Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Scripture for Sunday: Mark 1:32-39
32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Notes on the Text:
We have recently (during Lent) looked at this story but today we look at it through the lens of AA’s Step 11 which is a challenge and an invitation to seek wisdom through knowing God intimately in prayer and meditation. We have to remember that Step 11 was written way before meditation was as well-known and popular as it is today. This was not an invitation to learn about God, but to spend time with God and to know God in a deeper way than just with our intellects.
The words that really speak to me in this step are “conscious contact.” We may have moments of awe in our lives where the mystery of God grips us, but to be intentional about prayer and meditation improves our conscious contact with God and takes discipline and practice. Jesus modeled this kind of intentionality for us. He knew that a conscious contact was not going to happen by accident and if he only focused on action in ministry. Preaching, teaching, healing, and challenging the systems of the world needed to be grounded in his deep connection to God. Even though he had the Spirit of God in him in a special way, he did not take his prayer life for granted. Jesus knew the destructive power of our human egos and how it often hinders us from being free to know God’s love and to share it in the world. Jesus offered an alternative way of being in the world. The peace he offered was not like the peace the Roman government and the popular culture offered. That was why he knew that connecting to reality through the Spirit of God needed intentional times of prayer and meditation.
We often hear the simple phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?” This is supposed to
help us gain a different perspective, but the problem is that we try to use our mental and ego tools to get the answers. This often leads us to block ourselves from hearing the voice of God’s wisdom. A different kind of listening needs to happen before we are able to know God’s will. Jesus knew the value of deepening one’s prayer life and taking the time to get away from the crowds and all the ego stuff of life. That was what kept him grounded and focused on his purpose in life. He invited the disciples to do the same thing. He showed them the way.
As we ponder Step 11 and the example of Jesus of contemplation, we are invited to look at our lives and see where we practice this kind of prayer and meditation. Do you take time each day to pray and meditate? There are many ways to meditate: Mindful walking, Centering Prayer, reflecting on scripture (Lectio Divina), breath prayer, journaling, mindful coloring or painting, body prayer, listening to meditative music, etc. Find a practice that connects with you and try it for a month. Remember that this is of critical importance for our wellbeing and for the transformation of the world. If you really want to be free from anxiety, fear, anger, hate, and control, you need to use the resources of the soul where God dwells.
In his book Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr talks about the importance of meditation and prayer not just to help us feel peaceful but to really allow a different kind of knowledge of reality to emerge in us. He writes, “the word meditation, is a code word for an entirely different way of processing life. When you ‘pray,’ you are supposed to take off one ‘thinking cap’ and put on another ‘thinking cap’ that will move you from an egocentric perspective to a soul-centric perspective…I call the first perspective ‘the calculating mind,’ and I call the second perspective ‘the contemplative mind.’”
Differences between “The Calculating Mind” and “The Contemplative Mind” are at the heart of much of our struggles. Rohr writes that, “The first mind sees everything through the lens of its own private needs and hurts, angers and memories. It is too small a lens to see truthfully, wisely, or deeply. The contemplative mind is an alternative processing system that is actually a positive widening of your lens for a better picture. It is hard work to learn how to pray this way, largely the work of emptying the mind and filling the heart.”
Throughout history the people who have made the greatest difference for good in the world have been people who knew the value of improving their conscious contact with God (or a higher power). The people who have led great movements of social change through nonviolent means were people grounded in practices of prayer and meditation.
Prayer by Wilfred Arlan Peterson:
Slow me down, God.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace.
Give me, amidst the day’s confusion
the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art
of taking minute vacations….
slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to read a few lines from a good book.
of the fable of the hare and the tortoise;
that the race is not always to the swift;
that there is more to life than measuring its speed.
Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak
and know that … it grew slowly … and well.
to send my own roots down deep…
into the soil of life’s endearing values…
That I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Slow me down, God. Amen.