AA Grapevine: Outside the Circle

By J.D. Virginia Beach, Virginia 

A member feels uncomfortable as he learns more about one of the prayers we use

The Preamble to AA states that we are not aligned with any sect or denomination. My home group ends their meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, as do most of the other groups in my area. But recently, my group, dedicated to following all the guidelines set down by our wonderful program, was willing to discuss a change in this format when I brought to their attention the fact that this prayer was indeed a Christian prayer.

The prayer is discussed in the book The Sermon on the Mount, by Emmet Fox. This book was highly recommended to me by an old-timer when I was new in AA more than 33 years ago to help me with my spirituality. And because I’m Jewish, I consulted a rabbi actively involved in AA to see if it was alright to read it, being that it was an interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. This highly educated person said, “If it keeps you sober, then read it.”

However, the book The Sermon on the Mount, which was influential to early AA I’m told, reads, “The Lord’s Prayer is the most important of all the Christian documents … the one common denominator of all the churches.” So this prayer I’ve been saying with no compunction all these years is now becoming difficult for me to say. I thus find myself standing outside the circle when it’s recited, and that doesn’t feel good.

A number of years ago I attended a workshop on spirituality vs. religion in AA. The message I came away with was: Anything that causes a member to stand outside of the circle in a meeting does not belong in AA. After discussing my feelings with members of my home group, it was agreed to bring up the topic at our business meetings of changing the closing prayer at our regular meeting. I feel extremely grateful that my group was open-minded and willing to do this.

Our group discussed this topic for more than six months. I had suggested closing with the Third Step Prayer. Others mentioned the Serenity Prayer. I was willing to go with anything found in our literature. However, even though the vote was 14:1 to keep the Lord’s Prayer (at the beginning of our discussions), and changed to 10:5 (at the conclusion of the discussions), the motion was still defeated. I am using my program to work on acceptance.

I do not believe my group is prejudiced against my or any other religion or race. In fact, the absence of prejudice is remarkable throughout all the meetings I’ve attended throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as my travels in Europe. However, I believe as alcoholics we are resistant to change, and there may be other reasons. But the message to me is that we are aligned with the sect of Christianity and that goes against our Preamble. If our “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety,” it concerns me that when newcomers come into our meetings (be they Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or any other religion) and they hear that prayer, they too may come away with the feeling that AA is indeed aligned with Christianity.

Nevertheless, I will not leave my group, although some of my rose-colored glasses have come off. Thank God my group adheres to most of the Traditions and Legacies upon which AA is based. Though I’m not as adamant about attending all their meetings now, I still love AA, this group, and all the hundreds of people who have changed my life from one of despair into one of joy.

I do hope you will fill see fit to publish this. If honesty is one of the cornerstones of sobriety, I am thankful I can express my opinion and disappointment.

Audio Version

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (November, 2015). Reprinted with permission.

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Peter T
Peter T

I am so happy to have found a growing movement of Freethinkers in the rooms.  I’m coming up on 3 years sober doing it in way that’s honest to myself, which does not include “prayer” – I still have no idea what that actually is – or other dogma. I live in Vermont which is not a terribly diverse state, and where most people have had some flavor of bible-based churching, so the closing LP is terribly pervasive – even at Living Sober book meetings!  Recently I started leaving the meeting room just as the LP was about start, but tonight, at a big… Read more »

Chuck D.

Hi Peter, I live in VT too. I have been in AA for many years,most believing in a personal “god” of some sort,theistic to say the least. After reading many books from Harris,Hitchens,Grayling,Coyne, and others,I couldn’t justify the reasons for having faith anymore. I stayed away from AA for over 2 years and it was very tough. I have since returned to attending a few meetings here and there and talking with other alcoholics. It”s different now because I’m different in my perspectives. I believe firmly and passionately about one alcoholic sharing with another. I’m still trying to adapt, to… Read more »

Kurt W
Kurt W

When I finished reciting the Pledge to close my home group’s meeting, silence crushed the usual bonhomie. Someone soon threw up the LP and most everyone chimed in with relief. My next call to my sponsor elicited his claim that the LP was “group conscience.” In my then-18 months I’d seen the Serenity Prayer suffice and, anyway, I’d meant to avoid invoking G-d at all. So now I’m approaching my second anniversary without a home group or a sponsor. There are plenty of other meetings in my area, so I don’t seriously lack AA’s fellowship — but the end of… Read more »


Like so many groups, there was a significant number of people in our collection of meetings who were uncomfortable with closing the meeting with an explicitly Christian prayer. We did away with it and now most meetings close with the Serenity Prayer … quite easy to say/not say the opening word and feel “part of.” A year ago, a group of fundamentalists pushed the business meeting to reconsider it’s decision. When I had a chance to speak, I approached it this way: “Given you’ve heard a significant minority of people are very uncomfortable with this prayer, for how many of… Read more »

Pat Y.
Pat Y.

While I’m no fan of the LP being used in meetings, I find it especially egregious that my District, which represents a number of different meetings, including my We Agnostics home group (of which I am a proud GSR!), should use this patently Christian prayer to end its meetings. I have made my views known and at one point mounted a successful bid to remove the prayer, only to have it not just reinstated the following month but also to have the previous vote declared null and void on account of ‘irregularities.’ < p align= "justify"> As upset as I… Read more »

Pat N.
Pat N.

I was in a small Oklahoma town while volunteering with the Red Cross (they’d had a tornado nearby), and one day was partnered with a woman who turned out to be in the program. We decided to look for a meeting after work. The only one available was a men’s meeting, but they immediately welcomed my partner and it turned out to be the usual warm, supportive atmosphere. At the end, the chair asked if I would, as a visitor, like to lead the LP. I asked if I could use the closing my home group uses instead, and recited… Read more »