The Closing Prayer
Questions have been raised in our district regarding the “closing prayer.” Some groups think the “Our Father” the Lord’s Prayer is the only closing prayer to use. Others think it is going against our Traditions to use any religious prayer – they use the Al-Anon Declaration. Our district needs guidance – please help!
Perhaps we can begin to answer this question by quoting from a sharing in PATHS TO RECOVERY (pp. 166167), “Tradition Four Helped in My Group”:
A member expressed her uneasiness about saying the prayer that we used at the close of the meeting. She went on to say that through Al-Anon she was seeking her Higher Power and her own definition of spirituality. She also quoted that our meeting was only a few miles from a major university and that we had a diverse population of new members from a variety of religious backgrounds…. The Group Representative suggested that we read the Traditions to decide which ones applied to this is sue. She also suggested that we review our SERVICE MANUAL and hold a special meeting …to discuss our options.
The Group Representative opened the discussion meeting by reading Tradition Four. She explained that each group is autonomous, and that different groups close their meetings with different prayers and statements. What she emphasized was the second half of Tradition Four, “…except in matters affecting another group or Al-Anon or AA as a whole.” She stressed that our decision needed to be for the good of the group as well as for the good of Al-Anon. After lengthy discussion, we took a silent ballot. More than three fourths of the members voted to close the meeting with the Serenity Prayer.
This story illustrates several important Al-Anon principles, such as autonomy, responsibility, deliberation, and democracy. It also highlights the separation between the spiritual nature of our recovery program and any one member’s personal religious beliefs. On this latter point, our Service Manual (p. 106) reminds us that
Al-Anon is a spiritual program; thus the discussion of specific religious beliefs at meetings may divert members from Al-Anon’s primary purpose. Our meetings are open to all those who are affected by alcoholism whether the member has a religious belief or not. To answer the question more directly, our literature suggests that each group, being autonomous, may decide which prayer (if any) to use to close its meetings. This guidance appears in multiple Al-Anon publications. For example, we find in AL-ANON’S TWELVE STEPS & TWELVE TRADITIONS (Revised), p. 102:
Some [groups] use the Suggested Closing, along with the Al-Anon Declaration, the Serenity Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, or another spiritual moment of the group’s choosing. The choices are many and wide. Similarly, the SERVICE MANUAL states on p. 24:
It is suggested that groups close in a manner that is agreeable to the group conscience. Many groups say the Al-An on Declaration after their closing. Both How Al-Anon Works for FAMILIES & FRIENDS OF ALCOHOLICS (Revised), on page 396, and THIS IS AL-ANON (P32) repeat the first sentence immediately above:
It is suggested that groups close in a manner that is agreeable to the group conscience. Interestingly, most early Al-Anon groups apparently did use the Lord’s Prayer to close their meetings. THE AL-ANON FAMILY GROUPS – Classic Edition contains two such references that appeared in the 1955 first printing of that publication:
Meetings conclude with a recital of the Lord’s Prayer by all who care to share this tradition. (p. 49) Most Family Group meetings are conducted like AA meetings…. The meeting is … closed by a unison repetition of the Lord’s Prayer. (p. 90)
THE AL-ANON FAMILY GROUPS – CLASSIC EDITION also notes (p. 157) that the Suggested Closing added to the book in 1973 ended this way: “Will all who care to, join me in the closing prayer.” In 1995 this wording was changed to, “Will all who care to, join me in closing with the __________ prayer?” Each group fills in the blank according to its group conscience, keeping in mind Al-Anon’s primary purpose.