|"24 Hours A Day" & "God Calling"|
FROM GLENN C. (South Bend, Indiana)
Richmond Walker did not originally intend to write a meditational book. He wrote down a large number of meditations on small cards which he carried in his pocket, just for his own use when he was praying and meditating. Some of the other A.A. members in Daytona Beach, Florida, began reading some of the little cards and begged him to print them up in a little book for the A.A. groups in their part of Florida. They used the printing press in the county courthouse, and Rich distributed them from his basement.
For the small print sections at the bottom of each page in Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Richmond Walker drew heavily on a book he had discovered, entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, which had been edited and published by A. J. Russell, one of the most famous Oxford Group authors. God Calling had an interesting origin. One of the two women (whose names are unknown to this day) explained in an introduction how they were inspired to begin their spiritual exploration:
"In the autumn of 1932, I was sitting in the lounge of a hotel when a visitor, quite unknown, crossed over and handing me a copy of For Sinners Only asked if I had read it. I answered no, and she left it with me. On returning home, I bought a copy for myself. I was curiously affected by the book and .... there came a persistent desire to try to see whether I could get guidance such as A. J. Russell reported, through sharing a quiet time with the friend with whom I was then living. She was a deeply spiritual woman with unwavering faith in the goodness of God and a devout believer in prayer, although her life had not been an easy one. I was rather skeptical, but, as she had agreed, we sat down with pencils and paper in hand and waited .... To this day, I cannot obtain guidance in this way alone. But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us ....”
"Certainly we were not in any way psychic or advanced in spiritual growth, but ordinary human beings who had more suffering and worry than the majority and who had known tragedy after tragedy. [And yet] always, and this daily, He insisted that we should be channels of love, joy, and laughter in His broken world ....”
"We, or rather I, found this command difficult to obey; to others it might have been simple. Were we to laugh, to cheer others, to be always joyful when our days were pain-racked and our nights tortured by chronic insomnia, when poverty and almost insupportable worry were our daily portion ...? Still came this insistent command to love and laugh and bring joy to the lives we contacted. Disheartened, one of us would gladly have ceased the struggle and passed on to another and happier life .... [Yet] He encouraged us daily .... Continually He exhorted us not to lose heart and spoke of the joy that the future held for us .... He stressed, most strongly of all, the immense power given to two souls praying together in close union and at one in their desire to love and serve Him."
This was the kind of message that could actually speak to struggling, tormented alcoholics. Richmond Walker decided to take it and use it freely in the small print sections in each day's meditation in his own compilation. He had to shorten the work enormously, and eliminate references to calling on the name of Jesus or contemplating Christ on the cross. Instead of prayers to Jesus, he turned it all into prayers to God instead, which was very, very important in the A.A. context. He clarified passages that were difficult to understand, and often almost totally rewrote the material.
He also added copious material of his own which was vitally important, explaining what the concept of a higher power was really about, for the help of alcoholics who literally did not have the foggiest idea of what was actually meant by the word God.
Perhaps the best way of summing up what Rich actually did would be as follows: God Calling was a nice little work of early twentieth-century Protestant piety, replete with the sentiments of the popular hymns from that period, hymns like "I walk in the garden with Him, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, whispering in my ear, the Son of God discloses." God Calling is still one of the five or six top sellers in Christian bookstores (Protestant bookstores anyway). It was deeply moving in many places, but not truly exceptional -- or not in the sense of Rich’s adaptation. Rich remolded it, reshaped it, added copiously and cut away equally vigorously, and came out with what I regard as one of the ten or fifteen true classics of spiritual literature -- a masterpiece, measured by the standards of the past three or four thousand years, and including both eastern and western spiritual writings.
I have seen more people make more progress more quickly, by using Twenty-Four Hours a Day, than I have observed with any other meditational book in use in the English-speaking world today. (I do not have the same kind of knowledge of the kinds of meditational books currently available in German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc.)
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