This morning while reading Matthew Henry's commentary on the book of Exodus I came across a comment that Henry makes regarding chapter 10 verse 17 in which Pharaoh states, "Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me."
Henry comments, "Pharaoh desires their prayers that this death only might be taken away, not this sin: he deprecates the plague of locusts, not the plague of a hard heart, which yet was much the more dangerous."
What a mirror image this is of one of the greatest dangers presented from an eternal perspective by Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve steps. By presenting the false concept of alcoholism being a disease, the required conviction of sin leading to repentance via the gospel is completely avoided. Instead, the focus is on the removal of immediate pain and the recovering of temporal possessions and standing while religiously working a program of false spirituality. The devastating consequence is that the plague of alcoholism may end as long as it is replaced with the religion of the program, and secular life might be restored - yet the plague of the hardened heart dead in sin still remains. And it is much more dangerous.
On page 63 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous you will find what is known as the “Third Step Prayer” which in the AA twelve step program signifies an implied point of conversion and surrender to “God as you understand Him.” It reads as follows:
“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 do 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!”
One would think, that if someone were to say this prayer with sincerity and conviction that it would affect and change them in such a profound way that they would be truly freed from “the bondage of self” and that their difficulties such as drinking or drugs would be taken away. However, after spending over thirteen years in AA and the twelve steps I never witnessed this prayer working for any member of Alcoholics Anonymous or other twelve step program that use it because they all continued to identify themselves as alcoholics and addicts and were resigned to the belief that they would be unable to survive without the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. They were never relieved of the bondage of self, and their difficulties (alcoholism and drug addiction) at least by all appearances were never taken away.
So why is the third step prayer so ineffective? What is missing that leaves it unable to have any real benefit for those that recite it as they work through step three?
In John 14:6 Jesus tells us, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Then He tells us in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
So based on the Lord's own words in scripture, the reason that the third step prayer in Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't work is because it is not prayed in Jesus' name and is part of an entire program (the twelve steps) that Jesus is no part of.
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way Ministry Church USA & Kenya.