Look at "Meditation" in
Names They Gave It
none of the names for early A.A.
"meditation" was a Biblical
name although "prayer and meditation"
(as Bill Wilson called them in the
Big Book) certainly had Biblical
roots–particularly as prayer and
meditation were practiced by A.A.’s
of the earliest names was "The
Morning Watch." The expression
was often used in prior years by
the YMCA, by Harry Emerson Fosdick,
by Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and by many
others from whom AAs took their
ideas. Sam Shoemaker was to write
later that he preferred the expression
because the principles often needed
to be practiced throughout the day
and also had a way of slipping from
the morning to a later part of the
day. "Quiet Time" was
an expression widely used by Sam
Shoemaker, by Oxford Group people,
by early AAs, and in many religious
circles. I first heard the expression
at an A.A. meeting in Marin County,
California, and didn’t have the
slightest idea what it meant–though
it seemed to involved a "quiet
period" before the day’s affairs
prayer" became an Oxford
Group term for describing prayer
as "speaking" to God and
"meditation" or "quiet
time" as "listening"
to God. Then came the word "Guidance."
You sought "guidance."
You asked for "guidance."
You "got guidance." And
you consulted other believers for
"guidance" if you couldn’t
understand the meaning of the thoughts
that came. "Guidance"
was a term used by Christian pro-genitors
like F. B. Meyer and his The
Secret of Guidance. Meyer’s
influence extended to the Student
Christian Movement, Christian Endeavor,
and Oxford Group members. Hence
directly and indirectly to A.A.
and its founders.
real emphasis was on "listening"
for "luminous thoughts."
Then on the necessity for writing
them down, preferably in a journal.
I have in my possession copies of
personal notations from Rev. Sam
Shoemaker’s journal in 1931 and
in 1934 to 1936. They mention the
Firestone family members and their
trip to Denver in 1931; and the
journal entries later mention "Bill
Wilson" and other Oxford Group
team members by name. The stress
on listening gave rise to Oxford
Group expressions like "God
gave man one mouth and two ears.
That should tell you something!"
Writing thoughts down gave rise
to the expression that the ancient
Chinese believed the strongest memory
is paler than the weakest ink..
though the words "prayer"
and "meditation" are both
used in the Bible and easily understood
in the Bible and in English, they
were shunned by the Oxford Group
and some of the A.A. pioneers in
favor of the catch phrases above.
There was a growing failure to continue
mention of the Bible sources. There
was a new stress on non-Biblical
substitute language, and the added
intrusion of "New Age"
and Eastern concepts. And all contributed
to the kind of self-made religion,
self-made meditation ideas, and
self-made interpretations of what
had been three very simple and clearly
comprehended expressions from
the Bible: (1) Prayer.
(2) Meditation. (3) Revelation.
early believers prayed to our Creator.
Believers meditated on (pondered)
God’s Word–the Bible. And, if God
chose to make such guidance available,
they received revelation–particularly
Word of Knowledge and Word of Wisdom
(See 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The
Bible is filled with examples. And,
in his title, The God Who Speaks,
the great theologian (later an Oxford
Group supporter) B. H. Streeter
cited many examples of these and
another revelation manifestation.
Did "Meditation" Really
of our forbears had the gift of
describing with simplicity the desired
period they set aside for reading,
praying, and communicating with
Reverend Howard C. Blake, a Presbyterian,
had much of the same background
that Dr. Bob had as a youngster.
He often went to church four times
a week, belonged to Christian Endeavor,
and committed himself to doing the
will of God. He also was involved
in Student Christian Movement activities,
worked with Sam Shoemaker, and kept
a close association with Oxford
Group founder Dr. Frank Buchman
for 32 years. In Way to Go: Adventures
in Search of God’s Will,
Blake wrote this about searching
for the will of God:
is the fulfillment of the promise
Jesus made when he said the Holy Spirit
would come and teach (p. 64).
day I pray for God to guide and direct
my thoughts. So I set aside a time
for quiet each day in order to let
it happen. My conviction is, however,
that I am more likely to be receptive
if I have begun the day in a disciplined
way to listen in the morning (p. 65).
began by reading the Bible, praying,
and then being quiet. After about
three thoughts had occurred to me,
it became more difficult to receive
a further one without forgetting those
that had come before. So we found
it would clear our minds for some
new thought if we made notes on
what had already come (p. 66,
guide book that came out of Sam
Shoemaker’s Calvary House (headquarters
of the Oxford Group in America),
more general results of the Quiet
Time are: (1) A firsthand experience
of God through Christ, the Bible,
prayer and the listening
for the voice of the Holy Spirit.
