Can you talk to God?

AA Spirituality…  Can You Talk to God? 


Do you have God in your life?

Many people talk about having a ‘spirituality’ in their life… 

but tend to avoid talking about God.

I’m not sure what a  ‘spiritual life’ looks like without some reference to God.

I. Some Questions

Some questions for reflection:

or no feelings at all?

Let’s take a look at God in people’s life.

II Some Thots about God

From where do we get our image of God? 

I would suggest that whatever image of God a family has,

their child will be influenced by that image.

What did you learn from your family about God?

Does this influence how you think about your God now?

If your family or parent never talked about God or prayed to God, you will probably find it hard to have a God.

Some churches believe in a God of wrath and they become wrathful in their preaching.

Some churches believe in a God who is indifferent to the world and to us. 

We can become indifferent to God and think of God as far away and not part of their life.

Some churches believe in a God of laws who is stern toward those who break these laws… 

We then can become stern towards others, especially towards those who break God’s laws.

Some image God as a puppeteer, or the potentate, or a persecutor. 

This will influence our image of God in our spiritual life.

In the long light of human history it is not belief in God that sets us apart.

It is the kind of God in which we choose to believe. 

In the end this makes all the difference

We grow in the image of the God that we have.

A recent study of American teens who believe in God describes what they believe:

Religion in this belief system is about being a good person – 

being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible… 

and working on self-improvement.  

Religion is about feeling good, happy, secure, and at peace – 

being able to resolve problems… 

and getting along with other people.  

Most of the times, the God of this religion keeps a safe distance, 

is not too demanding, 

always on call, 

takes care of problems that arise, 

and helps people feel good about themselves.

A secular society such as ours treats religion and religious ideas as personal beliefs 

that have no place in the public square – in politics, in law or in education. 

Many times religion is thought to poison society and its values. 

Religion belongs in one’s personal life only. 

‘Talk about God’ has no place in our secular world.

Of course religions would beg to differ with this opinion. 

They would teach that the moral consequences of belief in God 

can and should affect what happens in society, whatever our teaching about God.

Archbishop Elias Chacour Akko, a Palestinian Christian Arab and citizen of Israel said

I invite you, never condemn anyone good or bad. There is evil in every nation and in every human being. 

There is also good. Choose what to enhance. There is good and it is stronger than evil.

We are called to become God-like, not to be our size. 

We must set God free from our concepts and poor understanding. God is great.

America Magazine, Nov 6, 2006, P 48

III God and AA

I would like to look at what has been described as the most influential spiritual program that arose in the 20th century… Alcoholics Anonymous.

The ‘spiritual program’ of AA has God in it. 

There are 12 Steps in the AA Program. Steps Two and Three immediately speak about God. 

In Step One a person admits he or she is powerless over alcohol. They can’t stop drinking on their own power.

In Step Two the person comes to believe that a Power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity.

In Step Three the person makes a decision to turn their will and life over to the care of God as they understand Him.

 (BB, P 59)

There is a beautiful Third Step Prayer in the BB.  

Here’s the BB’s Third Step Prayer and how the BB introduces that prayer…

Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him

God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better to Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!. (BB, P 63)

This is talking to God. It could be described as a ‘prayer’. 

It is talking to God, as the person understands God. 

The questions I asked above can be asked here:

or no feelings at all?

IV AA, a Spiritual Program

As I said before, I believe that AA is a Spiritual Program with 12 Steps that place an alcoholic on a spiritual journey… 

or as some might say, a spiritual adventure… a journey to sobriety thru spiritual growth… 

I want to say several things about the journey to sobriety in AA.

I turn to one of my favorite spiritual writers, Richard Rohr, who describes the ‘fellowship’ of AA in  these words:

Fellowship is a kind of belonging that isn’t based on status, achievement, or gender, 

but instead is based on a deep belief that everyone matters, everyone is welcome, 

and everyone is loved, no conditions, no exceptions. 

