About a month ago I finished up reading one of the more life-changing books I’ve read to date – The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Within the span of a few weeks, numerous friends were recommending it to me, and I saw people I know who read the book and were so moved they did some pretty radical stuff (leaving jobs, purchasing buildings, starting new adventures). I had somewhat mapped out my reading plan of books till the end of the year, but decided to alter the plan to pick up and see what was so great.
And man, am I ever glad I did. Few books have impacted me in a way that this one did. No book has altered my prayer life in the way this did. I’ve struggled to describe to friends and family just how profound an effect this has had on me, so bear with me as I strive to condense a complete prayer paradigm shift into three poignant examples.
Before I hop into these, I want to overly simplify the book by using Mark Batterson’s own words: Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. Basically, if we pray a request to God that we think we can answer ourselves or may happen in due course without God’s intervention, we’re dishonoring Him because we’re not asking Him to work in miraculous ways. It seems somewhat strange that impotent humans pray to an omnipotent God asking for needs that He already knows about – yet that is exactly what He invokes us to do.
And so – the three ways that The Circle Maker has changed my prayer life:
1. I’ve stopped parenthetically adding “…if it’s your will.” If God has laid something on my heart, I’m praying hard and boldly for it. He may not answer my prayer in the way that I’m asking for it to be answered, and I need to recognize my ways are not His ways, but I’ve always felt that I’m emasculating my prayers when I ask for something bold to happen, and then add “if it’s your will.” Understanding God’s will and our free will is baffling, I’ll readily admit, but God certainly calls us to be involved in His happenings. The only time I can think of in the Bible that this type of prayer hedging is used is when Jesus, right before He is crucified, prays to the Father “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22.42). From what I can recall, most other biblical prayers skip this phrase I’ve grown all too comfortable using.
2. I pray for measurable, result-oriented results. There are five measurable requests that I’m currently circling in prayer, and each of them has a definitive request that will tell me whether or not God answered. One is for a couple friend going through some rough times to grow closer and then initiate a specific conversation with me that they know nothing about. Another is for a specific medical result for a friend 12 months away. And as of now, I’m perfectly content pushing the repeat button on these prayers until God answers them.
3. I realize there is a Genesis and a Revelation of each prayer. This was one of the more substantial points that hit me while reading. God puts into motion answers to our requests at varying times. Sometimes the “Revelation” of a prayer happens momentarily after the “Genesis” of the prayer leaves our lips. Sometimes the gap is a few years. Sometimes it’s a few generations. And sometimes, as in the case with Israel and Jesus, it’s a few thousand years. But, Batterson argues, there is a definitive beginning and end to each prayer, even if we never know the time difference between the two. He cites the example of his grand-father praying for his grandchildren, and those prayers being answered years after the grand-father passed away. God isn’t time-bound in chronos like we are – His time is kairos, a time dimension I don’t even really understand.
I feel there is so much more I could – or should – say about the book’s impact on my life, but I’m struggling to identify the specifics. It’s almost as if I don’t remember my philosophy on prayer before reading it … which may be a sign it was pretty weak.
The reason I write these letters, Jack, is to pass on wisdom to you – things that I’m learning that I want you to learn. I want you to learn about my growth through this book. I want you to read this book. And maybe I’ll wrap up this letter with one last specific example of how it’s changed me: I pray every night for my children’s faith to be stronger than mine and for their works to be greater than mine. Reading this book may just help you see the Revelation of that prayer. Till next time, Jack.