The Circle Maker Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears By Mark Batterson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011) 217 pp., Paper, $14.99
Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., is offering a new way of praying (see advertisement on page 233) based on a Jewish legend of Honi the Rainmaker, also called Honi the Circle Maker (pp. 11-13, 226). Honi supposedly drew a circle in the dirt, stepped into that circle, and prayed for rain to end a devastating drought in first century B.C. God, according to the myth, answered that prayer. When Batterson discovered this story, one which is almost certainly per myth and not historical, it forever changed the way he prayed (p. 21). Now he circles his prayers, either by stepping into a drawn circle like Honi or by walking around the object of his desire, as the Jews walked around Jericho in the Old Testament. By circling our prayers, apparently they are more likely to come true producing a miracle. If my count is correct, and I am sure I missed a few, “miracle” shows up 166 times averaging almost one appearance per page of actual text. While certainly God can and does bring about miracles today, Batterson has cheapened the meaning and reduced it to the accomplishment of an improbability rather than the reversal or defiance of the laws of nature that the Lord set in place. Walking on water is a miracle, the purchase of a piece of property that was hard to get is not. Batterson does not distinguish between the two.
The Circle Maker is much like The Prayer of Jabez. Both promise miracles if we will but follow little known and obscure prayers found in the past. Despite the fact that these prayers are not taught or mandated in Scripture, and not even drawn from Scripture as in the case with Honi, a unique system of prayer is based on these stories.
I will not go into great detail in this review as I intend to write an in-depth article on The Circle Maker. However, here are some concerns in addition to the fact that the whole system is based on an ancient myth and not Scripture:
We are told that every promise in the Bible is ours to claim, no matter the context (pp. 15, 17, 41, 53-55, 59, 89-90, 100-101, 128, 131, 151, 199).
Prosperity theology abounds (pp. 15, 51, 71, 180-188, 197-198).
Drawing circles around what we want will give us miracles and fulfill our dreams. After all, “God said it, I’ve circled it, and that settles it.” (pp. 16, 23, 37, 64, 79-80, 94, 129, 138).
God will apparently prompt us regularly, and the prompting and revelations carry the full weight of His promises. It is these subjective promises that we can claim, not just biblical promises (pp. 17, 26-30, 40-41, 63, 67-68, 76, 93-95, 107, 115, 117-121, 125, 131, 154, 200-202, 208).
New age and prosperity teachings concerning visualization + faith + claiming what we desire are evident (pp. 24, 25, 185).
Continual distortion of Scripture, the most blatant of which is Habakkuk 2:1 (p. 159), in which the author inserts “circle” into the verse to support his theology.
Batterson is clearly misguided in The Circle Maker yet he is endorsed by John Ortberg and Rich Wilkenson (Peacemakers founder) and is friends with Louie Giglio and Andy Stanley (p. 36). The Circle Maker is not a stand-alone book; it has generated an industry including a video series as well as student editions, prayer journals and more.
No true Christian wants to minimize the power of prayer, which is perhaps the central theme of this book. But it must be prayer as taught in Scripture not based on myth and/or invented by people.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel