- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan; 11.11.2011 edition (December 11, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0310333024
- ISBN-13: 978-0310333029
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,129 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears Hardcover – December 11, 2011
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About the Author
Mark Batterson serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Recognized as “one of America’s 25 most innovative churches,” NCC is one church with seven locations. Mark’s blog (www.markbatterson.com) and webcast (www.theaterchurch.com) also reach a virtual congregation around the world. Mark is the author of several bestselling books, including New York Times bestsellers The Circle Maker and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. He and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children. You can follow Mark on Twitter: @markbatterson
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Top Customer Reviews
On the positive note, Mark has good humor and awesome prayer stories to tell. I understand writing a book that tells of God's work and faithfulness in your life. If this book was titled something like, "How God has responded to my prayers", then I would probably not have as much of an issue with it. Instead, it is being marketed as, " This is what God did for me and He'll do the same for you if you do this..."
In summary, I believe the point of the book is to encourage people to pray more and "pray big", which is a worthy cause. However, back to my opening line, we shouldn't "sell" a relationship with God as a means to an ends. Prayer is not as much about getting what you want and accomplishing things in God's name but about getting to know the person who has the power to give you your requests or change your desires completely.
The basis of this book is a legend about a Jewish man named Honi. A few years B.C., Honi drew a circle and stayed in this circle praying for rain. He intended to remain in that circle until the rain came, which it did. The author draws a parallel from this legend that we can draw a circle around our dreams, concerns, hopes, etc. and stay there until our prayers are answered.
While reading this book I was both nodding my head in agreement and shaking my head with disagreement. I am all for praying big prayers and trusting God for answers, yet I do not agree that "If you keep drawing prayer circles, the answer is yes" (p. 43). Later on the author clarifies this point by stating, "No doesn't always mean no; sometimes no means not yet." This sounds too much like a 'name it and claim' routine which the author says this book is not about, "drawing prayer circles isn't some magic trick to get what you want from God" (p. 14). So I am confused about the purpose of a circle prayer.
I was reminded of The Prayer of Jabez while I was reading this book. Years ago that book inspired people to pray big prayers and trust God. Where the Jabez prayer is found in the Bible, the Honi legend is just that, a legend. I am having a hard time with the theology of this book especially since the basis of the book is a legend, not a Biblical truth.
Suffice it to say, this book did not inspire me. I really wanted it to, but it fell short.
According to Pastor Mark Batterson in his book, The Circle Maker, 'Drawing prayer circles around our dreams isn't just a mechanism whereby we accomplish great things for God. It's a mechanism whereby God accomplishes great things in us.' Do you ever sense that there's far more to prayer, and to God's vision for your life, than what you're experiencing? It's time you learned from the legend of Honi the Circle Maker---a man bold enough to draw a circle in the sand and not budge from inside it until God answered his prayers for his people. What impossibly big dream is God calling you to draw a prayer circle around? Sharing inspiring stories from his own experiences as a circle maker, Mark Batterson will help you uncover your heart's deepest desires and God-given dreams and unleash them through the kind of audacious prayer that God delights to answer. (quoted from amazon.com)
In this book Batterson leads us through his experience with prayer by sharing stories. He begins with a legendary account of Honi - a Jewish mystic who prayed for rain during a time of severe drought. And apparently God heard his prayer. He drew a physical circle in the sand and prayed while kneeling in the circle:
"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 with a light sprinkle of rain)
"Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits and caverns."
(God answered with a heavy downpour which caused flash flooding)
"Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of your favor, blessing, and graciousness."
(God answered with a steady rain)
This book extrapolates from Honi's story and attempts to teach the reader that we too can and should follow Honi's example. We too should resolve to pray audacious prayers; not leaving our "circle" until God answers us. We are taught to "circle God's promises" in prayer until God answers us.
The chapters of the book are laid out in this way:
►(Chap. 1) "The Legend of the Circle Maker" - Establishes an example for us to follow.
►(Chap. 2) "Circle Makers" - Exhorts us to become circle makers.
►(Chap. 3) "The Jericho Miracle" - Another example of circling in prayer.
