A.A., the Eleventh Step, “Quiet Time,” “Prayer and Meditation,” and “Listening to God”
By Dick B.
© 2013 Anonymous. All Rights Reserved
Our Complete Guide for You
For a complete guide, thorough study, and format for study groups—when it comes to setting aside time for God each day and at least following that suggestion in the Big Book–we strongly recommend that you acquire a copy of Dick B., Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A. (www.dickb/goodmorn.shtml).
This book tells you the roots of Quiet Time, the real biblical sources for the suggestion, the varied pieces of literature, devotionals, and pamphlets the early AAs used. And it lets you proceed in a way that God’s own Word describes, that early AAs followed, and that was recommended by A.A.’s Christian predecessor organizations and individuals like the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, evangelists like F.B. Meyer, Oxford Group activists, and Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.—whom Bill W. called a co-founder of A.A.
The “Batterson” Substitute
Recently I received several emails from a web manager who does a bang-up job of posting all sorts of A.A.-related historical books, articles, and exhibits. He was asking what I knew about John Batterson, his pamphlet, and status, if any, in the Oxford Group.
While I had never seen anything significant about Batterson in all my Oxford Group-Shoemaker-A.A. history research, I did know that MRA old-timer Jim Houck had passed around an unpublished, undated pamphlet by Batterson on the subject of “listening to God.” I leave the merits of that presentation to others. But I did point the web manager to a host of writings through the years on the subject of “The Morning Watch,” “Quiet Time,” “Quiet Hour,” “Meditation,” “Guidance,” “Listening to God,” and so-called “two-way prayer.”
As did Oxford Group leaders and Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Jr., I also looked first to the Bible to see the origins of these ideas–whether they are completely presented or not. And I have covered these items in detail in my title Dick B., Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A. (http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml).
The Bible and What It Says about How God Communicates
There are many ways in which God and His Son Jesus Christ communicate with man. And any portrayal that sways one away from all of the possibilities simply shortcuts what God Himself had to say in the Scriptures.
God actually spoke to Adam and Abraham. He actually spoke out loud to the children of Israel. He spoke out loud and wrote on two tablets the Ten Commandments. He spoke through angels, prophets, and visions. And, of course, He revealed His Word to holy men who “spake as they were moved” by the Holy Ghost. He spoke through His Son Jesus Christ. And He made communication with believers possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the manifestations of word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, tongues with interpretation, prophecy, and so on.
Later writers–except leading biblical scholars like B. H. Streeter, who wrote The God Who Speaks–began shortcutting the process. They added to and subtracted from Scripture. They devised formulae for a way one could “listen” to God. Some called it “two-way prayer.” Some who were familiar with the biblical origins of “Morning Watch” and “Quiet Hour” usually pointed out that a morning quiet period began with prayer, study of Scripture, seeking God’s guidance, and often using devotionals in the process. Some added “journaling” and “checking” to the process
Hence I have never viewed simplistic statements of how to get in touch with my Heavenly Father, how to pray to Him, how to “hear” from Him, how to “speak” with Him, and how to discern what is or is not a message from Him as being of much value unless the writer is able to tie the simplistic approach to what the history of God’s communications and the illustrations in the Bible actually tell us. Also, to what the Word of God and early AAs had to say about the inability of the “natural man” (one not born again) to understand “the things of the Spirit of God” because they were spiritually discerned by those who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
To bring Scripture into focus, consider these excerpts: (1) “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:30 NKJV). (2) “So God created man in his own image . . . in the image of God created he him: male and female. . . Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; and replenish the earth and subdue it . . .” (Gen 1: 27-28). (3) “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” (Gen 3:13). (4) “And the LORD said unto Moses in Miian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.” (Gen 4:19). “Now after the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister. . .” (Joshua 1:1)
Nonetheless, the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, and much of the other prayer portions of the Big Book, do bring these ideas into play. Therefore, I thought it best to answer my friend by pointing to the wealth of A.A.-history-related material that preceded A.A.’s Big Book and Twelve Steps. And here is what I said about these things and about Batterson:
The little bit that I saw in Batterson’s pamphlet and considered relevant is quoted in my Good Morning! book. You can search its contents on Google Books, Amazon.com, or on my web site (using the search box on the “navigation bar” on the left-hand side of the front page). I repeat the following:
1. F. B. Meyer’s The Secret of Guidance was a lead book long before the Oxford Group, A.A., or Batterson came onto any scene.
2. My research of Christian Endeavor (in which Dr. Bob was active) turned up a large number of Quiet Time books and guides, including one by Dwight L. Moody.
3. Oxford Group founder Frank Buchman’s biographer, Garth Lean, made no mention of Batterson. Nor did long-time Oxford Group activist Willard Hunter ever mention him to me that I can recall.
