The Dick B. YouTube Channel
The History of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement
[Fifteenth Program: Showing How and Where the Christian Roots of A.A. originating in the Christian Upbringing of A.A. Cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob Ultimately Wound Up Directly Influencing the “Old School” A.A. Christian Fellowship Bill and Bob Dr. Bob founded in Akron in June of 1935]
This is the fifteenth presentation on the Dick B. YouTube Channel. It will, in this Fifteenth Program, deal with the impact of one the great evangelists, whose life impacted on the Christian upbringing of Dr. Bob.
There are three topics: (1) The remarks on the Christian roots of A.A. by Dr. Bob. (2) The special place that “prayer and meditation” held in early A.A. (3) The particular Quiet Time contributions of Evangelist F. B. Meyer.
The Remarks of Dr. Bob and His Son on the Christian Roots of A.A.:
He was almost forced as a youngster to go to Church services, prayer meetings, and Christian Endeavor four and sometimes five times a week.
He declared he had had excellent training in the Bible as a Youngster (and his son said his dad had read the Bible from cover to cover three times).
In his last major address to AAs in 1948, Dr. Bob said early AAs believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible and that the basic ideas for the Twelve Steps came from study and effort in the Bible.
Quiet Time, the Biblical Roots, and Their Vital Role in Early A.A.
“Morning devotion and ‘quiet time’ . . . were musts. . . . Morning quiet time continued to be an important part of the recovery program in 1938-1939, as did the spiritual reading from which the early members derived a good deal of their inspiration.” See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 136, 150. See the biblical basics in Psalm 5:3: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
Bill W. said: “They would start out in the morning reading from The Upper Room and say the prayers. . . . I sort of always felt that something was lost from A.A. when we stopped emphasizing the morning meditation” See DR. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, 178.
As to Dr. Bob, A.A.’s General Service Conference-approved literature reported: “Prayer, of course, was an important part of Dr. Bob’s faith. . . . 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.” See DR. BOB, 314.
As to Bill Wilson’s wife Lois, who wrote: “Anne [Dr. Bob’s wife] taught me to have a ‘quiet time’ in the morning that I might feel near to God and receive strength for the day. Children of the Healer, 42-43.
As to Dr. Bob’s wife Anne, their daughter said: “At that time I was getting involved with quiet times they had in the morning. The guys would come, and Mom would have her quiet time with them. . . they’d have their quiet time, which is a holdover from the Oxford Group, where they read the Bible, prayed and listened, and got guidance.” Children of the Healer, 41.
Specific Contributions of Evangelist F. B. Meyer to Early A.A.’s Quiet Time
Francis Brotherton Meyer was born in Clapham, London, on April 8, 1847. Meyer had a close. life-long friendship with the American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, working with him in England and America. Billy Graham was speaking on the great social reformers of the Keswick Victorian era—mentioning both General William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) and Meyer. Meyer took the position that for ex-prisoners, alcoholics, and delinquents, conversion to God through Jesus Christ was necessary but not always sufficient. Often, he asserted they also needed jobs and accommodation. George Williams, a trustee at Meyer’s Christ Church--himself a leading evangelist who played a large part in founding the YMCA--was involved in Meyer’s work at Newman Hall. Meyer preached both the need to find salvation through Christ and to give up alcohol. Christian Endeavor—the society in which Dr. Bob was active—was close to Meyer’s heart; and, in 1894, Meyer became the first president of the Central South London Christian Endeavor Union. His evangelism resulted in many conversions. In 1892, he made his first trip to USA and was eventually to go there at least twenty times. In 1898, he went to Washington, opened the Senate with prayers, and had a talk with President McKinley. Frank Buchman—who founded the Oxford Group—first attended Northfield Conventions and heard Meyer speak. Meyer later came to the campus of Pennsylvania State College where he told Buchman to listen more to God than the phones and to work more personally rather than organizing large meetings. Buchman was much influenced by Meyer’s books, especially his Secret of Guidance. Buchman was especially struck by the words, “If any man wills to do His will, he shall know.”
I published my book Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A., Rev. ed., 1988 in order to give the recovery community an authentic view of the origins, practices, and viewpoints about what early AAs called “Quiet Time.” www.dickb.com/goodmorn.shtml. The title of this book was chosen because the subject of Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker’s first radio program was “Good Morning.” There, Shoemaker told his listeners how he set aside the first portion of his day for time with God. With his family, he reached for his Bible. He read a chapter or two. Then they got quiet and spent some time in prayer. In quietness, he said, they prayed for the people, the causes, the immediate problems of the day, and asked God to direct them. He suggested that if his listeners began the day that way, they would have a “good morning,” and a good afternoon, and a good evening—and a good life. Shoemaker was a strong advocate of what was originally called the “Morning Watch” and later came to be known as “Quiet Time.” According to Bill Wilson, Shoemaker’s teachings on this and most of the other Twelve Step ideas were the direct source of influence on Bill’s writing.
Actually, in Dr. Bob’s Christian Endeavor society, the “meditation” practice was called “Quiet Hour.” In the YMCA, it was known as the “Morning Watch.” In the Oxford Group, it became known as “Quiet Time.” And Bill Wilson spoke of it in his Big Book as “prayer and meditation.”
However much F. B. Meyer influenced the men and organizations that shaped early A.A., Meyer certainly crossed their paths. The paths of Moody and Sankey, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and of the Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society. And in 1896, he gathered and pulled together the ideas he had formulated on God’s guidance. He published The Secret of Guidance.
Here are some of the major points he made (1) the biblical foundations in Psalm 32:8 (“I will instruct thee and teach thee. . .”), Proverbs 3:6 (“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”), Isaiah 58:11 (“The Lord shall guide thee continually”), John 8:12 (“I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. . .”). (2) surrendering to the will of the Father (John 5:20: “. . . I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me”). (3) “It is for us ultimately to decide as God shall teach us, but the voice may come to us through the voice of sanctified common sense. . .” (4) we must be much in prayer for guidance, James 1:5 (“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. . .” Meyer presented, in one short chapter, many ideas you can find in the ideas, and even the language of, A.A.’s Big Book on asking God for direction.
End of Program Fifteen:
This presentation focused on how the idea of looking to God for guidance came to A.A. founders from some Christian evangelist heavyweights. The next program will cover the work of two other evangelists of importance. One is the world-famous Billy Sunday. The other is an evangelist of Dr. Bob’s Akron days, Ethel Willitts. We will provide you with further information as to how the deeds of the evangelists—with their conversions, Bibles, prayer meetings, pleas to God for guidance, healings, revivals, and Gospel meetings—found their way into the ideas, principles, and practices of the “Old School” Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship.
I close by giving you pictures of two of my books which more fully detail the facts about the progression of the Christian roots of A.A. into the actual program of the “Old School” Akron A.A. Christian fellowship. The first is Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A., Bridge Builders Edition, 1998 www.dickb.com/goodmorn.shtml, and Bob Holman, F.B. Meyer: “If I Had A Hundred Men” (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2007).