Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
According to the “Big Book” authors, we rely on prayer and meditation to enhance our relationship with the “One who has all power.” This relationship was established with our surrender (Steps One, Two and Three) and strengthened with our inventories and amends (Steps Four through Ten). We are now ready to “grow in understanding and effectiveness” by practicing Step Eleven on a daily basis for the rest of our lives.
Prayer and meditation have been described by some A.A. pioneers as two-way prayer. It works much like a telephone. Prayer is the transmitter. This is how we talk to the “Power greater than ourselves.” Meditation is the receiver. This is how the Power communicates with us.
One-way prayer is talking into the telephone but hanging up before receiving a reply. Two-way prayer involves both talking and listening. We listen to receive guidance. We listen for answers to our questions. We listen for direction to overcome our difficulties. We listen to know God better.
Listening is an integral part of the recovery process. In Steps One through Ten, we remove the blocks that limit our ability to listen. In Step Eleven, we expand our listening skills and in Step Twelve we listen as we work with others. On three occasions, the “Big Book” authors provide us with a test we can use to tell the difference between what I like to call the “voice of addiction” and the “voice of recovery.” The “voice of addiction” is all about “selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.” The “voice of recovery” has to do with unselfishness, honesty, forgiveness, and faith.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Which voice are we listening to? Are we listening to the voice that takes us to that “bitter morass of self-pity, . . . loneliness and despair,” or are we listening to the voice that directs us on “the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe?” It is the “voice of addiction” that deceives us into thinking that “somehow, someday (we) will control and enjoy (our) drinking.” It is
the “voice of recovery” that gives us insight “into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”
The importance of receiving guidance through two-way prayer is mentioned throughout the “Big Book.” Here are just a few of the references. In the second paragraph on page 70, the “Big Book” authors suggest we ask for guidance when we pray:
“. . . We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for GUIDANCE in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing.”
In the second paragraph on page 85, the authors state that we become “God-conscious” as we follow guidance:
“Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and DIRECTION (GUIDANCE) from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed DIRECTIONS (GUIDANCE), we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense.”
On page 56, the “Big Book” authors provide an example of the life changing effects of listening to guidance. This is how “Our Southern Friend,” Fitz M., came to believe:
“. . . Then, like a thunderbolt, a great thought came. It crowded out all
“Who are you to say there is no God?
“. . . In a few seconds he was overwhelmed by a conviction of the Presence of God. It poured over and through him with the certainty and majesty of a great tide at flood. The barriers he had built through the years were swept away. He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love.”
In the late 1930’s, John Batterson, a personal friend of Dr. Bob’s, wrote a short essay titled, “How to Listen to God.” It is one of the clearest set of instructions on meditation I have come across in my archival research. The pamphlet predates the “Big Book” and, as such, can be considered a source document for our Eleventh Step.
The author opens with this profound statement:
“These are a few simple suggestions for people who are willing to make an experiment. You can discover for yourself the most important and practical thing any human being can ever learn—how to be in touch with God.
“All that is needed is the willingness to try it honestly. Every person who has done this consistently and sincerely has found that it really works.”
Then, the author provides guidelines for conducting two-way prayer. They are:
“1. To be quiet and still,
2. To listen,
3. To (record the thoughts, feelings and images) that come,
4. To test the thoughts (feelings and images) to be sure they come from God,
5. To obey.”
As Bill W. writes in his story, “I was to sit quietly” and “I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within.” The test Bill W. and John Batterson are referring to is the same one we use in Steps Four, Ten and Eleven to distinguish between the “voice of addiction” and the “voice of recovery.”
In the section of the pamphlet titled, “Results,” the author again
emphasizes the importance of listening:
“Every person who has tried this honestly finds that a wisdom, not their own, comes into their mind and that a Power greater than human power begins to operate in their lives. It is an endless adventure.”
The pamphlet, in its entirety, can be found on the www.aabacktobasics.org website.
Next session we will learn more about prayer and meditation as described on pages 85-88 of the “Big Book.”
Wally P. is an archivist, historian and author who, for more than twentythree years, has been studying the origins and growth of the Twelve-step movement. He is the caretaker for the personal archives of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith.
Wally conducts history presentations and recovery workshops, including “Back to the Basics of Recovery” in which he takes attendees through all Twelve Steps in four, one-hour sessions. More than 500,000 have taken the Steps using this powerful, time-tested, and highly successful “original” program of action.