A.A.’s & G.S.O.’s take on Prayers at Meetings

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A recent query to the Literature Desk of G.S.O. about approved prayers in A.A. meetings had this response:

Warm greetings from the General Service Office in New York.  Your email was forwarded to my attention because I currently have the privilege of coordinating the Literature assignment at G.S.O.  It’s good to have this opportunity to be in touch.  By way of introduction, my name is Sandra and I am an alcoholic who found sobriety in A.A.

Thank you for taking the time to write us.  As you may know neither A.A. literature nor G.S.O. gives suggestions about which prayer to use while closing a meeting.  A.A. as an organization neither endorses nor opposes use of the Lord’s Prayer, or any other prayer.  Page 15 of the pamphlet “The A.A. Group” states that ‘many meetings close with members joining in a moment of silence followed by a prayer, or perhaps by reciting the Responsibility Declaration or other A.A. text.  This sharing reflects the experience of many groups in the U.S. and Canada, but is not instructive or directive in nature.   This is purely a matter for the informed group conscience to decide, as stated in Tradition Four.

It is mentioned in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers that the Lord’s Prayer was used from the very beginning in the Fellowship (see pages 141, 148, 183, and 261), at least as early as 1938 and 1939. In those days there was no A.A. literature, so the early groups relied heavily on the Bible and Oxford Group literature for inspiration and guidance.

Bill W. also commented several times in his correspondence about the early use of the Lord’s Prayer. He wrote a letter to a member in 1959 in which he stated:

“This practice probably came from the Oxford Groups who were influential in the early days of A.A.  You have probably noted in A.A. Comes of Age what the connection of these people with A.A. really was.  I think saying the Lord’s Prayer was a custom of theirs following the close of each meeting.  Therefore it quite easily got shifted into a general custom among us.”

Bill also wrote, in 1955:

“Of course there are always those who seem to be offended by the introduction of any prayer whatever into an ordinary A.A. gathering. Also it is sometimes complained that the Lord’s Prayer is a Christian document. Nevertheless, this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the argument of its Christian origin seems to be a little far-fetched. It is also true that most AA’s believe in some kind of god and that communication and strength is obtainable through his grace. Since this is the general consensus, it seems only right that at least the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer be used in connection with our meetings. It does not seem necessary to defer to the feelings of our agnostic and atheist newcomers to the extent of completely hiding ‘our light under a bushel.’

However, around here, the leader of the meeting usually asks those to join him in the Lord’s Prayer who feel that they would care to do so. The worst that happens to the objectors is that they have to listen to it. This is doubtless a salutary exercise in tolerance at their stage of progress.”

 

In fellowship,

Sandra

Sandra Wilson

General Service Office Staff

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