. . (Howard J. Rose, The Quiet
Time, last page, bolding added).
simple. Read the Bible. Pray. Listen.
(Write). Sam Shoemaker described
it with equal simplicity in The
Conversion of the Church, pp.
59 to 61:
became the dominant note. Not the
exclusive note: for there was Bible
study first, taking a book and
studying it straight through; there
was ordinary prayer, confession,
petition, thanksgiving, intercession.
But the bulk of the time is listening.
Most of us find it indispensable to
have a loose-leaf notebook,
in which to write down the things
which come to us (bolding added).
simple. Read the Bible. Pray. Listen.
Write! And Dr. Bob followed suit:
Bob’s morning devotion consisted of
a short prayer, a 20-minute study
of a familiar verse from the
Bible, and a quiet period of
waiting for directions as to where
he, that day, should find use for
his talent (DR. BOB and the Good
Oldtimers, p. 314, bolding added).
simple. Read the Bible. Pray. Listen!
They Did These Specific Things During
the Bible: There were many instructive
books and pamphlets available to
early AAs that made practical suggestions
for Bible study. One of the principal
ones was edited by Oxford Group
leader and writer Roger Hicks (who
had been with the Oxford Group team
that came to Akron in 1933). Significantly,
it was titled: How To Read The
Bible and was available from
"The Oxford Group" at
Berkeley Square in London.
Hicks provided a very specific guide
to study of the Book of Acts, and
covered many other topical Bible
sections as well. He cited, as sources
of the Oxford Group’s biblical ideas,
some of its most popular books of
the day (When Man Listens,
by Cecil Rose; Life Began Yesterday,
by Stephen Foote; For Sinners
Only by A. J. Russell; The
God Who Speaks,
by Canon B. H. Streeter; among others).
Anne Smith (Dr. Bob’s wife) had
recommended to early AAs in her
journal that they start their Bible
study with the Book of Acts; follow
up with the Gospels and then the
Epistles of Paul; leave Revelation
alone for a while; but be sure to
read Psalms and Proverbs.
Shoemaker strongly recommended using
Donald W. Carruthers’ How To
Find Reality In Your Morning Devotions.
the Bible as God’s case-book, recording
the experiences of various men in
finding God as well as the repeated
instances of God’s revealing more
and more of Himself to men. . . .
Be sure you have some definite plan
of approach to the Word. Then work
your plan. Make as study of (A) The
Bible as a whole, or (B) The Individual
Books, or (C) The Personality Delineated,
or (D) The Evident Principles set
forth, or (E) The Unfolding of God’s
Promises (p. 1).
himself, his Assistant Minister
W. Irving Harris, and other Shoemaker
people all had a crack at how and
where to study the Bible. Furthermore,
either Shoemaker or Frank Buchman
had Rev. Cleve Hicks lead Bible
study at Oxford Group house-parties.
And Dr. Buchman hired a famous Bible
teacher–Miss Mary Angevine–to teach
Bible to Oxford Group people to
get them sharp on God’s Word. Both
Anne Smith and A.A.’s Big Book suggested
the use of "helpful" books,
and this certainly was part of the
widespread use of The Upper
Room, My Utmost for His
Highest, and The Runner’s
Bible for pertinent verses and
further study. Details can be found
in Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal,
Why Early A.A. Succeeded,
The Good Book and The Big Book,
the Power of God, and The
Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual
In How To Find Reality In Your
Morning Devotions, Carruthers
suggested "four steps in the
process" of prayer: (1) Get
"tuned in," by which he
suggested reading well known passages
from the Word that bring God close
to you; reading the words of some
hymn that makes it easier for you
to think high thoughts; beginning
prayers with thanksgiving and make
your confession of sins and failures,
(2) Pray for the day’s special
opportunities and perplexities and
ask God’s blessing on your appointments,
on your period of refreshment, and
on the particular burdens the day
is to lay upon you. (3) Pray for
the progress of the Kingdom at Home
and Abroad, the Problems of Your
Community, The Peace of the World,
The Church of the Lord Jesus, The
Spread of Christ’s Message, and
so on. (4) Pray for those you love
most in the world, that the Truth
may come home to those who have
not found Him great and good and
are many categories of prayer, suggested
prayers and methods of prayer, and
even daily prayers suggested in
the Bible devotionals AAs used each
day. The important thing to note
is that healing, forgiveness, deliverance,
guidance, strength, and needs are
all appropriate (See for specific
details and discussion, Dick B.,
Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939)..
