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Draw the CircleThe 40-day Prayer Challenge
By Mark Batterson
ZondervanCopyright © 2012 Mark Batterson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDay 1
He prayed to God regularly. ACTS 10:2
Five words tell me everything I need to know about Cornelius: He prayed to God regularly. Scripture doesn't record exactly when or where or how he prayed. It doesn't reveal whether he prayed in the morning or the evening. It doesn't tell us what he said or the posture he prayed in. It just says he prayed regularly. And when you pray to God regularly, irregular things happen on a regular basis. You never know when or where or how God will invade the routine of your life, but you can live in holy anticipation, knowing that God is orchestrating supernatural synchronicities.
Like a grandmaster who strategically positions chess pieces on a chessboard, God is always preparing us and positioning us for divine appointments. And prayer is the way we discern the next move. The plans of God are only revealed in the presence of God. We don't get our marching orders until we get on our knees! But if we hit our knees, God will take us places we never imagined going by paths we didn't even know existed.
If history is a chess match between good and evil, then Acts 10 is one of God's epic moves. It reveals how one prayer can change the game. It reveals what can happen when two people pray. It reveals the power of prayer to checkmate the enemy and seal the victory.
Here's the play-by-play.
A man named Cornelius has a vision while praying in Caesarea. Simultaneously, Peter has a vision while praying in Joppa. Those visions collide in a divine appointment that radically alters the course of history. Up to this point, the Way was a sect of Judaism. It isn't until Cornelius, an officer in the Roman army, puts his faith in Jesus Christ that the gospel is opened up to Gentiles. If he doesn't get saved, you can't get saved. It's not even an option. So if you're a non-Jewish follower of Jesus, your spiritual genealogy traces back to this genesis moment. When Cornelius puts his faith in Christ, the door of salvation swings wide open to the Gentiles. But it started with two people praying. Those two prayers have been answered billions of times over the last two thousand years. In fact, they were answered yet again when you put your faith in Jesus Christ.
Now let me state the obvious: Cornelius and Peter should have never met each other. Never. Ever. They were separated by geography. The thirty-two-mile distance between their two towns may not seem like much to us, but the average person in the first century didn't travel outside a thirty-mile radius of their birthplace. And more significantly, they were separated by ethnicity. Roman soldiers and Jewish disciples didn't hang out. In fact, Peter broke every law in the Jewish books when he entered the home of Cornelius. Stepping through that doorway was like crossing the Rubicon. He went against everything he'd ever known and risked everything he'd ever accomplished. That doorway to the home of Cornelius was like the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. I call it The Door to Whosoever. When Peter entered the house of Cornelius, it literally meant, "Whosoever will may come." And that includes you and me!
It's not every day that a member of the United States Congress requests a meeting with me. At first I was curious. Then I got a little nervous. I hoped it had nothing to do with the fact that I had illegally taken my kids sledding at the Capitol during snowmaggedon a few winters back, but I figured that couldn't possibly warrant a federal investigation. Turns out the congressman just wanted to thank me for writing Wild Goose Chase, a book he read during his first run for Congress.
As we sipped lattes in my office above Ebenezer's Coffeehouse, the congressman shared his backstory with me. Not unlike Daniel's improbable rise to political power, Jim's path was full of unpredictable twists and turns. It all started one day in 2007 when the Holy Spirit said in that still, small voice, "Get ready." His initial reaction was, Get ready for what? At the time, Jim was directing one of the largest Christian camps in the country and preaching on weekends. He was perfectly content doing what he was doing, but the Holy Spirit kept impressing the same thing on him: "Get ready."
Several months later, Jim was reading the newspaper when he came across an article about the congresswoman who represented his district. Rumors were flying that she was going to make a run for governor, which would leave her seat in Congress vacant. That's when the Holy Spirit said, "This is it."
Jim didn't have a political bone in his body. In fact, he didn't even know the boundaries of his congressional district. He went online to do a little research when his wife walked in and said, "What are you looking at?" He said, "County statistics." She said, "We're running for Congress, aren't we?" They had never talked about it or thought about it. Running for Congress seemed like a wild goose chase. After all, Jim had no background, no network, and no resources. There was no way he could win — unless, of course, the front-runner happened to drop out of the race a few months before the election. That is exactly what happened, and Jim Lankford was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District of Oklahoma.
