“God please set aside everything I think I know about myself, recovery, You and the Twelve Steps; that I might have an open mind.”– the Set Aside Prayer.
Prejudice always distorts our perception. The steps start with this prayer which I think is how all steps that lead anywhere need to start as well. Church, schools, societies, race, gender, economics – name a category and it will apply. What we “think we know” can be our greatest obstacle to actual knowing. This would be a great prayer to adapt for daily use… God, please set aside everything I think I know about myself, the people I’m going to meet, You and the stuff I have to do; that I might have an open mind. Boom.
What’s the big deal about this prayer? I’ll tell you the reason we don’t pray it, or rather why I don’t pray it – pride. The real big deal about this prayer and the sentiment it offers is that it requires humility and openness to actually pray it and mean it. Set aside what we already know? Are you kidding… what we already know is what makes us smart, and able and self sufficient and all the other things that we need to be to feel good about ourselves, or rather, more correctly to have others feel good about us. How could we let that go?
I remember driving home with my son Zion, who was ten at the time. We were listening to the news and their was a special bulletin about homeless people being beaten up and robbed during the night. My son turned to me and said, “I sure hope Obey and Dave are okay mom.” And that’s when I figured out that Zion knew something about homeless people that the report could not have captured and that I can so easily forget – they have names. In a better world the report wouldn’t have been about ‘homeless people’ being robbed, it would have been about a guy named Dave who was beaten and had his things stolen. It would have been about real people instead of categories. My sons teach me stuff like this all the time – I just need to have an open mind to actually learn. Like my five year old who found out their are kids who don’t have families and couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t build another floor on our house and fill it up with those kids… ‘we could be a big family’ he said – and he meant it. My tendency is to dismiss this but I think if I had an open mind I wouldn’t. I think he might actually be teaching me something…. leading me somewhere.
This whole prayer reminds me of my friend Michael Collins, a mighty warrior of a man fighting it out with darkness in Vancouver. He runs into people who dismiss Christianity and say they know what the Bible says, and he always asks them about the last passage they've read. They can never answer because the truth of it is that we convince ourselves that we know what things say and what they mean but the truth is that we don’t even know what we are talking about most of the time. We just lack the humility to actually learn with an open mind.