Here’s the premise of the Circle Maker, a book on ‘praying through’: pray circles around your God-given dreams and keep praying ‘till God answers.
Yep, it’s controversial. As someone who has a healthy aversion to anything that reeks of ‘name it and claim it’, I was skeptical as well. After the first chapter, telling the story of Jewish legendary circle maker Honi who stood in a circle to pray for rain, I wasn’t convinced this book was Biblical at all. But after reading the whole book, I’ve changed my mind.
You see, author Mark Batterson doesn’t believe in the power of circles, he believed in the power of prayer and above all in the power of God who can do way more than we could ever think or imagine. His book is one big encouragement to dream big, pray hard, think long and then keep circling (= keep praying).
It’s not about the circles per se though and I have a sneaky suspicion that people who object to the idea of a prayer circle haven’t really read the book or understood that it’s more of a method, a metaphor for persistent prayer than a mystic, magical formula. Here’s a quote that clears it up:
“It honestly doesn’t matter whether it’s a circle, an oval, or a trapezoid. Drawing prayer circles is nothing more than laying our requests before God and waiting expectantly. If walking in circles helps you pray with more consistency and intensity, then make yourself dizzy; if not, then find something, find anything that helps you pray through.” (page 158)
Ok, so the idea of prayer circles, praying in a circle around something, circling your dreams in prayer isn’t exactly Biblical in the sense that it’s directly used in the Bible. I agree completely and some of the author’s attempts to do give a Biblical foundation are weak. But it’s not unbiblical either in the sense that it goes against anything the Bible teaches us. The Bible shows us multiple examples of bold prayers being answered by God.
Above all, Mark Batterson is not a member of the name it and claim it club. He quite adamantly states that your dreams had better be Gods will and not the other way around. He spends a lot of time stressing the importance of a daily quiet time with God and a lot of time spent in prayer. He describes praying as being hard work, tough work, not just a matter of claiming whatever you feel entitled to. He doesn’t claim all his circle prayers have been answered either, he cites several examples of unanswered prayers in fact.
I was very inspired by The Circle Maker to pray better, pray more and be more persistent in my prayers. The many stories Mark Batterson shared of how God answered his prayers and those of others, big prayers, impossible prayers even, helped me realize that I dream too small and pray too little. Our God is an awesome, big, all-powerful God and our prayers should reflect that truth.
I loved the quote at the end of the book of evangelist Rodney “Gypsy” Smith:
“Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” (page 215)
I wonder: what would happen if all of us would pray like this?
It’s not a perfect book. It could have been shorter for instance without losing anything of its power. But it’s well written, easy to read (though not something to read in one day because it gives you a whole lot to process!) and full of inspiring stories and examples. If you want to read a book on prayer that will challenge you to pray differently, harder, bigger and with more persistence, I urge you to read The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.