In the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book), the 12 Steps are directly listed in Chapter 5, appropriately entitled "How It Works."
The 3rd Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
In the book, after some discussion of the principles behind Steps 1 & 2, the idea of not living our lives based on self-will, but rather turning ourselves over to God (as you understand God) is explored. The 3rd Step Prayer is written out. It is just one suggested prayer expressing this idea, not a mandatory by-rote, Pass/Fail requirement as a way to commit to this concept. In fact, in its usual even-handed and open-minded fashion, the Big Book states that the words of this prayer are "... of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation." Say it however you like, in whatever way works for you. Say it as a prayer, perform it as a rap, do it like Dr. Seuss might put it. ("One fish two fish red fish blue fish. God's will my will I will Your willl.") The point is to have an open heart and a sincere (or as sincere as possible) willingness to try.
A little farther along we get to this: "Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action..." meaning there was something we had to DO. In fact, the real crux of this point is just a few lines on. This: "Though our decision [meaning, of course, our decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God -- that decision] was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort..." and it goes on to describe the 4th Step, the principles underlying it and ultimately how to do it.
So, what this means to me, is this:
The decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God is just that, a decision. A commitment -- and the 3rd Step Prayer is my pledge to do so. But just as a decision to go to the airport does not magically and instantly transport you to the airport -- you actually have to get in your car and drive to the airport -- so, too, this decision, though "vital and crucial" -- is just another bullshit, self-indulgent, melodramatic performance art piece in (if you're an alcoholic like me) a life filled with such moments -- often well intended and just as often as easily burned away as dew in the summertime -- unless followed by tangible action. And when getting sober, the primary way to execute this pledge-to-action is by doing all the rest of the 12 Steps. (And thus a spiritual experience is created, which is the key component to staying sober).
Once I've gone through the 12 Steps, I still find that I return to the idea of "turning it over," that is, of turning myself or a situation over to God. But again, that decision will require action to make it stick.
God -- if there is one, and today I have to vote yes -- will certainly forgive and love me through making another bullshit promise and then falling down on the action part -- or rather, turning a sincere promise into a bullshit one by not doing anything after I make it.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. It's not like the movies (though I sure wish it were). There's no dramatic swell of music, an uplifting montage and then a whole new deal. Sometimes it's myriad small actions which accrue over time that lead to substantive change. My prayer keeps me stable and gives me both focus as to what I'm supposed to be doing and faith that I am in the right place, doing the right thing -- and reminds me that a benevolent universe has my best interest (not my comfort, but my best interest) at heart.
As always though, it is the footwork I do which is the catalyst to change, far more than the performance art prayer moment which gets my emotional ya-ya's off but can, in fact, be a form of procrastination -- if you wait for God to do the dishes you gonna have one dirty sink, sister.
The prayer IS beautiful, and as the Big Book mentions, very often a real and tangible change can be felt inside. But when they say "faith without works is dead" they ain't lyin'.
Finally, the 3rd Step prayer -- whether we're getting sober, or in sobriety giving another situation to God -- is also my pledge to align myself with whatever results I may get as the outcome. You do the footwork, you accept the result as God's Will -- which of course might be anything from "keep trying" to "hang on, because here's a gigantic Yes!" or it may even be, "Sorry, but hell no." My growth is in the seeking, in the process, anyway.
Helluva way to run a Universe, in my opinion, but there it is.
There are more essays like this one in "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and The 12 Steps for AA's and Others." Available as an eBook on Kindle via Amazon. Download the Kindle reader app for free on any device or platform, from PC to Smartphone, and enjoy eBooks anywhere you have time to read.