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Mar 18, 2015 | The Rev. Bill Wigmore

Prayer Is Two-Way Journey


Alcoholics Anonymous Step 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.”


Readers familiar with 12-Step Fellowships know that the 11th Step calls for prayer. Unknown to most, however, is the unusual form of Two Way Prayer AA Pioneers practiced in the early days of the movement. After reading Scripture and reciting morning prayers, they sat quietly listening for God to speak to them through “illuminative thoughts.” They recorded these thoughts in their prayer journals for that day and (following prudent checking) acted upon any guidance received. Some examples: Call a particular friend whose name comes suddenly to mind. Let go of something that’s blocking you from God. Forgive and love yourself as you hear God loving and forgiving you. 


 AA co-founder Bill Wilson said he had learned this prayer method through an Episcopal priest, Samuel Shoemaker. Shoemaker explained, “Formerly I had sought to find my way up to God. Now I let Him find His way down to me. Listening became the dominant note.”


After researching Two Way Prayer many years ago, I began devoting a few minutes to it each morning as part of my quiet time.  It soon changed my life just as surely and profoundly as it had the Pioneers in AA. Hearing God’s voice and growing more intimate with Him through daily “conscious contact” has a way of doing exactly that. But were these thoughts truly coming to me from God or was I simply imagining them in my mind? 


Early AAs believed if they were sincerely seeking God’s will and living their lives by the Four Standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love—standards drawn from the very life of Jesus Christ—then God would guide their thoughts and provide the needed power to carry them out.  An early slogan promised, “Where God guides, He provides!” 


I’ve been in 12-Step recovery now for well over 40 years and practicing their lost method of prayer for more than 20.  Two Way Prayer has led me to a deeper, more personal relationship with the Lord and helped me find His guidance and direction for my life. Teaching the simple practice to a growing number of spiritual seekers willing to journey from their left brain to their right has been a tremendous joy and privilege. 


Not long ago, a guilt-ridden young man three weeks off alcohol heard his Voice tell him: “My son, I love you and am closer to you than you can ever know.” God no longer seemed distant and detached but present and caring like a close friend. A grief-stricken mother who had lost her young son to a heroin overdose heard, “My precious child, Patrick is with me and at peace. He is at rest in Me—but I have work for you now.” Only God knows the words our lost and broken hearts most need to hear. Another of their slogans, “When man listens, God speaks.”


Our Recovery Ministries team in the Diocese of Texas recently produced—a website introducing this simple prayer practice to spiritual seekers both in and out of 12–Step recovery. The Hope and Healing Institute of St. Martin’s parish in Houston is now conducting outcome studies of the prayer’s effectiveness at Cornerstone Recovery, an alternative peer group for young people recovering from alcohol and drugs.  


By the way, some years ago I finally gave up asking whether the Voice was coming from God or from me. I decided, in the end, it didn’t really matter.  If it’s from me, it’s the best part of me I’ve ever found and the Voice is far wiser and more loving than many of the other voices residing in my mind. Exploring Two Way Prayer may open you to a new level of intimacy through conscious contact with your Creator and the lover and guider of your soul. Perhaps God’s on “call waiting” for you, too? 


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Wigmore is chair of Diocesan Recovery Ministries