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Kids danced through the streets like it was the first rainfall they'd ever seen. And it was. Parents threw back their heads and caught every drop they could. When it hasn't rained in more than a year, every raindrop is a gift from God.
It would be forever remembered as the day. The day thunderclaps applauded the Almighty. The day puddle jumping became an act of praise. The day the legend of the circle maker was born.
If you know anything about the history of Israel, you know they hit some tough spots. But the first century BC was one of the worst. An entire generation was on the brink of death because of a drought. The Jewish prophets had been out of commission for hundreds of years. No one could remember a single miracle. And worst of all, God was nowhere to be heard. But there was one man who dared to pray anyway. His name was Honi. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.
When it rains all the time, you don't give it a passing thought. During a drought, it's the only thought. And Honi was their only hope. Like the prophet Elijah before him, Honi was famous for his ability to pray for rain. It was on this day that Honi would earn his reputation.
With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi began to turn like a math compass. His circular movement was rhythmical and methodical. Ninety degrees. One hundred eighty degrees. Two hundred seventy degrees. Three hundred sixty degrees. He never looked up as the crowd looked on. After what seemed like hours but had only been seconds, Honi stood inside the circle he had shaped with his staff. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven. With the authority of the prophet Elijah, Honi called down rain:
"Lord of the universe, I swear before Your great name that I will not leave this circle until You have mercy upon Your children."
Everyone within earshot shivered. And though the words rang clear, the volume of his voice didn't nearly equal the authority of his tone. Not a hint of doubt. This prayer didn't come from his vocal chords—it flowed from the depth of his soul. His prayer was resolute yet humble, confident yet meek, expectant yet unassuming.
Then it happened.
As his prayer ascended to the heavens, raindrops descended to the earth. Now thousands of onlookers encircled Honi, and a gasp went through the crowd. All eyes looked to the sky as the first raindrops parachuted down, but Honi's head remained bowed. The people jumped for joy over every drop, but Honi wasn't satisfied with a sprinkle. Still kneeling within the circle, Honi lifted his voice over the sounds of celebration:
"Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns."
The sprinkle turned into such a torrential downpour that the heavens roared. Eyewitnesses said every drop was the size of an egg! It rained so heavily and so steadily that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed in his fading circle. Once more he refined his bold request:
"Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Your favor, blessing, and graciousness."
Then the perfect rain shower began to calmly cover the dead and thirsty ground, filling the air with a gentle, peaceful mist. Every raindrop was a sign of God's grace. And they didn't just soak the skin; they soaked the spirit and refreshed the faith of all who were there that day. It was difficult to believe the day before the day. The day after the day, it was impossible not to believe.
Eventually, the dirt turned into mud and back into dirt again. After quenching their thirst, the crowd dispersed. And the rainmaker returned to his humble hovel on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Life did return to normal, but the legend of the circle maker had been born. And it introduced a new normal.
To the people, Honi was celebrated like a hometown hero. After all, he had saved their lives with his prayer. But some within the Sanhedrin complained about the circle maker. They said his prayer was too bold. They believed that drawing a circle and demanding rain dishonored God. Maybe it was those same members of the Sanhedrin who would criticize Jesus for healing a man's shriveled hand on the Sabbath a generation later. They actually threatened Honi with excommunication, but because they could not deny the miracle that had been performed, Honi was ultimately honored for his act of prayerful bravado.
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.
Draw the Circle
1. What is your first reaction to Honi's story?
2. Why do you think God loves big dreams and bold prayers?
3. If one prayer has the power to change the course of history, why do you think we don't pray more?
The earth has circled the sun more than two thousand times since the day Honi drew his circle in the sand, but God is still looking for circle makers. It's as true now as it was then: Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers. God isn't offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don't require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still, and God is moved to omnipotent action.
There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayers, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams. That is who He is. That is what He does. And the bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory. The greatest moments in life are the miraculous moments when human weakness and divine power intersect — and they intersect when we draw a circle around the impossible situations in our lives and invite God to intervene.
I can promise you one thing: God is ready and waiting. I have no idea what circumstances you find yourself in, but I can tell you that you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed.
It is absolutely critical at the very beginning that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth: God is for you. You need to know that God is on your side, God is in your corner! If you don't believe that, then you'll pray small, timid prayers. If you do believe it, then you'll pray big, audacious prayers. And one way or another, your small, timid prayers or big, audacious prayers will change the course of your life and turn you into two totally different people. Prayers are prophecies. They are the best forecast of your spiritual future. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life.
In the pages that follow, you'll encounter modern-day circle makers who will inspire you to dream big, pray hard, and think long. You'll discover 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 future, your problems, and your goals. But before I show you how to draw prayer circles, it's important to understand why it is so important. Drawing prayer circles isn't some magic trick to get what you want from God. God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish. If it's not, you won't be drawing prayer circles. You'll just be walking in circles.
Drawing prayer circles starts with understanding what God wants, what God wills. And until His sovereign will becomes your holy wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply. Sure, you can apply some of the principles you learn in The Circle Maker, and they may help you get what you want, but getting what you want isn't the goal. The goal is getting what God wants for you, which is way better than what you could ever wish for anyway!
My First Circle
Over the years, I've drawn prayer circles around promises in Scripture and promises the Holy Spirit has conceived in my spirit. I've drawn prayer circles around impossible situations and impossible people. I've drawn prayer circles around everything from life goals to pieces of property. But before I get into those things, let me take you back to the first prayer circle I ever drew.
