Mark Batterson, who serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, draws upon an old legend called the Circle Maker to create a beautifully executed prayer directory for Christians wanting to say prayers that change the world. Batterson recounts reading this tale and how it deeply affected him, causing him to rethink his own prayer habits and how the principle of “circling” is both powerful and biblical.
"Just when you think nothing else can be written about praying to effect miraculous change, someone like Batterson steps up and proves you wrong."
The Circle Maker legend says that in the first-century BC, a yearlong drought was threatening to destroy a generation, “the generation before Jesus.” Honi, an ancient sage who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem and was renowned for his ability to pray, said a prayer that broke open the heavens with a downpour that had the people jumping for joy. Honi understood the power of prayer, and on this particular day, he took his six-foot staff and created a 360-degree circle with it. Then, standing inside the circle, he dropped to his knees, raised his hands to heaven, and called out, “Lord of the universe, I swear before Your great name that I will not move from this circle until You have shown mercy upon Your children.” God answered the “resolute yet humble, confident yet meek, expectant yet unassuming” prayer of this man of faith.
Batterson builds his dynamic primer of faith-building, life-altering prayer on this legend because, in his words, “Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.” He contends that God is offended by anything less than big dreams and prayers of the boldest type. In this passionate, faith-expanding “circle,” Batterson shares his own history of circle-making prayers and the ways in which God has faithfully answered his requests.
He lays out the formula for praying circles around desires as well as around fears, and both begin with dreaming big dreams. In his words, circle makers are risk takers and must be willing to look foolish for God. As people of faith start praying big, they must back themselves into a circle where the only way out is a miracle. Batterson notes that when Honi prayed, he didn’t draw a semicircle; he drew a complete circle. Thus there was “no escape clause, no expiration date.” The second element of circle making is learning to pray hard (persistently, relentlessly, arduously). In other words, laboring in prayer. Finally, the third circle is to think long (understanding that every prayer prayed today lives on beyond our lives --- eternally, and with eternal repercussions.)
Batterson closes out his riveting text with a section that will keep readers circling for the rest of their lives; he does this by humble, careful instruction. Just when you think nothing else can be written about praying to effect miraculous change, someone like Batterson steps up and proves you wrong. THE CIRCLE MAKER is one of those books readers will keep close at hand and keep on recommending.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on December 14, 2011