an Anglican Church basement, I am eternally grateful to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.” (“Along Spiritual Lines,” AA Grapevine, December 2006).

When I first read of Wilson’s encounter with the “God of the preachers,” I wondered what difference it would have made if Ebby had brought Bill a copy of the Bible instead of The Varieties of Religious Experience (VRE). But now it seems to me that it would have made little difference in the eventual formulation of spiritual experience in the Twelve Steps. Although the distinction between ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ found in VRE seems to have been popularized within the Twelve Steps of A.A., non-alcoholics also read VRE, and the ideas they found there resonated with an emerging spiritual, but not religious sense of God and how we relate to Him.

This is the third of three related articles (What Does Religious Mean?, Spiritual not Religious Experience, The God of the Preachers) that more fully describes some of the influences I believe helped to shape the spiritual, but not religious distinction of 12 Step recovery.

03/6/15

One Day at a Time

© Field of tiger lilies by elwynn | stockfresh.com

© Field of tiger lilies by elwynn | stockfresh.com

“There may be greater sins than worry, but very certainly there is no more disabling sin.”  (William Barclay)

In his book Running Scared, Ed Welch pointed out how many psychiatric conditions have to do with fear. There was a time, he said, when you were either psychotic or neurotic. “Psychotic meant that your were out of touch with reality and afraid; neurotic meant that you were in touch with reality and afraid.” Today there are many more shades of fear and anxiety. Within the DSM-5, there are 22 distinctly coded conditions just within the section on Anxiety Disorders.

Welch observed how various medications or psychological treatments, such as systematic desensitization, focus on thinking or bodily responses to fear and anxiety. But he suspected there was a deeper reality to our fears and worries. “Listen to your fears and you hear them speak about things that have personal meaning to you. They appear to be attached to things we value.” So to understand fear and anxiety, we have to look at ourselves, and the way we interpret our situations.

Within the short space of nine verses in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34), there are three commands for us to not be anxious. We are encouraged to not be anxious about our life or about our future. Jesus underlines the pointlessness of anxiety here, while providing good reasons for trusting God. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament put it this way: “Worry is unnecessary. God has lifted it from man.”

There are also three “therefores” that initiated those commands, whose purpose was to connect the paragraph or passage to what was just said. So the command to not be anxious about our life in verse 25 connects back to what Jesus said in verse 24: “You cannot serve two masters”—God and money. Verse 31’s “therefore”—don’t be anxious about what to eat, drink or wear—proceeds from the discussion in verses 26 through 30 about how God provides for the birds, flowers and grasses.

Look at how God provides for the insignificant things of his creation. The birds never go hungry or thirsty—yet they cannot sow, reap or gather into barns. The wild flowers, which cannot clothe themselves in finery, are more beautiful than King Solomon in all his glory. If God is careful to provide for them, will He not do much more for you? “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”

These worries are what drive the “Gentiles,” those who don’t know or trust in God. When you are anxious, you are forgetting the one whom you serve. Robert Mounce said in his commentary on Matthew: “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” Verse 33 is then the climax of the passage: our first priority should be to seek out the kingdom of God and his righteousness. As Craig Blomberg said: “When priorities regarding treasures in heaven and on earth are right, God will provide for fundamental human needs.”

Worry does not accomplish anything. Anxiety is futile. It cannot add a single hour to your life. The future we try to provide for is not in our hands. “Whatever happens will be under God’s control.”

The final “therefore” then leads us to the logical inference from previous ones. If we aren’t to be anxious about our life, what we are to eat, wear or drink, then we aren’t to be anxious about the future. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In other words, live one day at a time.

This advice is heavily steeped within the culture and life of recovery. An early AA Grapevine article  (“Yesterday … Today and Tomorrow,” July 1942, vol.2, no. 2) commented that it was not the experience of today that drove people mad. Rather, it was remorse for something that happened yesterday and the dread of what will come tomorrow. “Let us, therefore live but one day at a time.” In “Garden Variety” Sara S. said she was a garden-variety alcoholic. “I know that one day at a time my life is becoming all that God intended it to be.” J. S. R. of Philadelphia commented in “Sidebar,” published in the October 1954 (vol. 11, no. 5) issue:

When I decided to stay sober one day at a time, I had no idea what an impact this would have on my life. As time progresses it becomes obvious that I live one day at a time. This is a very great consolation. No longer do I project bridges into the future, nor am I particularly concerned about yesterday. I do concern myself about today’s effort and sometimes it isn’t a very pretty picture; however, with proper training along simple lines as advocated in the very essence of AA, I have no fear.