►(Chap. 4) "Praying Through" - Exhorts us to persevere in prayer
Section Break: "The First Circle - Dream Big" - Exhorts us to "dream big" and not pray small prayers.
►(Chap. 5) "Cloudy With a Chance of Quail" - Example of circling in prayer.
►(Chap. 6) "You Can't Never Always Sometimes Tell" - Personal story of circling in prayer
►(Chap. 7) "The Solution to 10,000 Problems" - Challenges our view of God. Is God big or small?
Section Break: "The Second Circle - Pray Hard" - Exhorts us to pray hard with persistence
►(Chap. 8) "Persistence Quotient" - Example of the persistent widow with judge
►(Chap. 9) "The Favor of Him Who Dwells in the Burning Bush" - Exhorts us to seek God's favor so we may accomplish great things for God.
►(Chap. 10) "The Cattle on a Thousand Hills" - God provides for us from his unlimited storehouse
►(Chap. 11) "No Answer" - Deals with unanswered prayer (when God says No)
Section Break: "The Third Circle - Think Long" - Exhorts us to "think long" by setting goals and praying hard.
►(Chap. 12) "The Long and Boring" - Exhortation to persevere long in prayer if necessary
►(Chap. 13) "The Greatest of Them All" - We can accomplish anything with God's help.
►(Chap. 14) "The Speed of Prayer" - Our prayers are heard by God, but are hindered by Satan; that we need to keep on praying
►(Chap. 15) "Life Goal List" - Make a Life goal list and pray for God's blessing to accomplish these goals.
Section Break: "Keep Circling" - Keep on praying - keep on keeping on
►(Chap 16) "Double Miracle" - God can do big miracles through your prayers.
►(Chap. 17) "Bottled Prayer" - Prayers carry on after we are gone.
►(Chap. 18) "Now There Was One" - One person can make a difference through prayer
While there are some good things in this book, there are also some problems I see with it. Let me say right off the bat that I think Batterson obviously has a heart to pray and to help others to pray. This is definitely a good thing. Prayer is certainly something that has been a weak point in the church throughout history. There is certainly nothing wrong with encouraging believers to pray hard, pray long, persist in prayer, to exercise faith, etc.
That being said, I found some thoughts and examples in this book that I really felt were not biblically grounded. I will list some of them here.
1. The foundational story is legendary. Honi is not from scripture and should not be held up as an example for us to follow. A book on prayer ought to have a strong scriptural foundation. Stories are fine as illustrations, but not as the basis for doctrine.
2. While I realize that drawing a circle in prayer is meant to be metaphorical, it does have parallels in pagan practices, magic, and Wiccan practices. Keeping close to scripture is very important in this regard. We are exhorted to know the truth and to renew our minds in God's Word. Basing our practice of prayer on scripture is crucial.
3. The books treads awfully close to prosperity theology. While Batterson says in places that he is not espousing this kind of theology, the book tends to encourage this kind of mindset. He would have us make life goal lists and to ask God to help us fulfill that list. Keeping our motives pure and our focus on God becomes difficult by doing this.
4. Batterson draws inferences from biblical stories which are unwarranted. For example he uses the Jericho story to say that we too can circle our problems in prayer and see them crumble. This is a misuse of the text.
5. Batterson never exegetes Bible passages such as the Lord's prayer, Jesus prayer in Gethsemene, Paul's prayers for the churches etc. These stories are not foundational for his book. One would think that a book on prayer ought to examine these key passages and be built on that.
6. The book has a gimmicky feel to it. It seems like it promises a "new and improved" way of prayer in order to create hype. I don't think this matches the tenor or the biblical teaching on prayer.
In doing my research for this book, I came across some fairly negative reviews. Some I thought were good, others I thought went too far in their criticism. Nevertheless, before reading this book, I would recommend reading the positive and negative reviews of this book (for example on amazon.com) and thinking clearly about what this book is teaching. I urge caution and evaluation bases on biblical principles.
For the above reasons, I cannot recommend this book; I just have too many concerns. While I realize this is a popular book, we ought to fairly evaluate it before accepting it.
Some Links Evaluating This Book
(For these links see my blog)