4. Sam Shoemaker’s books and my books about Sam have a great deal to say about Quiet Time; and Shoemaker’s first radio talk was called, “Good Morning.” See Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism, 2d ed, http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml
The many Oxford Group and quiet time writers whose books were frequently quoted in connection with guidance, Quiet Time, and “two-way prayer” were:
• B. H. Streeter, The God Who Speaks
• Eleanor Forde, Guidance: What It Is and How to Get It
• Donald W. Carruthers, How to Find Reality in Your Morning Devotions.
• Howard J. Rose, The Quiet Time
• Cecil Rose, When Man Listens
• W. E Sangster, God Does Guide Us
• Jack C. Winslow, Vital Touch with God: How to Carry on Adequate Devotional Life
• Jack C. Winslow, When I Awake
• Hallen Viney, How Do I Begin?
• Frank D. Raynor and Leslie D. Weatherhead, The Finger of God
• Miles Phillimore, Just for Today
• Philip L eon, A Philosopher’s Quiet Time
• Bremer Hofmyr, How to Listen
• Philip Marshall Brown, The Venture of Belief
• Kenneth D. Belden, The Satellites: Is God Speaking-Are We Listening?
• Mrs. George W. Becker, Quiet Time in the Home
• Harry J. Almond, Foundations for Faith
• The Upper Room (a Methodist periodical)
• Mary W. Tileston, Daily Strength for Daily Needs
• Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
• Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer
• S. D. Gordon, The Quiet Time
• Glenn Clark, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes
• E. Stanley Jones, Victorious Living
• Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
• The Layman with a Notebook, What is the Oxford Group?
• Theophil Spoerri, Dynamic Out of Silence
• Clarence I. Benson, The Eight Points of the Oxford Group
• More precise and detailed bibliographic information on the foregoing books can be found in Dick B. New Light on Alcoholism, 2d ed.
I think you should realize that quite some time before Jim Houck dug up and touted the Batterson pamphlet, Jim personally sent me a copy of what he said was the most popular Oxford Group Quiet Time book of the later years. The title of that book is: D. M. Prescott, A New Day: Daily Readings for Our Time, new ed. (London: Grosvenor Books, 1979). As you probably know by now, the Batterson pamphlet that I saw lists neither date nor publisher. See Dick B., The Books Early AA’s Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998).
Working with the Best of the Best
A.A.’s cofounder Dr. Bob called the Holy Bible the “Good Book.” When asked a question about the early A.A. program, his usual response was: “What does it say in the Good Book?” Daily study of the Bible and daily prayer were stressed. And even in their Vermont Christian upbringing, both Dr. Bob and Bill W. were required to study the Bible, attend church, participate in Young Men’s Christian Association activities, attend prayer meetings, and attend Daily Chapel in their respective Christian academies. Daily chapel involved sermons, reading of Scripture, hymns, and prayers and—in Bill’s case—was accompanied by his taking a four year required Bible study course. It was also tied into religious services at Manchester Congregational Church in Manchester, Vermont.
To be brief, our cofounders worked with the best of the best. The best meant conversion to God through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That meant following the precepts in the Bible. It meant prayer. It meant sermons. It meant hymns. It meant prayer meetings. It meant teaching of the Bible by Christian faculty members at the academies and seminaries they attended. It meant the focus of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Congregational churches they attended, the intense weekly training in Dr. Bob’s case by the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor—in which he and his parents were involved at North Congregational Church. It meant parental training, Sunday school training, and church focus on salvation and the contents of the Word of God.
Here is what “quiet time” for early AAs did not encompass: (1) Spending five minutes or less looking at some periodical like the Upper Room and learning a verse for the day, a brief prayer for the day, and a thought for the day. (2) Placing the Bible before devotionals and Christian literature in matters of importance. (3) “Listening” for anything that came their way – “anything.” (4) Writing down “everything” they thought they heard – “everything.”. (5) And comparing notes as to what they thought God had told them.
Compare this lack of intensity in expenditure of time and effort that the Bible directs to be spent with God as contained in Psalm 119 where verse after verse spoke of the Word as a lamp to the feet and a light to one’s path, walking according to the law, following God’s precepts, obeying God’s commandments, directing one’s steps by God’s word, meditating on God’s precepts, and having God teach His statutes.
In 2 Timothy 3:15-17; the following injunction is given:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
And in Hebrews 13:9:
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
Later, when early A.A. was founded, one’s quiet time observance meant spending an hour in the morning with Dr. Bob’s wife Anne Smith. Anne led AAs, their families, and their children in reading from the Bible, individual and group prayer, a quiet period of seeking God’s guidance, and Anne’s teaching from her journal—See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939. http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml.
About the Author
Dick B. is an author, historian, Bible student, retired attorney, CDAAC, and active recovered member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. He has written 46 published titles on A.A. History and Bible roots