When I was a twenty-two-year-old graduate student, I tried to plant a church on the north shore of Chicago, but that plant never took root. Six months later, with a failed church plant on my résumé, my wife Lora and I moved from Chicago to Washington, DC. The opportunity to attempt another church plant presented itself, and my knee-jerk reaction was to say no way. But God gave me the courage to face my fears, swallow my pride, and try again.
There was nothing easy about our first year of church planting. Our total church income was $2,000 a month, and $1,600 of that went to rent the DC public school cafetorium where we held Sunday services. On a good Sunday, twenty-five people would show up. That's when I learned to close my eyes in worship because it was too depressing to open them. I had a lot of education at that point, but very little experience. I really had no idea how to lead (and that's challenging when you are the leader). I felt underqualified and overwhelmed, but that is when God has you right where He wants you. That is how you learn to live in raw dependence —and raw dependence is the raw material out of which God performs His greatest miracles.
One day, while dreaming about the church God wanted to establish on Capitol Hill, I was reading through the book of Joshua. A promise jumped off the page and into my spirit.
"I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on— just as I promised Moses."
As I read that assurance given to Joshua, I felt that God wanted me to stake claim to the land He had called us to and pray a perimeter all the way around Capitol Hill. I had a Honi-like confidence that just as this promise had been transferred from Moses to Joshua, God would transfer the promise to me if I had enough faith to circle it. So one hot and humid August morning, I drew what would be my first prayer circle. It still ranks as the longest prayer walk I've ever done and the biggest prayer circle I've ever drawn.
Starting at the front door of our row house on Capitol Hill, I walked east on F Street and turned south on 8th Street. I crossed East Capitol, the street that bisects the NE and SE quadrants of the city, and turned west on M Street SE. I then completed the circle, which was actually more of a square, by heading north on South Capitol Street. I paused to pray in front of the Capitol for a few minutes. Then I completed the 4.7-mile circle by taking a right turn at Union Station and heading home.
It's hard to describe what I felt when I finished drawing that circle. My feet were sore, but my spirit soared. I felt the same kind of holy confidence the Israelites must have felt when they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground and stepped foot in the Promised Land for the first time. I couldn't wait to see the way God would honor that prayer. That prayer circle had taken nearly three hours to complete because my prayer pace is slower than my normal pace, but God has been answering that three-hour prayer for the past fifteen years.
Since the day I drew that prayer circle around Capitol Hill, National Community Church (NCC) has grown into one church meeting in six movie theaters around the DC area. We're also on the verge of launching our first international location, a coffeehouse ministry in Berlin, Germany. And God has given us the privilege of influencing thousands of people over the last decade and a half. For what it's worth, nearly 70 percent of the people in our church are single twenty-somethings.
All Bets Are Off
As I look back, I'm grateful for the miracles God has done. I'm also keenly aware of the fact that every miracle has a genealogy. If you trace those miracles all the way back to their origin, you'll find a prayer circle. Miracles are the by-product of prayers that were prayed by you or for you. And that should be all the motivation you need to pray.
God has determined that certain expressions of His power will only be exercised in response to prayer. Simply put, God won't do it unless you pray for it. We have not because we ask not, or maybe I should say, we have not because we circle not. The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.
Now here's the good news: If you do pray, all bets are off. You aren't called to live in the shadow of doubt. Instead, you can live with a holy anticipation because you never know how or when or where God is going to answer your prayers. But I promise you this: He will answer. He may not answer when or how you want. But it will be the right answer at the right time. And His answers are not limited by your requests. We pray out of our ignorance, but God answers out of His omniscience. We pray out of our limited human understanding, but God answers out of His unlimited knowledge. God has the ability to answer the prayers we should have prayed but lacked the knowledge or ability to even ask.
During my prayer walk around Capitol Hill, I drew circles around things I didn't even know how to ask for. Without even knowing it, I drew prayer circles around people who would one day come to faith in Jesus Christ at our coffeehouse on Capitol Hill (which wasn't even an idea at that point). Without even knowing it, I walked right by a piece of property at 8th Street and Virginia Avenue SE that we would purchase thirteen years later as a result of a $3 million gift that wasn't even a prayer yet. Without even knowing it, I walked right under a theater marquee on Barracks Row, the main street of Capitol Hill, that we would renovate and reopen as our seventh location fifteen years later. It's the oldest operational theater in the nation's capital, and we get to determine what is played on the screen!
Those answers are a testament to the power of God and a reminder that if you draw prayer circles, God will answer those prayers somehow, someway, sometime. God has been answering that one prayer for fifteen years, and He'll keep answering it forever. Just like Honi, your prayers have the potential to change the course of history. It's time to start circling.
Draw the Circle
1. Why do you think some people pray like God is against them instead of believing that God is for them? Have you ever felt that way?
2. Drawing circles begins with understanding what God wants and what God wills. Have you ever prayed for something that you later discovered wasn't really God's will? What was that like?
3. What does this statement mean to you, and why is it true?: "If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God."
Every book has a backstory. There is a moment when an idea is conceived in the imagination of an author and this idea is destined to become a book. And because I believe the backstory will help you appreciate the story, let me share the genesis of The Circle Maker.
I developed an appetite for reading during my senior year of college. I spent all my spare cash and spare time on books. Since then, I've read thousands of books on topics ranging from neurology to biography to astronomy, and a few fiction titles too. My bookshelves are so filled with books that I have them stacked on top of my shelves as high as I can reach. I even have stacks on my floor in precarious piles that look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I ran out of shelf space a few years ago, which means that not every book "makes the shelf." I do have one shelf, however, that contains only my favorites, a few dozen of them. One of them is titled The Book of Legends.
Excerpted from The Circle Maker Student Edition 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 6, 2013