with God: When we briefly look
at Scripture references, we will
see the ways in which we can talk
with God and the ways in which He
can communicate with us. Unfortunately,
many of today’s discussions leave
out the Bible, the sonship with
God, and fellowship with God and
hence do not present the full ingredients
of what Sam Shoemaker called a "full-orbed
Quiet Time." But there are
ample guides early AAs had available
from Shoemaker’s writings and from
such Oxford Group literature as
Bremer Hofmeyr’s How to Listen,
Forde’s The Guidance of God,
Leon’s The Philosophy of
Courage, Cecil Rose’s When
Man Listens, Howard Rose’s The
Quiet Time, Sangster’s God
Does Guide Us, Streeter’s
The God Who Speaks, and Winslow’s
Vital Touch with God: How to
Carry on Adequate Devotional Life
and When I Awake.
full and detailed description of
the details of Bible study, prayer,
and talking with God can be found
in Dick B., Good Morning!: Quiet
Time, Morning Watch, Meditation,
and Early A.A., The
Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous,
and New Light on Alcoholism:
God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.
God Said in the Bible Was the Real
haven’t found anyone in the Oxford
Group, the Sam Shoemaker circle,
or early A.A. who was presumptuous
enough to make up the reading to
be done, the prayers to be uttered,
or the listening techniques without
reference to the specifics in the
Bible about attaining status as
a child of God and following God’s
directions. The biblical references
are amply covered in Dick B.,
The Good Book and The Big Book,
Turning Point, and Good
Morning. So there is no need
to enlarge this article with lengthy
citations. But there is profit in
noting these conditions God laid
down and which were often quoted
in Oxford Group, Shoemaker, and
the natural man receiveth not the
things of the Spirit of God: for they
him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned"
(1 Cor 2:14).
One not born again of the spirit
of God could whistle Dixie before
he could receive,understand, or
witness to the Word of God, prayer
to God, or communications from God.
know God. We love Jesus. But the Spirit
seems an unreal accessory in a theological
formula. The Spirit giveth life. He
is God’s Messenger. The Spirit has
been given to illumine the Word, to
bring the Truth to light and to teach
us how to pray. The Spirit guides
men (Carruthers, How To Find Reality,
supra, p. 7).
2 "Be transformed in nature"
. . . 2 Cor. 5, 14-15 "There
is a new creation whenever a man comes
to be in Christ". . . Eph. 2,
1-10 "God’s gift" . . .
Phil 3, 7-16 "Knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord." (Roger Hicks,
How to Study the Bible, supra,
Conditions For An Effective Quiet
Time: The whole-hearted giving oneself
to Jesus Christ, the daily offering
of ourselves, our souls and bodies
in His service (Gal. 2:20; Romans
12:1-2). Howard J. Rose, The Quiet
Time, supra, p. 2).
of the Scripture that called for
a new birth through believing on
Jesus, obedience, and a turning
to God for meditation in His word,
to speak to Him, and to hear from
must be born again (John 3:7–frequently
cited and discussed by Rev. Shoemaker)
if thou wilt confess with thy mouth
the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe
in thine heart that God hath raised
him from the dead, thou shalt be saved
(Romans 10:9–"the word of faith"
discussed and cited by Winslow, Why
I Believe in the Oxford Group,
my voice, and I will be your God,
and ye shall be my people ( Jeremiah
in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and
he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs
voice shalt thou hear in the morning,
O Lord; in the morning will I direct
my prayer unto thee, and will
look up (Psalm 5:3)
Lord; for thy servant heareth (1 Samuel
how love I thy law! it is my
meditation all day (Psalm 119:97).