It’s not the kind of belonging you find at the top of the ladder among those who think they are the best, 

but at the bottom among all the rest, with all the other failures and losers 

who have either climbed the ladder and fallen, 

or never gotten up enough gumption to climb in the first place…

So fellowship is for scarred people, and for scared people, 

and for people who want to believe but aren’t sure what or how to believe. 

When we come together just as we are, we begin to rise again, to believe again, to hope again, to live again.

(See ‘Fellowship for All’… R. Rohr, Daily Med, 1/28/22, underlining mine.)

In Chapter Four, PP 44 – 57, the BB addresses the Agnostic regarding AA’s belief in God. 

The agnostic has not been able to stop drinking under their own power. The BB enables the agnostic

… to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as moral. And it means, of course, that we are going to talk about God. (BB, Chapter 4, ‘We Agnostics’ , P 45)

The BB always puts God in the context of our experience. 

It points out that the alcoholic’s troubles are of their own making, especially because of the alcoholic’s ‘self-will run riot’. The alcoholic might not recognize this, but their selfishness and self-centeredness must be dealt with or it kills them. Then the BB says this:

God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God's help. (BB, P 62)

The BB then concludes:

This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal, we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. ( BB, P 62)

Notice here the images used to describe God… Director, Principal, Father

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it. (BB P 83)

It then gives a warning about our spiritual lives. After taking Step 10 the BB warns that we are not cured of our alcoholism. We must continue to grow spiritually.

Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee - Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. 

(BB, P 85)

The BB sees God and our spiritual life as critical parts of our recovery from alcoholism… 

I believe that God is unknowable, but approachable.

People in AA stand before God, 

the God who has entered their lives 

and begun the long process of transformation and reconstruction. 

Go to an AA meeting where an AA person tells his or her story.  

AA calls this a ‘lead’… 

The speaker tells what their life was like before AA, what happened, and what it’s like now.

The lead’ describes their suffering to those attending the meeting. 

No self-pity or selfish preoccupation. They are all in this together. 

It’s just as hard for everyone else… this reconstruction of their life. 

But everyone knows that God is with all of them.

The ‘Lead’ acknowledges that their world was broken… They were broken and could not heal themselves. 

One way or another, at some point, the ‘lead’ will talk about how they experienced God… 

how God touched them and they began to change.

They can come before their God with thanks and praise, petition, and love. 

They know these things because they have experienced God’s touch.

The BB says quite bluntly…

God is everything or He is nothing. God either is or He isn’t. What was our choice to be? (P 53)


In Section 2 of this conference we will look at Step Eleven…

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.

AA Spirituality… Can You Talk to God? Part 2


We have looked at the background of our ‘talking to God’.

Now let’s delve more deeply into our ‘talking to our Goid’.

V Your Experience of God

Now I would ask three questions regarding God…

VI Images of God

I’m going to turn now to some images of God that might help us to draw closer to the God of our understanding.

How do we understand God?

The BB uses a number of images of God… in Chapter 5, ‘How It Works’, the BB admonishes us to stop playing God. God is now our Director, our Principal, and our Father. ( P 62)

Other images of God…

The following I found in Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations,  July 28, 2019…

Mystics are people of prayer who draw close to God. Some of them write about their experiences. 

Sr. Theo Bowman is one such mystic. 

She says:

God is present in everything. In the universe, in creation, in me and all that happens to me, and  in my brothers and sisters…

As I list Sr. Bowman’s images of God, listen closely, and see if any of them appeal to you – help you grasp more fully the God of your understanding…

Like other mystics, Sr. Bowman found God everywhere, in all beings. She uses many images of God:

God is bread when you are hungry, water when you’re thirsty, a harbor from the storm. 

God is father to the fatherless, a mother to the motherless. 

God is my sister, my brother, my leader, my guide, 

my teacher, my comforter, my friend. 

God’s the way-maker and burden-bearer, a heart-fixer and a mind-regulator. 

God’s my doctor who never lost a patient, 

my lawyer who never lost a case, 

my captain who never lost a battle. 

God’s my all in all, my everything.

God’s my rock, my sword, my shield, 

my lily of the valley, my pearl of great price. 

God’s a god of peace and a god of war. 

