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Good, but Not What I'd Hoped For
on May 11, 2013
I wanted to like this book. No, that's not true. I wanted to love this book. Before requesting a copy to review, I had read several other reviews first, and saw many people talk about how life-changing it was. How it had revolutionized their prayer life.
I am sad to report that this wasn't the case for me. I did like it. It had some interesting and inspiring stories, some great quotes and reminders, and some good suggestions. It was just missing one thing: structure.
What I had expected, needed, and was hoping for was a linear approach, for want of a better term. To be truly useful to me, and for me to recommend it to others, a book like this needs to take a staircase approach. Each day's reading, story, theme, etc. should build on the day before. Ideally, a set of sub-themes would be great for a book like this (i.e. Day 1 - 10 "Press into God", Day 11-20 "Centering Your Circle on His Will", Day 21-30 "An Expectant Circle", Day 31-40 "Looking Beyond the Possible"...or something like that).
Unfortunately, each day seemed random. There was no follow-through in theme (beyond "pray, expect an answer, trust God", which was woven through most of it), and no momentum from one day to the next. As a result, I didn't feel like I really got anywhere, in part because the book didn't feel like it was going anywhere.
Having voiced that criticism, there is some other criticism--even rebuke--that Mark Batterson and Draw the Circle have received that I need to address. Some have connected the "circle drawing" to witchcraft, while others have insisted that Batterson is promoting a "health and wealth" or a "name it and claim it" theology and approach to prayer.
Both of these criticisms are patently absurd. No one could legitimately read this book and then charge the author with either of these.
Are circles used in some rituals in witchcraft? Yes. They're also used in geometry, gymnastics, roller coasters, and cooking. Are all of these to be avoided because they're obviously connected to witchcraft? (If you said "yes," please stop reading now--there's nothing else I can say to you.) The circle imagery used in this book has no more connection to witchcraft than any of these others do. Batterson uses it to make a point, and to help provide a somewhat tangible visual for the reader. To me, it did so effectively.
As for the other claim, that he is promoting a "health and wealth" or "name it and claim it" theology and approach to prayer, this is again untrue. As just one example of many, Batterson writes, "God is not your genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish." This is so far from the charge of "health and wealth," etc. that they're not even in the same ballpark.
If you're concerned about either of these possibilities (witchcraft or a prosperity-gospel), consider your fears assuaged. If you're looking for a book that will revolutionize your prayer life, this may be it. It wasn't for me, but if you're not concerned about the scattershot approach, or if it works for you, then you may find Draw the Circle worthwhile. If nothing else, read it and draw some inspiration from some amazing quotes (like the one I shared above) that may help change your perspective (in a good way) or provided much-needed reminders.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book at no charge, but all opinions are my own.