Leon Morris observed that when an individual lives one day at a time, they defeat anxiety. A shallow thinker might conclude from Matthew 6:33 (But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.) that a believer will have a smooth path through life. But that is not what Jesus is saying. All people have trouble. But there is “all the difference in the world between facing the problems we meet with firm faith in our heavenly Father and facing them with anxiety.”

This series is dedicated to the memory of Audrey Conn, whose questions reminded me of my intention in seminary to look at the various ways the Sermon on the Mount applies to Alcoholics Anonymous and recovery. If you’re interested in more, look under the category link “Sermon on the Mount.”

11/21/14

Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

Back in the 1980s, Come to the Quiet by John Michael Talbot was one of my favorite cassette tapes. And his version of the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” was one of my favorite songs on the tape. When I decided to write on the connection of the Peace Prayer to Alcoholics Anonymous, I discovered that John Michael Talbot is still around, making music and doing an evangelistic ministry. His look has changed. Now he sports a very long white and grey beard. Think ZZ Top and John the Baptist rolled into one.

The origins of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis are actually in 20th century France, not the writings of Francis of Assisi. In 1912 it appeared anonymously in a small French magazine, La Clochette (The Little Bell), published by a French priest, Father Esther Bouquerl. In 1915, it was sent to Pope Benedict XV and published the following year in the Vatican’s daily newspaper.  Around 1920, it was printed on the back of an image of St. Francis and titled “Prayer for Peace.” It was first attributed to St. Francis in 1927 by a French Protestant movement, The Knights of the Prince of Peace.

The first known English translation was in a 1936 book by Kirby Page titled: Living Courageously. Kirby was a Disciple of Christ minister and the editor of a pacifist magazine called “The World Tomorrow;” not to be confused with the long running radio and television program by Herbert W. Armstrong or the more recent 2012 political talk show hosted by Julian Assange.  Page clearly and specifically attributed the origins of the “Peace Prayer” to St. Francis of Assisi. During World War II and afterwards, it had a wide circulation as the “Prayer of St. Francis” especially through the books of Francis Spellman, who became the archbishop of New York City in 1939, the year the A.A. Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published. A.A.’s headquarters and Bill W., cofounder of A.A., were both in NYC.

In a December 1952 article for the AA Grapevine, Bill W. presented Francis of Assisi as an example of an individual who was able to practice “the spirit of Christmas” every day of the year. Bill thought that regardless of what an individual may call it, “the spirit of Christmas is in us all.” After describing the life of Francis and the vision Francis had after he “hit bottom” during a long illness, Bill presented the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” as “the prayer he [Francis] so often spoke.” Bill then concluded his reflections stating that Francis left us a clear example of how to live our lives: “Freely ye have received; Freely give.”

When Bill W. wrote the essay for “Step Eleven” in the A.A. book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, he suggested it as a beginning for those trying to apply the meditation and prayer to recovery that the Eleventh Step encouraged. The Eleventh Step reads: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” Within A.A., the Peace Prayer has become known as “the Eleventh Step Prayer.” In 1958, Bill wrote the “Prayer of St. Francis” in the AA Grapevine and described how he used Peace Prayer to overcome depression. He said:

Of course, I haven’t offered you a really new idea–only a gimmick [the Peace Prayer] that has started to unhook several of my own “hexes” at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.

A final indication of the importance of the Peace Prayer to Bill was that it was recited in a private memorial service when he died. And it was credited in Pass It On to be his favorite prayer. Here it is:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Although Bill saw the Peace Prayer as applying to individuals of any faith background, to do so, the “Lord” and “Divine Master” of the prayer will have to be seen in the generic sense of God as we understood Him. Yet the Christian sense of who was “Lord” in the prayer was never in doubt. Even from its own anonymous beginnings it was referring to Jesus Christ. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)”

Even if we look to the Peace Prayer as a blueprint to how all people should treat one another as Bill W. did, it elaborates the second greatest commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). And when someone who does not confess Jesus as Lord still tries to live out the truth of the Peace Prayer in his or her life, we can say as Jesus did to the scribe in the Mark 12 passage, “You are not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34)”

10/3/14

A Daily Reprieve

Our Father who art in heaven, (help me not to take a drink today), Hallowed be thy name, (yes, let your name be thrice hallowed for the sobriety you have given me.) Thy kingdom come, (my part in your kingdom is sobriety), Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, (for me, let your will be that I do not drink today),Give us this day our daily bread, (your bread is your good will to me, an alcoholic), And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, (we are forgiven only if we forgive others as our inventory shows), Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (my chief evil is the use of booze), (Keep me sober today), Amen.