Counselor, Emmanuel, Redeemer, Savior, 

Prince of Peace, Son of God, Mary’s little baby, wonderful Word of God.

These are many more images of God than the BB presents. 

These images come from Jewish and Christian Scriptures 

and from the meditations of Christians over the centuries.

Mystics from other world religions also share some of these images. . . . . 

I find many of these images helpful in my meditative prayer.

Do any of these images speak to you?

Do any of them describe how you experience or have experienced God?

At times I use other images when praying… 

I know that God is my heart-fixer and the doctor of my soul.

There is another image of the God which I have experienced in my prayer… 

this image is found in a poem by the deceased nun Sr. Jessica Powers.  

The image is of God as a ‘Repairer of Fences’… Here is the poem…

Repairer of Fences

I am alone in the dark, and I am thinking

what darkness would be mine if I could see

the ruin I wrought in every place I wandered

and if I could not be

aware of One who follows after me.

Whom do I love, O God, when I love Thee?

The great Undoer who has torn apart

the walls I built against a human heart,

the Mender who has sewn together the hedges

through which I broke when I went seeking ill,

the Love who follows and forgives me still.

Fumbler and fool that I am, with things around me

of fragile make like souls, 

how I am blessed

to hear behind me footsteps of a Savior!

I sing to the east; I sing to the lighted west:

God is my repairer of fences, turning my paths into rest.

Isaiah 58:12 (Douay)

This poem and image of God certainly speak to my regrets of the past… for which I seek forgiveness.

V Prayer and Meditation

Step Eleven in the BB 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.


I describe Prayer as our talking to God. In the BB Steps Three ( P 63) and Seven  ( P 73 ) have beautiful Prayers. 

These Prayers are our talking to God and asking for something… 

Prayers can also be thanksgiving and repentance (BB, P 86).

In his Twelve and Twelve Chapter on the Eleventh 

Bill says:

As the body can fail its purpose with lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God’s reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of AA life confirm this. (P 98)

In Twelve and Twelve Bill describes Prayer and then Meditation. 

When describing ‘Prayer’ Bill W  says it is “the raising of the mind and heart to God” – a very traditional description of prayer. (P. 102).

When describing Prayer I like Mother Theresa’s description… 

Prayer is making room for God in our heart… 

We make room for God alongside of all our worries, fears, angers, and resentments.

We take time away from our smart phones and ipads. 

Bill W mostly deals with what I would describe as Intercessory Prayer… asking for something…

Asking for God’s will is highlighted, along with asking for favors from God. 

We relax and clear our minds.

We might then use the 3rd Step Prayer or the 7th Step Prayer.  

When praying we might…

1) ask for something (Intercession), 

2) give thanks (Thanksgiving), 

3) say we’re sorry about something (Repent) or 

4) just praise God (Praise). 

These are the four traditional movements of Prayer… talking to God.

5.) We might also just talk to God, telling God what’s going on in our lives.


I would describe Meditation as our listening to God. 

Meditation is a little different than Prayer

Meditation is more listening to God. 

In Twelve and Twelve Bill W suggests quietly reflecting on the Prayer of St. Francis…    (See PP 99 – 100)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…

He suggests we…

Reread this prayer several times very slowly,

savoring every word 

and trying to take in the meaning of each phrase and idea. (P 99)

At this point I want to make several suggestions to develop Bill’s thought further…

Our Sacred Space

Before talking about Relaxing, I would like to describe some helpful aids to our prayer life…

Some Questions…

Questions # 1 Do you have a prayer space in your residence?

Many prayerful people find a ‘prayer space’ helpful. 

This could be anywhere that is quiet and perhaps a bit secluded in your residence. It might be a small table or a desk with a comfortable chair. On the table or desk, you might have a Bible, a Crucifix, a candle, a journal, a favorite spiritual book or any combination of these. It helps if the space is near a window which overlooks some pleasant scenery – not necessary, but helpful.

This is your ‘sacred space’ where you go to pray.

Question # 2 Do you have a prayer time?  

It helps if you have 15 to 30 minutes each day set aside for your prayer in your prayer space. Many people find this works for them. Be sure it’s a time when you are not too tired or worn out.

