(Photo: National Community Church)
Though prayer is a familiar act, it's hard shaking the feeling that it's also a futile one. Why does it often seem that when we pray, we're going in circles after God?
Mark Batterson, head pastor of D.C.'s National Community Church, says believers chase the proverbial tail as that's what it takes reaching Christ with our prayers. His new book, The Circle Maker, drops into stores next Tuesday and argues that contemporary Christians have lost the patience, passion and confidence to properly pray. Overcoming our spiritual tongue-tying, it argues, takes a powerful upgrade of our praying ability.
"Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers," Batterson wrote. "The greatest moments in life are the miraculous moments when human impotence and divine omnipotence intersect – and they intersect when we draw a circle around the impossible situations in our lives and invite God to intervene."
Batterson's book takes its namesake from the Jewish legend of Honi, a first-century wise man now remembered as Israel's "Circle Maker." Faced with a devastating drought, Honi drew a circle in the sand outside Jerusalem and vowed he wouldn't leave it until God had given His children salvation through rain. The precipitation this plea brought, Batterson says, was so unyielding in its sincerity before God that it's now the stuff of legend.
The Circle Maker thus reexamines Honi's divine request and outlines a strategy for recreating it today. Batterson begins with the concept of "dreaming big." It proposes that no task is too big for the King of Kings. Keeping this in mind, believers should settle for nothing less than the impossible when they invoke divine intervention.
"God isn't offended by big dreams; He's offended by anything less," Batterson wrote. "I've come to expect the unexpected because God is predictably unpredictable. One bold prayer can accomplish more than a thousand well-laid plans."
Up next is the practice of "praying through." All too often, Batterson reasons, Christians lose patience in prayer or let their original desires evaporate into vagueness. Praying through solves this problem by honing in on a specific objective and sticking with it in prayer no matter how much time or energy it takes.
"Praying through is all about consistency," Batterson said. "It's circling Jericho so many times it makes you dizzy. Circle makers know that it's always too soon to quit praying because you never know when the wall is about to fall. You are always one prayer away from a miracle."
Last but not least is the tenet of "thinking long." The theater church pastor proposes that most prayers ignore the big picture – namely, the fact that a timeless God doesn't go by an Earthly schedule. He thus encourages readers to reflect on prayer like planted seeds. Each one, he argues, grows at its own rate into an amazing blessing by God.
"Prayer is the inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave," Batterson wrote. "Even when we die, our prayers don't. In fact, our prayers bear fruit forever."
All these ideas lead Batterson to conclude that the best prayer preparation is devotion to God. Christ's power is such, he proposes, all humans can do is spiral around his glory with intensity and consistency. The end result, he concludes, is plugging into a power source without parallel in the universe.
"Sometimes we act as though God is surprised by the things that surprise us, but by definition, the Omniscient One cannot be surprised," Batterson wrote. "God is always a step ahead, even when we feel like He's a step behind. He's always got a holy surprise up His sovereign sleeve."