The above paragraph was from “Grass Roots Opinion,” an article in the January 1952 edition of the Grapevine, the journal for Alcoholics Anonymous. A previous post, “Our Pappa Who Art in Heaven,” reflected on honoring God and His kingdom in the first part of the Lord’s Prayer. In what follows, we petition the Lord for our daily needs: bread, debt forgiveness, and protection from temptation.

Give us this day our daily bread.” Biblical scholars have had a lot to say about the Greek word usually translated “daily” in the Lord’s Prayer, epiousios. This is often the case when there is only one occurrence of the word in the New Testament, as with the word here. Werner Forester, in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, suggested that the meaning of the phrase “daily bread” is adequately given as: “The bread which we need, give us to-day (day by day).”

In Alcoholics Anonymous Bill W. wrote that the alcoholic is never cured of alcoholism. “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.” This is also the spiritual condition of the believer in Christ. In this life, we are never “cured” of sin. Yet we may have a daily reprieve when we ask daily how we can best serve God: “Thy will (not mine) be done.”

A little further on in Matthew 6, Jesus elaborates on how we should not be anxious about our daily life—what we eat, drink or wear: “Your heavenly father knows you need them all,” so take one day at a time (Matthew 6:32, 34). Verse 6:34 actually says: “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”, but the paraphrase “one day at a time,” commonly heard in 12 Step recovery, clearly fits in both verses, 6:11 and 6:34.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The word translated as debt here refers to a moral obligation or sin, as the Lord’s Prayer is given in Luke 11:4, “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Whether sin or debt, the principle here is that our forgiveness by God is correlated to how we forgive others. Verses 14-15 repeat the thinking of verse 12 and add the negative consequences of failing to forgive others, your Father will not forgive you.

Unforgiveness in recovery is understood as holding on to resentment. Alcoholics Anonymous, the A.A. Big Book, says that resentment, “destroys more alcoholics than anything else. . . . It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. . . . We found that it is fatal. . . . If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.” The people who wronged us were spiritually sick—like we were. So we asked God to help us show them tolerance, pity and patience. “God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  God does not tempt us, as James 1:13 teaches, so the original meaning here was more like “don’t allow us to succumb to temptation” or “don’t abandon us to temptation.” The parallelism of the second clause here—deliver us from evil—reinforces the sense that we are pleading for God to protect us from temptation.

There is a dispute as to whether or not the Greek word for “evil” here should be translated “the evil one” (the devil) or just plain old impersonal “evil.” Either one is grammatically possible. But functionally, the point is moot. Whether there is an “evil one” or simply just “evil” we need God to keep us from it. There is also something to be said for sometimes praying to be delivered from “evil” and at other times praying to be delivered from the “evil one.”

The struggle of resisting temptation to sin or to drink and/or use drugs can often feel experientially like we struggle against a personality; an evil one. There is a malevolent force that plots against us; a roaring lion who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). If we submit ourselves to God and resist the evil one, he will flee from us (James 4:7).

I was intrigued to discover that in the second issue of the Grapevine, July of 1944, was a recommendation for other A.A. members to read the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. “Readers will laugh at the shrewd portrayal of soft spots, alibis and rationalizations suggested by Screwtape in the battle between His Father, Satan, and The Enemy, God.”  Both A.A.s and followers of Christ can relate to the battle illustrated there.

Please Lord. Deliver us this day from the evil one—whether that is alcohol or another drug; Satan or our own evil desires.

Where in your life are you in need of a reprieve?

This series is dedicated to the memory of Audrey Conn, whose questions reminded me of my intention in seminary to look at the various ways the Sermon on the Mount applies to Alcoholics Anonymous and recovery. If you’re interested in more, look under the category link “Sermon on the Mount.”