The most specific and direct influences on the Oxford Group’s understanding of divine guidance came from ideas which were widespread at that time in Keswick Holiness circles and also among Protestant missionaries to non-Christian countries like China, Japan, India and Iran. The Oxford Group simply put a much higher emphasis on seeking this kind of divine guidance, and made it a more developed part of their system.
A book written in 1896 by one of the key Keswick theologians, F.B. Meyer, entitled, The Secret Guidance, is vital and necessary reading for understanding the O.G.’s connection with the Keswick Convention. This is a famous weeklong annual gathering of evangelical Christians for prayer and meditation, Bible study, sermons and addresses, which draws people from all over the world. It began in 1875 at Keswick in the heart of the Lake District in northwest England, about forty miles south of the Scottish border, for “the promotion of Practical Holiness.” Meyer’s book gives a lot of details on how one goes about obtaining daily divine guidance, evaluates it, and so on. It was at Keswick in 1908, that Frank Buchman made the spiritual discovery which served as the basis for his eventual formation of the Oxford Group, so the connection between him and both Meyer and the Keswick Holiness movement is very important.
The other major source for Buchman’s understanding of divine guidance was Henry Burt Wright’s book, The Will of God and a Man’s lifework (1909), but this book had been heavily influenced by F.B. Meyer’s ideas, so the latter still stands in the background as a dominant source of Oxford Group beliefs about divine guidance.
We must not forget, however, that Buchman during his younger years did a good deal of missionary work in non-Christian countries, so he was in contact with many of the most influential English–speaking Protestant missionaries of his time. H.A. Walter, for example, was an important missionary in India from 1912 to 1918 who wrote a widely read book called Soul Surgery, explaining how to do one-on-one personal evangelism. Walter and Buchman spent three months traveling together in China in 1917, doing personal evangelism with Chinese students, so they got to know one another well. During the morning quiet time, which Walter emphasized was very important, (also emphasized by Alcoholics Anonymous), God “transfers to our minds the part of His perfect plan as we need to know…At that hour there come to us the ‘mysterious leadings’ of God’s Spirit.”
The leaders and prominent authors within the Protestant missionary movement during that period of history (like H.A. Walther) were all in contact with one another, and continually shared ideas. Seeking God’s guidance through daily prayer and meditation (A.A.’s Step 11), was one of these ideas. Buchman himself would have been seen as primarily another of the foreign missionaries working in various countries around the globe during the period between 1915 and 1919. But in 1920, two Anglican missionary bishops in China sent him to Cambridge University in England to do “missionary work” among the students, and from there he went to Oxford University and the Oxford Group was born.