The Celtic Christians had a fascinating name for the Holy Spirit. They called Him An-Geadh-Glas, which means "wild goose." Can you think of a better description of what it's like to live a Spirit-led life than "wild goose chase"? When you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, you never know who you'll meet, where you'll go, or what you'll do. But one thing is certain: it'll be anything but boring!
At the end of our conversation, Congressman Lankford mentioned that he had also read The Circle Maker. And he's putting it into practice. If you visit the Cannon House Office Building on any given morning when Congress is in session, you'll find a camp-director-turned-congressman circling the fifth floor, praying for his constituents, colleagues, and country!
Anything but Routine
If you establish a prayer routine, your life will be anything but routine. You will go to places, do things, and meet people you have no business going to, doing, or meeting. You don't need to seek opportunity. All you have to do is seek God. And if you seek God, opportunity will seek you.
I live in a town, Washington, D.C., where it's all about who you know. Who you know is more important than what you know. This is certainly true for the children of God. Who you know — the heavenly Father — is far more important than what you know.
Don't worry about meeting the right people. If you meet with God, God will make sure you meet the right people at the right time. After all, there is nobody He doesn't know. It's one degree of separation! And if God can change the heart of Pharaoh, He can help you find favor with anybody and everybody. Let God do the promoting and networking. I'm certainly not suggesting that you don't apply for a promotion or trade business cards, but seek first His kingdom. You've got to do God's will God's way.
Remember when Moses got impatient and took matters into his own hands by killing an Egyptian taskmaster? He thought it would expedite God's plan. In reality, it delayed God's plan by forty years. He thought it would bring relief, but it made the burden on the Israelites almost unbearable. That's what happens when we try to do God's job for Him. It's unbearable. When we try to make things go faster, we usually slow things down. When we try to make things easier, we usually make them harder.
Don't try to manufacture your own miracles.
Don't try to answer your own prayers.
Don't try to do God's job for Him.
Stay humble. Stay patient. Stay focused.
If you pray to God regularly, irregular things will happen on a regular basis.
Chapter TwoDay 2
Established by God
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. PROVERBS 16:9
It may feel like you are sitting still right now, but you are not. You are on a planet that is rotating on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour. Like clockwork, it makes one full revolution every twenty-four hours. And if that isn't amazing enough, planet Earth is moving around the sun at speeds approaching 67,000 miles per hour! So the next time you feel like you've had an unproductive day, remind yourself that you did travel more than 1.5 million miles through space today.
Now let me ask you a question: When was the last time you lost sleep because you were concerned about the Creator keeping the planets in orbit? When was the last time you got down on your knees at night and prayed, "Lord, thanks for keeping the planet rotating. I wasn't sure if we'd make the full rotation today, but You did it again!" I'm guessing the answer to these questions is never.
We don't doubt God's ability to keep the planets in orbit, but we have a difficult time believing He can keep our lives in orbit. You tell me which is more difficult — keeping the planets in orbit or determining our steps? The truth is that we already trust God for the big things; now we need to trust Him for the little things, like healing our cancer, getting us out of debt, helping us conceive, or helping us find our soul mate. I'm certainly not suggesting that any of these situations are small. They are giant mountains to us. But prayer can turn them into molehills!
God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is also great because nothing is too small. The Sovereign One cares about every minute detail of our lives.
Every act of obedience, no matter how small, makes our heavenly Father proud. Every act of faith — even a faith as small as a mustard seed — puts a smile on His face. Every sacrifice, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, makes a difference.
Like a proud parent watching their child take their first steps, God rejoices over every baby step. And He can turn those small steps of faith into giant leaps.
I have a handful of prayers I pray all the time. Because of their frequent repetition, I call them prayer mantras. One is that God will put my books into the right hands at the right time. I've prayed this prayer thousands of times, and God has answered it in dramatic fashion countless times. The right book in the right hands at the right time can save a marriage, avert a mistake, demand a decision, plant a seed, conceive a dream, solve a problem, and prompt a prayer. That's why I write. And that's why, for me, a book sold is not a book sold; a book sold is a prayer answered. I don't know the name and situation of every reader, but God does, and that's all that matters.
The other day I got an e-mail from Peter, a man who started reading In a Pit with a Lion on a snowy Day on a flight to Las Vegas. During the first half of his flight, he read chapter 1 and felt challenged and convicted. One sentence arrested his attention: "God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time, but it's up to us to see and seize those opportunities that are all around us all the time." So Peter switched planes in Phoenix and sat down in his new seat assignment. He said hello to the girl next to him, but she shut him down rather abruptly. It was one of those looks that says, Don't talk to me the rest of this flight, and by the way, the armrest belongs to me! Peter didn't want to offend her or bother her, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. He knew he needed to swallow his pride, face his fears, and seize the opportunity. He leaned over and said, "I know it's absolutely none of my business, but you seem so burdened. If sharing it with a complete stranger might help, I'm all ears."
