The March Question by Dick B.

On pages 85 & 86 of the Big Book it says "We shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if we have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can make some definite and valuable suggestions." It also says on page 87 "Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer."

How have you combined these definite suggestions with making use of what religious people offer?

Thank you for this particular suggestion because it points up several factors important not only to sobriety, but also to a relationship and fellowship with the Creator. Moreover, it is not pointed at any particular religious denomination in that it suggests contacting one’s rabbi, minister, and priest for helpful suggestions and books. It also states “Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.” Actually, Bill was trying to cover a multitude of approaches in a broad way. In his own case, Bill did spend lots of time with the Episcopalian priest, Dr. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. He later talked a good deal to Father Ed Dowling, S.J. And Bill invited both of these men to speak to AAs at their International Convention. Remarks can be found in A.A. Comes of Age. In addition, Bill was in touch with Father John C. Ford, S.J. and with Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen. The situation was much different for Dr. Bob (and for me). Bob had had extensive and excellent training in the Bible, prayer, Quiet Hour, conversion, and Christian principles and practices when he was a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. That is what our new title Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous is about. Also our new website http://DrBob.info. Also the new Dr. Bob Core Library just established in the Smith family’s North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Having said that, it is equally important to note Dr. Bob’s involvement in the Christian Endeavor Society of his church because most of the principles and practices transmitted to early A.A. by Dr. Bob very closely resemble those in his Christian Endeavor Fellowship. The emphasis was on fellowship and not on church or ministers by the time Dr. Bob set up shop in Akron. For all of his sober life, Dr. Bob was involved in church—Congregational, Episcopal, Presbyterian (See Dr. Bob and His Library). But his son Smitty told me that Dr. Bob didn’t care much for “sky pilots” (preachers) and was more interested in the “message” (the Good Book) than the “messenger.” Accordingly, his first religious association in adult life in Akron was focused on the Christian Fellowship to which he was introduced in the Oxford Group. But it was not Oxford Group. It didn’t have a church. It didn’t have a minister. And what it did have was the very backdrop that Dr. Bob had acquired as a youngster in Vermont. This fellowship was described as holding “old fashioned prayer meetings” or “old fashioned revival meetings.” See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers and my new title Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous. As in the Christian Endeavor Society of Dr. Bob’s youth, the following were stressed: 1) Confession of Jesus Christ. 2) Prayer meetings. 3) Bible study meetings. 4) Quiet Hour. 5) The reading of religious literature. In other words, the emphasis was on salvation and growth, not merely conversion alone; and the Oxford Group did not hold with conversion at all. Consequently, early AAs were introduced to Christ in the hospital. They were introduced to fellowship in the homes in which they lived. They were introduced to prayer at the Quiet Times Anne Smith held for AAs and their families each morning. They were introduced to Bible study because the Bible was read frequently, and they were urged to study the Book of James, 1 Corinthians 13, and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When he was asked a question about the program, Dr. Bob would usually ask, “What does it say in the Good Book.” The pioneers held individual Quiet Times and also group quiet times where Scripture was read, prayers followed, asking guidance followed that, and then they would discuss either a Bible subject or something from Anne Smith’s Journal which she shared with them. All were led to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour in a ceremony with two or three others, much in the form of James 5:16. Even more significant in terms of the basic question: Dr. Bob widely distributed a variety of books on prayer, the Bible, the life of Jesus Christ, Quiet Time, and Christian living. He and they made use of a number of devotionals such as the Upper Room, The Runner’s Bible, My Utmost for His Highest, The Greatest Thing in the World, Abundant Living, Soul’s Sincere Desires, The Imitation of Christ, As a Man Thinketh, The Meaning of Prayer, and Daily Strength for Daily Needs. The bottom line is that those who really tried achieved a documented 75% to 93% rate of cures. Now what about my experience? First, I had to get through the seizures, the shakes, and the mental confusion. Second, I dug into A.A. as deeply as I could. Third, before long, I tired of hearing meaningless talk about a “higher power” and “spirituality” and criticism of those who read the Bible. I tired of hearing from my sponsor that people who read the Bible got drunk. And fortunately, I turned to the Bible and a Bible fellowship as part and parcel of my recovery program. I studied and learned the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, and how to sponsor. And then applied the principles among the many men I sponsored in A.A. They learned the Big Book. They “took” the Twelve Steps and learned what it meant to “practice” the last three. They were led into active fellowship participation. And they were led to Christ, to the Bible, and to Bible fellowship and study. What of prayer? The Bible is filled with instructions on how to pray, to whom to pray, for what one can pray, and the importance of repentance, obedience, and believing. It is also clear on the importance of renewing one’s mind to what God reveals to you and what He revealed in His word and through His son. God promises, for example, in Psalm 103 to heal all our diseases, forgive all our iniquities, redeem our lives from destruction and shower us with loving kindness and tender mercies. If He promises it, and if we are obedient to His commandments, we can expect to have the promise fulfilled. And that probably covers my understanding and practice of the principle you offered for discussion.

God Bless, Dick B.
Got the new book? The Conversion of Bill W.
Have you seen our new web site? Dr. Bob and Alcoholics Anonymous

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