"you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed." (The Circle Maker, p. 21).
Beloved, sometimes the answer is no. Which brings us to the third major problem -- the Circle Maker robs God of His sovereignty and teaches people to do the same. The entire Honi story sets people up for bitter disappointments. Let's say for example you want a promotion at work. You draw your circle in the sand and you shake your fist at the heavens and say -- "I'm not moving until You give me that promotion!" A month passes and still no promotion. You draw the circle deeper because Pastor Batterson taught me that God is merely playing chicken with me and if I pray enough, He will relent -- just like He relented three times with Honi the Circle Maker." Two more weeks pass with no promotion and you just dig your heels in deeper because Pastor Batterson taught me that I could be just one prayer away from the miracle! Nothing happens though because amidst all the circle drawing we forgot one ting -- God is sovereign. He decides what happens and what doesn't happen in our lives:
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. -- Psalm 103: 19 (NASB)
This is what always gets lost in the bless me theologies of the church. We simply do not know enough to understand what is a blessing and what is not. God sees what would happen if that promotion came through. He sees the long hours affecting your health. He sees the demands affecting your marriage. He sees the stress causing you to fall away from church and your walk. There is a reason, within the sovereignty of God Almighty, which is seemingly ignored within the teachings of the Circle Maker. The message is that the prayer is primary instead of the relationship with God. It borders on word faith:
"Prayers are prophecies." (The Circle Maker, p. 21).
Beloved hear me well. Prayers are not prophecies. We cannot speak anything into existence. Our prayers are also not uninspiring to God as Batterson claims on page 23. I am sure that Mark Batterson's intentions were good. I am sure he's every bit the nice guy his defenders insist he is. That does not make him infallible. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy to guard only two things closely -- his life and his doctrine; so that his hearers might be saved. I cannot speak to the life of Mark Batterson, nor would I be inclined to. His doctrine however has jumped off a cliff in this book:
"The greatest risk is failing to circle the promises of God because we forfeit the miracles God wants to perform ." p. 51
So now God will deny us miracles if we do not circle His promises? God wants to perform them but we did not draw a circle around it so God spitefully says no? Seriously? Jesus taught His disciples to pray and made no mention of drawing circles. Surely Jesus knew about Honi the Circle Maker and yet chose to never speak about him or teach about him. How is it that He could have missed such a transformational prayer tactic?
The answer of course is He didn't miss it. I have heard the defenses regarding this book and as more and more quotes from it are made public, it becomes apparent that the initial concerns were clearly warranted. My sincere hope is that no one wakes up one day and decides to be heretical. I do not think that is what happened here. But then we come back to those pesky questions we started with. Does God care more about the end result or the path that gets us there? Does God care about our intentions or our obedience? My prayer is that everyone grows in maturity in Christ and develops a healthy daily prayer life. Communication with God is critical but only if you understand His sovereignty and His Lordship. Prayers are not prophecies they are intimacy with God -- regardless of what the answer is. God is not playing some game of cosmic chicken with us, waiting for us to pass some numerical threshold of prayer in order for Him to unleash His miracles in our lives. The fact that we can talk to God and expect answers according to His will IS the miracle. Even if all of this strikes you as being obvious that does not mean it is to everyone. Do not look outside of Scripture to learn how to pray or for that matter -- anything else.
Our key verse today teaches us three very important lessons. First is that we all have powers of discernment. We are all supposed to test everything, keeping what is good and discarding what is not. Discernment is not kept for just those who think they are super spiritual or those in ministry. Secondly, those powers of discernment need to be trained up. Discernment does not happen by accident but by exercise. That training is the third lesson as it is only accomplished through the constant practice of distinguishing between good and evil. We must be vigilant to constantly determine what is from God and what is from this world. In doing so, our discernment will grow, our understanding of God will grow, our relationship with God will grow and all of this will happen without the need to draw a single circle.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- March 5, 2013