Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prayer Changes Everything: My Review of THE CIRCLE MAKER by MarkBatterson

In the first century BC, in the midst of a drought that threatened to destroy a generation of Jewish people, a Jewish sage named Honi changed everything when he believed that praying to God was their last and only hope. Honi drew a circle around himself in the sand and prayed to God that he wouldn't move from the circle until God sent rain. Like Jesus' parable of the persistent widow, Honi was committed to pursuing God as the only source of help and hope. After more than a year without rain, as Honi stood and prayed in the circle, raindrops began to fall. God had answered Honi the circle maker's prayer.

While this story doesn't originate from the Bible, National Community Church pastor and author Mark Batterson uses this legend as the launching point for his newest book on prayer, THE CIRCLE MAKER. I had been looking forward to reading THE CIRCLE MAKER for several months because I've been reading Mark Batterson's books for awhile. His book WILD GOOSE CHASE is a fascinating look at the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Batterson is a compelling communicator with an infectious belief that the things that God did in the stories of the Bible are still happening today.

One of Batterson's impeccable talents is the ability to both come up with and communicate a story that perfectly illustrates the point he's trying to make. As you read a Batterson book, it becomes very clear that he lives life to the fullest and finds great satisfaction in pursuing Christ. THE CIRCLE MAKER is another example of Batterson's strengths. He writes not merely as a theorist, but a practitioner of everything he's trying to say in the book. In a nutshell, the book is about our desperate need to develop an intimate relationship with God that is marked by persistent and faith-filled prayer. Using examples both from his own life and the life of his church, Batterson shows the power of prayer to make a life-altering impact in the way people live their lives.

THE CIRCLE MAKER is mapped out in three movements:
Dream Big
Pray Hard
Think Long

I love how Batterson connects prayer to dreaming big, and that our dreams for what life could be for ourselves and others should expand as we journey with God through prayer. We should be desperate praying for things that only God could accomplish. Our expectations for life should increase because of our prayer times with God.

Showing that prayer isn't a magic formula to merely get what we want, Batterson encourages us to pray hard and persistently as the Scriptures teach us. Persistent prayer for something exposes whether or not our desire for it is selfish or something God is encouraging inside of us. Sometimes God takes a long time to answer some of our prayers. It's in those times that we shouldn't give up, but be persistent.

Finally, in the section Thing Long, Batterson reminds us that prayer in Scripture isn't just about us. We're trying to impact the world both now and for future generations. This part resonated with me as I think about my own children and their future. Batterson encourages readers to pray circles around their children, and it's something I want to commit to.

THE CIRCLE MAKER is marked by so many other great insights, such as making our prayers specific, setting God-glorifying life goals, and journaling our prayers. Batterson is the king of inspiring one-liners. There's so much to quote from this book, such as our need to pray as if it depends on God and work as if it depends on us. That's a great insight on putting flesh on the faith of our prayers.

Aside from the sense that Batterson may sometimes over-spiritualize some Scripture passages, THE CIRCLE MAKER is a brilliant and inspiring call to pursue God relentlessly through prayer.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan

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