by Vinita Hampton Wright


Step 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

Step 7 might sound a lot like Step 6, but there is a difference between being ready for God to change us and actively asking God to do so.

Asking is an act of openness and vulnerability. Imagine that you stand on one side of a door and God is on the other side. You can stand on your side of the door and be willing to meet the one who’s on the other side. You can desire it, deeply. But until you open the door, the meeting won’t happen. And remember, God never forces open a door you’re not ready and willing to open. That’s why this action is up to you.

Asking is one way we open ourselves to God. God is always waiting to meet us, work with us, heal us, teach us, help us, love us. But holy love does not force us. There’s no coercion, only invitation. This is why actively asking for help is its own step in the Twelve Steps.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to ask God for what they desired—this step begins just about every prayer in the Spiritual Exercises. The person is encouraged to name the grace they desire and pray for it. Another way to put it is this: Identify what you want, and ask God for it.

There’s a story in the New Testament about a blind man coming to Jesus, and Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” As if it wasn’t obvious to everyone that this man was blind and needed to be healed and given his sight. But Jesus wanted the man to ask himself the question, Did he want to be healed? Did he want something else? Why did he come to Jesus, anyway? Jesus asked the man to name what he needed, to ask for it directly.

Asking for help is one way we participate in life with God. We’re not just blobs of humanity, waiting for God to do something “to” us. God wants our cooperation, desires our input.

Step 7 tells us to “humbly” ask God to remove our shortcomings. Humility goes hand in hand with openness and vulnerability. When we open ourselves to God by asking for help, the humility almost naturally follows. Most of us cannot ask for help until we have become humble enough to admit that we need it.

Sometimes, it helps prayer to write down a simple prompt such as “God, right now I need . . .” or “Please help me let go of . . .” or “I want you to take this away, free me of it.”

God has given us the ability to communicate what we need and what we desire. God has equipped us to work alongside holy love, to be part of what God is doing.