Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My prayer progress

At the editor's request, here are a few words about the duration, progress, and effectiveness of my prayer life: First, my mother was reading the Bible to me at the earliest receptive point in my life. She did the praying and I did the believing. Like so many who go to institutions of higher learning, I probably left prayer behind during my University of California and Stanford Law School years. On graduation from Law School, I thought I was marrying a Christian women who would respect my beliefs and I hers. Instead, she immediately had a nervous breakdown with bipolar consequences that lasted from 1951 to about 1968. Even then, it was my mother that did the praying, and I the reliance on doctors and pills and hopefully TLC. During that period, my wife became a church and minister shopper at Protestant Churches that were not to my taste. I went to no church. I read no Bible. And I left the prayers to my mother. My wife and I never prayed together, never read the Bible together, and never asked God's help for her problems or our difficult marriage. The two sons were sent to Sunday School, after the great Protestant dumping tradition. But I did not participate. Her church asked me to teach Sunday School and handed me a book that was titled something like "Why prayers don't get answered." I declined to teach on such a subject because I believed that prayers do get answered and that healing is possible through prayer and reliance on God. But, in the meantime, my alcoholism flourished and replaced my wife's schizo-affective disorder. I joined her church. I became President of the church. I became a seeker of power and profit rather than a seeker of God and His righteouness. And I saw no evidence that the people in the church gave much credence to the power of prayer. And then things changed. My older son had joined a Bible research, teaching, and fellowship ministry; his mother opposed it; her mother opposed it; and I probably made fun of it. But then he invited me to the Holy Land on a fellowship trip. It was there that I saw some solid Christian believers daily praying, daily reading the Bible, and counting themselves as believers who had gotten born again and gotten "into the Word." I was very enthused, but treated the next few years badly. I took all the Bible classes. I attended all the Bible fellowships and conferences and teachings. I became born again. I spoke in tongues. And I drank. The problem was not God's. It was Dick's. And then the storms came. Typical storms involving alcoholism--resentment against my wife, denying my drinking problem, regularly abusing alcohol and sleeping pills, raising heck with church people, adversaries, and anyone who stood in my way. Not a single prayer for recovery. On April 21, 1986, I had had it. That date was preceded by nine months of drinking and unbearable depression; by unpardonable ethical conduct; by a host of emerging legal problems; and then a week's blackout. Still, however, no resort to prayer. As happens in these cases, the legal problems, the withdrawal problems, the marriage problems, the criminal problems, the confusion and memory and thinking problems, to mention a few, all converged to make my early sober months unbearable. I had been in A.A. since April 23rd. I had and have not had a single drink nor a single sleeping pill. I loved A.A. and thought very little about prayer--being told that I should not read the Bible, only A.A. books; that people who read the Bible got drunk; and that any interest I had in my Bible fellowship was premature and distracting. In despair, I checked into the Veterans Administration Psychiatric Ward in San Francisco. There I languished for five weeks, finally deciding I ought to consider suicide. My older son and his wife thrust Bible study and prayer upon me; and an older gentleman in our Bible fellowship called me long distance every day and listened to my whining. He said, Dick, why don't you stop trying to program your life and ask God what to do and for help. He asked me to check the story of "Peter walking on the water." I told him (erroneously) that only Jesus had been the water walker. But he persisted. I found from the Bible itself that verily when Jesus beckoned to Peter to walk and said, "come;" Peter believed, obeyed, and walked. Then Peter looked at the waves, heard the winds, became afraid and sank--only to be rescued by Jesus. I got the point. I dived into the Bible. I read Christian literature. I dragged psychos to A.A. meetings all over San Francisco. I listened to Christian tapes. But from the first moment of Bible study in the psych ward, I believed. What's more, I immediately got over the immense anxiety and fear and was ready for discharge. From that moment to this very day, I have worked with newcomers in A.A. incessantly. I have taught them the Big Book and the Twelve Steps. And I have led them to Christ and brought them into my son's Bible fellowship. Prayer to God for forgiveness, for thankfulness, for guidance, for praise, for healing, for my needs to be met has been daily fare. I've never had or wanted a drink or sleeping pill. I've had no fear or anxiety. I knew and believed that the accomplishments of Jesus Christ had released me from shame, guilt, fear, condemnation, obsessions, physical infirmities, and resentments. And that has been the case. Since then, I have prayed for and received deliverance during eye implant surgery and extremely difficult open heart surgery. In the last few years, I degenerated into a couch potato, only to have my doctor tell me I had to get moving. More prayer. But More arthritis. More breathing difficulty. More danger of a heart attack. No significant moving or cessation in eating too much. Prayer continued. I was joined on Maui by a young Christian recovered AA who was and is on fire for Jesus Christ. He is also a fitness expert. He volunteered to help me with my research into the Christian roots and Biblical stress in early A.A. He came here around the first of May, providentially as Dr. Bob would say, but in answer to prayers I would say. It's now late July. My arthritis is hardly even a problem. My breathing is no longer labored. I'm back swimming, losing weight, dieting, and praising and thanking our Heavenly Father in the name of His precious son Jesus Christ. I'm raring to tell others by every means possible what my Heavenly Father has done for me in answer to prayer and believing and standing on the truth of His Word. God Bless, Dick B.