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Friday, November 16, 2012

"The Circle Maker" (Mark Batterson)

TITLE: The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, (226 pages).

Beginning with the legendary story of Honi, the Jewish prayer warrior, readers are given an inspiring look at the place of prayer in the ordinary life of a Christian. The key idea in the book is that we need to pray without ceasing and without wavering our faith in God. Beginning with the story of Honi, Batterson describes how the prayer of one man persists beyond the drizzles and the raindrops. How the prayer persists beyond the downpour and the joys of the ecstatic onlookers. Until God from heaven unleashes the many blessings that will drench not only the physical land but the inner hearts of people. Batterson's conviction is this: "Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers." (13)

Batterson talks about how he draws prayer circles around his ministry, how he literally practices prayer walking around the location that eventually houses the coffeehouse initiative on Capitol Hill, and how in prayer, one can dream big and flee one's greatest fears. He sees the Jericho initiative that not only conquers the outside, but overcomes the fears inside. Whether it is on salvation, on reconciliation, on healing, or provision, there is nothing to stop anyone from taking anything to the Lord in prayer. Batterson begins by defining what success means to him.

  1. Being able to do his best with whatever resources he has.
  2. Being able to help people maximize their potential as given by God.
  3. That the people closest to him, respect him the most.

Batterson justifies his praying through with several biblical examples. From the way the Lord has provided rain, manna, and quail to the people in the wilderness; to the parable of the persistent widow, to many personal stories of God answering (and not answering) his prayers. There are three circles of prayer to surround this initiative. They can be described through the phrase: "Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long."

The first circle, "Dream Big," is about learning to let God's vision expand our narrow perspectives. It is overcoming our doubts of God toward faith in God. It is not us sizing up God, but to let God size ourselves to a proper understanding of who God is. God has no limits. God has no problems in providing answers to prayers. It is whether it is in God's will. Batterson also makes a distinction between the "qualified" vs the "called," saying that the key issue to any ministry is not whether we are qualified or not. The key thing is whether we are called. Surely God will equip the called, no matter how qualified or unqualified the world may think of them.

The second circle, "Pray Hard" begins with the biblical story of a widow whose persistence got the better of the typically stubborn judge. Prayer warriors require a high "Persistence Quotient" that puts our faith into work, that practices our belief in God, that lets our prayers open our eyes to God taking action. There is an interesting thought about "hyperlinking" our prayers based on biblical promises. It links the ancient promises with present reality. It circles the promises of God, and revolutionizes our understanding of the Bible and how we read it. Batterson shares about how his "crazy" idea of praying around a crack house, ends up with a mysterious donation that is more than enough to fund the buying of the property, the construction of Ebenezer Coffee House, and how the Church continues to grow branches of ministry to bless people. Once Batterson and his staff received a notice that their rented property cannot be used due to fire code violations. They did the best thing they know. Pray. True enough. When the doors of public schools are closed, God opens the door of something better. Of all places, it is Union Square, a train station! (Since then, they have moved to another location, but the testimony of God's providence continues). The point is, God provides for his people according to what is needed most at that time.

The third circle is "Think Long" where prayer is a form of planting. This takes the form of having eternity in mind. We pray and think not simply of our present generations, but of other generations that are to come, for our children, their children, and their children's children, and so on. Yes, prayer can be "long and boring," but it grows deep roots of faith. When the US stock market crashes in 1929, Conrad Hilton shared about his "Pray Consistently and Confidently" experience which demonstrates to us that Hilton corporation is not built on bricks and mortars, but on a bold prayer to God. Batterson encourages readers to find their own patterns and own methods of prayer. Each of us are different. Drawing prayer circles may often require fasting too. It requires determination. It needs to be fueled by faith. It needs to allow the Spirit of God to overcome the temptations of the flesh. There is an "escape velocity" that we all need to have in order to pray above ourselves toward the heavenly kingdom.

The book ends with ten steps to goal setting, a list of life goals, and how we need to keep circling our prayers with God as our center. All it needs is one person, to draw one circle, to pray to one God, and ultimately to be the person that God has made one to be.

My Thoughts

This book is indeed a fresh perspective to prayer. For people who hardly pray, may this book reinvigorate the desire to pray. For people who prays in a monotonous and boring manner, this book offers ways in which we can keep faith, to be open to new ways of circling our prayers around God. For those of us hungering for more of God, this book is an excellent companion to dream big, to pray hard, and to think long.

I understand that there are some readers who feel uncomfortable about formulas, and steps to do spiritual things. Let me assure you that this book is not some self-help manual. It is a book that will inspire us to pray more and to believe God more. Pray to the point that our focus is not on the answers, but of God, and what He is speaking to us. I like the last part about Rodney "Gypsy" Smith, whose powerful ministry of preaching the gospel is wrapped up in this simple advice Gypsy gives.

"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." (215)

Wow. That to me is worth the price of the book.

Keep at it. Don't give up. Keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep believing. This book may very well trigger a change in your prayer life, maybe even your whole life. What is most compelling for me is that while prayers can lead to dramatic answers to prayer from God above, there is something else that happens inside a person every time that person prays. Everytime something fails to happen our way, pray. Pray to hear what God is speaking. Pray to discover the many other factors that we may not have understood. Pray to see how God changes our inner hearts each time we pray. This book had me at the legendary story of Honi. It had me again at the end. "The Circle Maker" has not made the bestselling list by hype alone. It really is that good.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book review is based on a book provided by the local library.

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