The seventeen-year-old girl, who was three months pregnant, proceeded to tell him she was running away from home. Her boyfriend told her to take off and "take care of it." She had stolen her dad's credit card that morning to buy a ticket to Vegas to get an abortion. During the flight, Peter spoke words of comfort and encouragement. When they landed in Vegas, he convinced the girl to call her parents, who were worried sick. Her parents convinced her to grab the next flight and come home.
I'm quite sure one life, perhaps two, were saved that day! All because one man believed that a seat assignment might be a divine assignment. And when we act on those prayer promptings, the Grandmaster can use a single pawn to checkmate the enemy's plans.
At the end of his e-mail, Peter thanked me for writing the book. He wrote, "So that's what happened after chapter 1. I can't wait to see what happens after chapter 2!" Me too! All I know is this: God is setting up divine appointments all the time. Only God can make the appointment, but only you can keep the appointment. It's your job to recognize and respond to the God-ordained opportunities that come your way.
Few promises are more circled in my Bible than Proverbs 16:9: "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."
God wants us to get where God wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go. And He is awfully good at getting us there. All we have to do is follow the script of Holy Scripture and the improvisation of the Holy Spirit.
We can't create divine appointments. All we can do is keep them.
We can't plan God-ordained opportunities. All we can do is seize them.
We can't perform miracles. All we can do is pray for them.
Our job is to hear His voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His!
The Hebrew word kûn, translated in Proverbs 16:9 as "establishes," can also be translated as "determines," "prepares," "provides," "sets in place," "directs," "firmly decides," "makes secure." It's a meticulous word that involves careful planning right down to the smallest detail. It's a redemptive word that celebrates God's ability to redeem past experiences and recycle them for future opportunities. It's a calming word that imparts confidence in the fact that God has everything under control. It's a creative word that hints at the beauty of God's artistry.
God is the Composer. Your life is His musical score.
God is the Artist. Your life is His canvas.
God is the Architect. Your life is His blueprint.
God is the Writer. You are His book.
God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is also great because nothing is too small.
Chapter ThreeDay 3
"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." JOSHUA 3:5
More than a hundred years ago, a British revivalist spoke the words to Dwight L. Moody that would transform Moody's approach to life — words of challenge that echo across every generation: "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."
Why not you?
All of us want to do amazing things for God, but that isn't our job; it is God's job. Our job is simply to consecrate ourselves by yielding our will to His will. And if we do our job, God will do His job. If we consecrate ourselves to God, amazing things will happen. It's absolutely inevitable. Consecration always ends in amazing!
The Israelites were camped on the eastern banks of the Jordan River when God gave them this command: "Consecrate yourselves." And because they obeyed, God delivered on the promise. He parted the Jordan River, and the Israelites walked through on dry ground. We'd rather build a boat or build a bridge. We try to do things for God instead of letting God do things for us. And it's certainly a two-way street. We need to work like it depends on us, but we also need to pray like it depends on God. That's what consecration is all about. It's letting God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And that's how God gets all the glory.
Consecration is a complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We relinquish everything to God — our time, talent, and treasure. It's a complete divestiture. Nothing belongs to us, not even ourselves. But the exchange rate is unbelievable. All of our sin is transferred to Christ's account, and all of His righ teous ness is transferred to our account. God cancels our debt, writes us into His will, and calls it even!
The word consecrate means "to set apart." It means "to be designated for a special purpose." It means "to be completely dedicated to God."
The Son of God set the standard. Jesus gave all of Himself at Calvary, and He expects nothing less in return. If Jesus hung on His cross, we can certainly carry our cross. His death demands our lives.
During our prayer challenge at National Community Church, our church gathered for corporate prayer every morning at our coffeehouse. Like clockwork, we hit our knees at 7:14 a.m. sharp. It was such a regular routine that it became second nature. Almost like hunger pangs that hit you after going too long without eating, I couldn't go too long without hitting my knees. Kneeling became almost as instinctual as eating or sleeping.
Excerpted from Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson Copyright © 2012 by Mark Batterson. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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