Powerlessness is not hopelessness. To admit I am powerless is the exact opposite of admitting I am hopeless. By acknowledging that I am not in control of people (those I love and those I can’t stand), places (even this fragile earth, our island home), things (situations in the world and anxieties within myself,) then I am free to find the real source of power.
The real source of power is our Higher Power. God. Love. The Ground of Being. Jesus Christ.
By admitting my powerlessness, God’s power can open my heart to the hope—and the certainty—that God will take over.
How do I actually make the trade? How do I actually swap my powerlessness for God’s power?
When I was worried about a loved one who was drinking himself to death I wailed to my sponsor, “And there’s nothing I can do!” she replied, “Of course there’s something you can do: you can always pray.”
So it comes down to prayer.
And how does one pray? When the disciples asked Jesus, he taught them the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven…,”a simple, beautiful, complete prayer of praise, petition and thanksgiving.
Then there is the Jesus Prayer from the Orthodox tradition: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Or the Third Step prayer, “God, I offer myself to thee…”; the Seventh Step prayer, “I pray that you now remove from me…”; the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace…”
There are Anne Lamott’s three essential prayers: “Help! Thanks! Wow!”
And then there is the continuous living prayer, the breathing in and out of God’s mercy and love into us and out of us. There is prayer in the recognition of beauty or kindness and the gratitude that comes with it. There are the foxhole prayers and promises.
There are the under-breath muttered conversations with God. “Here I go again, God, please get me out of this selfish place…” and “God help me, I have to clean the smelly litter box again…oh that’s right, thank you for the joy that the kitty brings to us.”
When I was newly sober, I stood at water’s edge and shouted out over the lake and to the woods beyond, “God, I don’t know what you’re saying. I can’t understand your messages. Please give me sky-writing!” And later when I told my sponsor what I had done, she replied, “Yes! That’s how to pray! Open your mouth and tell God what’s on your mind. Use as much emotion as you need to. God can take it! And then, do the next right thing. And if you’re unsure what that is, just do nothing and breathe. That’s enough.” And I can picture those words written in clouds and read them again and again.
So by admitting my powerlessness, I open my heart to the power of God, of love, of eternal goodness. I am not alone. I know what my next step is. I am filled with hope.