A.A.'s Eleventh Step, Its Origin, and Quiet Time Devotions Today
By Dick B.
© 2009 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
Bible verses commonly cited to support appropriate approaches to Quiet Time
Psa 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God
1 Sam 3:9: Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth
Acts 9:6: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do
Isa 40:31: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength ....
Jer 30:1-2: The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of
Examples of Quiet Time practices in the pre-A.A. period
The YMCA (of which Dr. Bob's father was president in St. Johnsbury while Dr. Bob was attending St. Johnsbury Academy just down the street, and of which Bill Wilson was president at Burr and
The Christian Endeavor society (in which Dr. Bob was active during his youth at North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury) observed what it called the "Quiet Hour" and encouraged its use by having members become "Comrades of the Quiet Hour."
Quiet Time suggestions from Evangelist F. B. Meyer (Long before Frank Buchman organized the Oxford Group, he consulted the evangelist F. B. Meyer who asked Buchman, "Do you let the Holy Spirit guide you in all you are doing?" Meyer persisted, "Do you give God enough uninterrupted time really to tell you what to do? At that time, Buchman decided to give at least an hour each day in the early morning to listening to God, a period he came to refer to as a "Quiet Time."
Oxford Group author Jack Winslow wrote much on Quiet Time, stating: "The morning Quiet Time has come to mean to me a time when I seek to know God's plan for my day—when I come to Him for orders. After a time of quiet adoration and thanksgiving and the renewal of my self surrender for His service, I ask Him for His directions, and listen receptive for them."
Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. (the personal friend of Bill Wilson's and whom Bill Wilson dubbed a "cofounder" of A.A.) said, "I plead again for the keeping of the Morning Watch—coming fresh to God with the day's plans unmade, submitting first our spirits and then our duties to Him for the shedding of His white light on both. To steam full speed through icebergs is irreligious. To start the day without one thought of our Maker is to invite catastrophe. . . . Now I let Him find His way down to me. Listening became the dominant note. Not the exclusive note: for there was Bible study first, taking a book and studying it straight through; and there was ordinary prayer, confession, petition, thanksgiving, intercession. But the bulk of the time is listening."
The Quiet Time principle and practice was a vital part of the early A.A. program.
An example is the account of Dr. Bob's prayer life:
"Dr. 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. Having heard, he would religiously go about his Father's business, as he put it." DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, p. 314.
Dr. Bob's wife, Anne Ripley Smith wrote in the journal that she kept and
shared with early AAs and their families (See Dick B., Anne Smith's
Journal 1933-1999, 3rd ed.):
"The conditions for an effective Quiet Time—through whole-heartedly giving oneself to Jesus Christ by: (a) willingness to let go every known sin; (b) maintaining right relationship with all men; (c) willingness to make restitution; and (d) adherence to the Four Absolutes by seeking God, waiting upon God, obedience to the Will of God;, and belief in prayer according to the Word., p. 110.
"Prayer. Why not answered? Until we are ready to fulfill the conditions the deepest wishes of our heart cannot be realized. Intercessory prayer—pray that Spirit may tell you what to pray for. . . . A way to find God's will not to change it. . . . Right orientation of soul towards God. Conceive God as Father and it is not unnatural to lay before Him our hopes and needs—interest—fears. . . . Petitionary prayer—These we submit not because we distrust his goodness or desire to bend His will but because He is our Friend. . . . If we do not find ourselves desiring to pray for others as we pray for ourselves, we are not traveling in the right direction. . . . Correct me—direct—praise—adoration and thanksgiving—Romans II., p. 114.
"Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it," p. 82.
The vital necessity for a morning devotion and Quiet Time in early A.A. is repeatedly underlined in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. The following quotes illustrate:
"Point 4 of the report by Frank Amos to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., stated of the Original
"He [the alcoholic] must have devotions every morning—a "Quiet Time" of prayer and some reading from the Bible and other religious literature. Unless this is faithfully followed, there is grave danger of backsliding." DR. BOB, p.. 131.
A.A. itself stated as to the implications in the Amos report:
"The A.A. members of that time did not consider meetings necessary to maintain sobriety. They were simply "desirable." Morning devotion and "Quiet Time," however, were musts." DR. BOB, p. 136.
DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers further states:
"Morning Quiet Time continued to be an important part of the recovery program in 1938-39, as did the spiritual reading from which the early members derived a good deal of their inspiration. . . .. The Bible was stressed as reading material, of course." DR. BOB, pp. 150-51.
Bill Wilson himself wrote about the morning hour of meditation that had been so successful in the homes of pioneers Wally and Annabelle G. and said
"I sort of always felt that something was lost from A.A. when we stopped
emphasizing the morning meditation." DR. BOB, p. 178.
There is a wonderful illustration of the actual Quiet Time practice that we found in the personal notations in his diary by Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., for the periods in 1931 and 1935:
Dr. Shoemaker's personal diary entries were made available to Dick B.
and Ken B. by; Shoemaker's daughters Sally Shoemaker Robinson and Nickie Shoemaker Haggart, and were inspected at length by Nickie Haggart, Dick B., and Ken B. at the home of Shoemaker's daughter, Nickie Shoemaker Haggart in Florida. The pages were photocopied in that home, and then later included in a pamphlet by Dick B., titled, "Sam Shoemaker Papers. A copy is lodged in the Shoemaker Room of the Calvary Episcopal Church in
That the Quiet Time and meditation principles are still present and influential in present-day A.A. recovery ideas is exemplified by the following quotes from A.A.'s basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 2001:
"11. 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." (p. 59)
"Step 11 suggests prayer and meditation. We shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly." (pp. 85-86)
"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 . . ." (p. 86)
"We usually conclude the 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." (p. 87)
"If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. . . . There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one's priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer." (p. 87)
"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come if your own house is in order." (p. 164)
- We believe that the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and the programs of other 12-Step fellowships, should be studied, learned, and understood through careful examination of the roots of the ideas, the way those sources were applied in early A.A., and the traces of their existence that are patently present in A.A. literature today.
- We believe a brief presentation of accurate, documented history and comments such as that above, should be part of—in fact an introduction to—every area of recovery. This means, for example, in presentation of "prayer and meditation" and of the Eleventh Step; by speakers, study groups, counselors, therapists, treatment and recovery programs; outreach to prisons and hospitals; outreach to the military and veterans; in sober living houses; and in outreach to those suffering from life-controlling problems and self-destructive behaviors. Such introductory materials should be foundational in treatment, recovery work, prevention work, and in suggested solutions.
- Each and all of the foregoing quotations can be documented with footnotes, if requested.
- Also, a good many more documented quotations can be provided, if needed.
- It is my hope that this simple memorandum can be used by each sponsor, speaker, group leader, study group, therapist, counselor, clergyman, and recovery fellowship and program whenever there is a discussion of prayer, meditation, journaling, and quiet time as an element of recovery and spiritual wholeness.
- The entire subject of Quiet Time and its historical origins, biblical roots, use in the predecessor programs, and presence in A.A. itself are adequately covered, reported, and amplified in:
- Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works, 3rd ed.;
- Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., 2d ed.;
- Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, 1933-1939: A.A.'s Principles of Success, 3rd ed.
- Dick B., Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A., 2d ed.
- Dick B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book As a Youngster in
; and Vermont
- Garth Lean, Frank Buchman: A Life (London: Constable, 1985), 35-36, 74-75, 170-71.
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Subject: A.A.'s Eleventh Step, Its Origin, and Quiet Time Devotions