Question # 3 How do you begin your prayer?

If you come in from work or from a busy day, go to your prayer space, sit down and begin to pray… good luck.

My guess is that you will be distracted and find it hard to pray.

If you begin your prayer early in your day or late in the day, 

Here is an exercise I suggest before you begin your prayer time. 


To help us to meditate Bill suggests a method of relaxing…

We image ourselves…

As though lying upon a sunlit a beach, 

let us relax and breathe deeply 

of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. (P 100)

I want to describe more fully the ‘relaxing techniques’ Bill W suggests in Twelve and Twelve, P 100.

Sit in a comfortable chair and take some deep breaths. Relax. 

Let your shoulders droop and breathe deeply. 

Take your thoughts, your worries, your fears and your troubles from the day and let them float away. If they return, just push them away gently. You are not going to focus on these. You are at prayer.

Perhaps even put on some quiet music if you wish.

After several quiet moments you are ready to meditate…


Now we move to .

Read through the Reading you’ve chosen two or three times slowly.

Does any phrase or idea touch you or speak to you or impress you?

Let it sink in and repeat it several times.

Try to talk to God about that phrase or idea.

Repeat it several times again… and maybe just sit with it.

You can repeat it during the day as often as you want to or need to.

The Psalms are good for this type of Meditation…  They are beautiful prayers.

Psalm 23… The Good Shepherd

Psalm 25… God’s Forgiveness

Psalm 27… Trust in God

Psalm 42… Longing for god

Psalm 51… Repentance

Psalm 111… Thanksgiving

Psalm 130… Out of the Depths

Psalm 139… God Knows Us and Loves Us

(For a more detailed method of praying this way, see Appendix, Lectio Divina.


Hopefully this conference has helped us to deepen our understanding of Step Eleven and growing our Prayer and Meditation.

The Appendix below gives a few more resources.

Appendix…  Prayers and Lectio Divina

Rabbi Abe Heschel on Prayer

“All things have a home: the bee has a hive, the bird has a nest. For the soul, home is where prayer is, and a soul without prayer is a soul without a home… Continuity, permanence, intimacy, authenticity and earnestness are its attributes.

I enter this home as a suppliant and emerge as a witness. I enter as a stranger and emerge as next of kin. I may enter spiritually shapeless, inwardly disfigured and emerge wholly changed…

We pray because our grasp of the depth of suffering is comparable to the grasp of a butterfly flying over the Grand Canyon.”

(Commonwel  6/18-27/’07)

Buddhist Tradition

Today I will pray:


 May “all beings” be happy, healthy, and whole.


May they have love, warmth, and affection.


May they be protected from harm, and free from fear.


May they be alive, engaged and joyful.


May “all beings” enjoy inner peace and ease


May that peace expand into their world and


Throughout the entire universe.

Lectio Divina    (Translated as Divine Reading)                    

(See, A Retreat with the Psalms, Enders and Liebert, Paulist Press, 2001, pp 21ff)

Remember… Meditation is a form of prayer that ‘let’s God talk to us, lets God move us’.

Lectio Divina  is a  monastic form of meditative prayer,

It might be described as having a conversation with a text

No set amount of time… just what feeds the soul / 10 min at the beginning.

Choose a text… could be the Bible, or something from spiritual reading…

Your chosen text could be one of the psalms, 

or one of the stories of Jesus or the Passion of Jesus… 

or the Prayer of St. Francis… (Twelve and Twelve, P 99)

Four movements of Lectio Divina

At any time during this process the mind can wander and we can become distracted… or we can simply “dry up” …Simply return to the lectio if you want to continue the prayer.

Lectio Divina need not proceed according to the steps outlined… you can move from lectio to oratio to comtemplatio, then back to oratio and meditatio… 

You might want to take a few moments after your prayer to write down the major movements which you experienced….  What happened?

Keeping a prayer journal can be helpful…

Be patient with this type of prayer, and perhaps talk it over with your spiritual director or with a spiritually mature friend.  Don’t be a loner.