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.
In my previous article, I cited a few of the many references to prayer and meditation found throughout the “Big Book.” Now, I will concentrate on the passages within pages 86 to 88.
At the top of page 86, the “Big Book” authors state, “It would be easy to be vague about this matter (of prayer and meditation). Yet, we believe we can make some definite and valuable suggestions.” And, definite and valuable suggestions they do make. Basically, they instruct us on what we are to do at night, in the morning, and throughout the day.
At night, we review the day’s activities. In the first paragraph on page 86, the authors write:
“When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? . . . After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.”
This paragraph contains the third reference to the A.A. test for self-will, which the “Big Book” authors have previously described in Steps Four (page 67) and Ten (page 84), our inventory steps. Here, they suggest we use this same test to separate self-will from God’s will during our periods of prayer and meditation.
In order for the messages we receive to be considered self-will, they only have to pass one of the four characteristics of resentment, fear, selfishness OR dishonesty. Conversely, to be considered God’s will, they must pass all four characteristics of forgiveness, faith, unselfishness AND honesty.
In the second paragraph on page 86, the “Big Book” authors provide us with directions for conducting a morning “quiet time”:
“On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”
If we ask God to direct our thinking, doesn’t it stand to reason that our next thoughts, feelings or mental images just might be of a spiritual nature? What do we do with these messages? We write them down. Why? So we won’t forget them.
After we “sit quietly,” we examine our written record using the test we just described. We then share our guidance with others who are committed to the process. We do this because not all of the information we receive is Spirit based. As the “Big Book” authors write on page 87:
“ . . . Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.”
Here is where our sponsor or sharing partner can be very helpful. What does another person who is practicing two-way prayer think about the guidance we have received? As stated in the “How to Listen to God” pamphlet, “More light comes in through two windows than one.”
In the third paragraph on page 86, the “Big Book” authors reveal how the “One who has all power” replies to our requests for help:
“In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. . . . We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.”
According to the authors, this “Infinite Power” communicates with us through “inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision.” This is an amazing revelation.
Now we know how our questions are going to be answered.
In the first paragraph on page 87, the authors suggest we end our “quiet time” with a prayer:
“We usually conclude our period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems.”
If we ask for guidance, we will receive it. In addition, we will be given the courage and strength to carry it out.
The “Big Book” authors then explain what we are to do anytime we become] troubled or confused. We relax and ask for guidance. Starting with the third paragraph on page 87, the authors tell us:
“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day ‘Thy will be done.’ ”
Over the years, I have written many “to-do lists” during my morning meditations. Sometimes, I have received thoughts, feelings and mental images that can be considered interesting or insightful. Occasionally, I have received guidance that has been life-changing or even lifesaving.
For me, the key to the process is practice, practice, practice. By taking the time to get quiet and listen, I have experienced many of the promises on page 88. When I commit to a regular “quiet time,” I find myself “in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.”
In various archival collections throughout the United States and Canada, I found guidance written on stationary, envelopes, assorted scraps of paper, and in journals and notebooks of various shapes and sizes. This guidance kept many of our A.A. pioneers sober, one day at a time, for the rest of their lives. It proved to them beyond the shadow of a doubt that, “It works—it really does.”
In the next article, I will describe how the A.A. old-timers carried our lifesaving message of recovery to others.
Wally P. is an archivist, historian and author who, for more than twenty-three 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.