I received a question today from a woman taking Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon Bible Study. One thing Gideon did NOT do was pray by drawing a circle around himself and demanding that the Lord do something in the circle. No, that example came from a scenario Shirer shared outside of Scripture (“extra-Biblical”) as an example, which she herself demonstrated by standing in a circle. She then instructs women to do the same, using masking tape or even a circle of their children’s toys:
Please note that no where in Scripture did anyone ever draw circles around themselves, in either the Old or New Testament. No, circle making comes from a very popular pagan book written by Pastor Mark Batterson called The Circle Maker. In it, he tells of a character who does not appear in Scripture, Honi Ha-Ma’agel, a Jewish scholar who lived in the first century B.C. (For some reason God did not include Honi in any of His breathed-out Word.)
“The prayer that saved a generation was deemed one of the most significant prayers in the history of Israel. The circle he drew in the sand became a sacred symbol. And the legend of Honi the circle maker stands forever as a testament to the power of a single prayer to change the course of history.”
Batterson began praying in circles. In his book he describes many occasions in which he has prayed in circles and seen the Lord grant what he asked. The promise of his book is that it “will show you how to claim God-given promises, pursue God-sized dreams, and seize God-ordained opportunities. You’ll learn how to draw prayer circles around your family, your job, your problems, and your goals.”
Author Tim Challies gives us three reasons not to pray in circles in the manner Batterson prescribes:
What I consider most notable about Batterson’s approach to prayer is that it is extra-biblical. It is not drawn from the New Testament or the Old Testament but from the Talmud. To the Jew the Talmud is the authoritative, binding body of religious tradition; to the Christian it is nothing, no more binding and no more prescriptive than Encyclopedia Britannica. It may be of historical and academic interest, but it does not represent the voice of God to his people. When Batterson prays in circles, he begins with a tradition outside the Bible and then looks within the Scripture to build a shaky support structure.
Praying in circles is extra-biblical, derived from a source apart from Scripture. But that’s not all, it’s also patently un-biblical, finding no support in Scripture. It is entirely absent from God’s Word to us. The Bible is not lacking in explicit and implicit teaching when it comes to prayer. Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus as simply and clearly as they could: “Teach us to pray.” When Jesus taught his disciples, he said nothing about prayer circles; if anything, he said the opposite when he told them to pray privately and in a quiet place. When Paul wrote to the people he loved, he often told them how and what he was praying on their behalf, and he said nothing about prayer circles. Praying in circles is absent in any and every form.
Praying in circles is extra-biblical and un-biblical, but it is more than that: it is anti-biblical. It directly violates the principles of prayer. When Jesus teaches us to pray, he teaches us to approach God as a child approaches a father, not marching in circles around him, but simply asking with confidence and humility. To pray in circles is to elevate technique at the expense of the heart behind it. To pray in circles is to attempt to manipulate God by action rather than seeking God by communing with him in his Word and prayer. It is nearly indistinguishable from a name-it-and-claim-it kind of Christianity where the things we visualize and demand are the things God must and will give to us, if only we know how to bend his will to ours.
Praying in circles is simply the latest in a long list of techniques to exploit our deep-rooted dissatisfaction with our prayer lives.
Now listen! We need to pray big prayers and bold prayers. Through Christ Jesus we can approach God’s throne with boldness and confidence; we can be like that persistent widow who asks and asks until she receives. The Lord loves to hear us pray and loves to grant what we ask. But not if we attempt to manipulate him by technique.
The Comments Mark Batterson Doesn’t Want You To See Apprising Ministries
© Amy Spreeman for Berean Research, 2016