Copyright c 1998 by Larry King
From "Powerful Prayers" by Larry King
Reprinted by arrangement with Renaissance Books, Los Angeles, CA

Katsof: In 1972, Dr. Abraham Twerski started the Gateway Program at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh. It's an Alcoholics Anonymous [AA] program to help people addicted to alcohol. The first three steps of the 12-Step program are for the alcoholic to admit he is powerless over his addiction, come to believe that a power greater than himself can restore him to sanity, and turn his will and his life over to the care of God. This is key. Once an alcoholic realizes he's in trouble, he tries anything to control his drinking, but ultimately nothing works.

The alcoholic then realizes that he cannot do it alone. So, if he's not going to die from drinking, he's going to have to enlist some power greater than his own. He entreats God to help him complete what he cannot do alone. The alcoholic accepts powerlessness in the face of the addiction and submits to a higher authority.

King: So?

Katsof: Dr. Twerski told me about one alcoholic who doesn't believe in God and saw no reason to pray. It was a waste of time.

King That's what I'm saying.

Katsof: So the guy says the heck with it and walks out.

King: Makes sense to me.

Katsof: A few months later, the guy comes back to the program. He pleads with this sponsor to help him with his drinking problem. He says he can't quit by himself and he'll do everything but the prayer part. So his sponsor tells him, "Nobody ever said you had to pray to God. Just pray." The guy thinks this through for a moment and decides he really doesn't have much choice. He starts praying. He's doing it to this day and he still doesn't believe in God. And, Larry, he is sober.

King: That's crazy. He doesn't believe in God, but he prays? Who is he praying to?

Katsof: Good question. Perhaps when the man prays, even if it is to no one in particular, he realizes he is not God, that he cannot control everything. He is admitting his own humanity and limitations--a very healthy thing to do.

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