What is Step 11 of the 12 Steps Program


Step 11 of the 12 Steps: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.

As you begin Step 11 of the 12 Steps, you may recall that our post on Step Two went into detail on “God as we understood him.” However exactly you understand the Higher Power, meditation and prayer are major aspects of any spiritual-growth goals—and also involve a fair amount of “how I understand it” in practice. For just one example of how “best personal prayer methods” vary among members of the same religion and even the same congregation, look at this self-assessment guide from one Catholic church. Then review the following terms associated with “prayer” and “meditation” and see which ones resonate with you:

Breath Prayer

Breath prayer uses a short (usually under 12 syllables) phrase or sentence, sometimes called a “mantra,” that has deep personal spiritual meaning to the user. Effective both during alone time and in the course of going about daily business, “breath prayer” is so called because it works by concentrating on the chosen words in tandem with your breathing. For example, if your preferred phrase is “Lord, come quickly to my aid,” you would inhale while focusing on “Lord, come quickly,” then exhale while focusing on “to my aid.” Remember to breathe deeply and slowly.

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is a variation of breath prayer that involves sitting quietly for longer periods, typically around 20 minutes, to let the prayer phrase sink in while other thoughts slide by with minimum acknowledgment. During Step 11 of the 12 Steps, centering prayer is often practiced in small groups to increase spiritual energy. 


Defined as “deep thought,” contemplation involves choosing a spiritual overview of some aspect of life and taking time alone in silence to reflect on its shades of meaning and how they apply to one’s personal purpose and goals. Contemplation commonly uses a Scriptural verse or passage; it can also be done in conjunction with observing nature or considering one’s personal values. In contrast to breath prayer, contemplation involves active thinking and may be based on long passages of text. The only rule is to focus on positive things and things you can do something about, while avoiding complaints or worry; in fact, some spiritual experts define worry as corrupted contemplation, since both involve pondering the same things (well-mixed with creative thinking) over and over.   


The word “meditation” is actually used of two common and quite distinct spiritual practices; one equates the term with breath (or chanting) prayer, the other with active contemplation. Either way, meditation during Step 11 of the 12 Steps largely involves talking to oneself about spiritual issues and a Higher Power, in contrast to prayer, which means talking directly to the Higher Power. 


A form of non-reflective contemplation that is directed outward toward physical things, either one’s own body or one’s surroundings. True mindfulness means using all available senses to the fullest to take in everything one is capable of noticing—without judging anything or trying to save a little attention for incoming messages or the rest of the day’s plans. Regular mindfulness practice is credited with helping its users become healthier, more relaxed, and more empathetic. 


Sharing one’s concerns and requests directly with God (by any name); also includes giving thanks for one’s blessings. Often involves recitation of pre-written prayers and scriptures from a variety of religious traditions, but can also be a form of casual conversation or “crying on a shoulder.” For many people, prayer means talking person-to-person with someone who is as individually distinct as any human being, and whom they know as both a trusted mentor and a personal friend. Prayer can also be done in a group, with members praying in turn or as they feel moved. 


Prayer in motion: contemplating or praying about whatever you walk past. Often used in praying for neighbors or a community in general; can also be a means of praising God for the glories of nature or of giving thanks for blessings as they are observed. A variation is labyrinth-walking, which uses a roughly spiral-shaped pattern that includes a meandering but clearly-laid-out path from the rim to the center and out again. Labyrinth walkers follow the inward path contemplating what they want to let go of; pause in the center to receive fresh spiritual strength; and walk out contemplating what they have received and how they will use it. 

Quiet Time

A piece of the day, usually 10–30 minutes, specifically scheduled for meditation and prayer as the user defines them. Proves most effective in nurturing spiritual growth when done daily at the same time. 


Taking time to engage in rest or enjoyable activity while letting the mind wander as it sees fit—within boundaries that ban self-pity, worry, anger, guilt, and other negative emotions, as well as competitiveness and achievement anxiety. Regular relaxation is amazingly helpful in curing sleep problems, relieving general stress, and freeing the mind to work more effectively. 


Visualization during Step 11 of the 12 Steps involves active contemplation of your ideal future life as you see it, in detail and with an “as good as done” attitude. Visualization is a proven-effective tool for helping turn dreams into real life, especially when used in conjunction with planning, collage-style “vision boards,” and personal affirmations. 

Pick as many of the above as resonate with you as enjoyable means “to improve [your] conscious contact with God” and assist you in staying aware of your purpose and functioning to your maximum potential. Practice spiritual exercises daily—not just when you “feel like it,” and without any “I’ll give this just two weeks to show obvious results or I quit” preconceptions.

In fact, prayer and meditation are best kept as free as possible of preconceptions and expectations. While a solid picture of your purpose and goals is important, even essential, the “only” in “praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out” is there for a reason. The purpose of sobriety is not to find an alternative means of getting an easy ride and stress-free life where substance abuse failed to help. The purpose is the same as what should be everyone’s central goal in life—to find how we can best be our own unique selves while effectively serving the world, and to take care of ourselves so we will have the strength to do just that.

Learn More About Kemah Palms Recovery®

Whether you’re on Step 11 of the 12 Steps or you’re just beginning, Kemah Palms Recovery® can help. Located in Galveston County, Texas, our addiction treatment options in South Houston provide ample opportunity for individuals to experience a new lease on life. For more on our 12 Step recovery program, call Kemah Palms Recovery® at 855-568-0218.