On January 2nd, an email was distributed by the ministry of popular Christian speaker Anne Graham Lotz about Honi ha-M’agel, a Jewish mystic who lived during the 1st century BC. (This email is available to the public at Lotz’s website.) The following excerpt is taken from this email and recounts a story that has become controversial in evangelical circles since its inclusion in a book on prayer by popular pastor Mark Batterson:
“The unmistakable sound of the Shofar could be heard coming from the wall surrounding Jerusalem, echoing across the sun-scorched valley. The blowing of the trumpet heralded great public distress and was used to summon the people. It was the first century B.C. and a severe drought was threatening the very existence of the city. So the city elders called for the people to gather outside the city walls. Then they sent for Honi.
Honi was an old man who, after this day, became known as the Circle-Drawer. Because when he was summoned, the elders asked him, “Pray that rain may fall.” Honi prayed, but nothing happened. So he drew a circle around himself in the dust of the ground, and prayed again, “O Lord of the world, Your children have turned their faces to me… I swear by Your great name that I will not stir from here until You have pity on Your children.”
The rain began to fall, one large drop at a time. But Honi protested, “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill the cisterns, pits, and caverns.”
In answer to his prayer, the heavens opened and the waters descended in a violent gully-washer that threatened to flood the city. So once again, Honi pleaded, “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of goodwill, blessing and graciousness.” It is said, and recorded by the Jewish historian, Josephus, that in response to Honi’s third prayer, a long, soaking rain began to fall that ended the three-year drought.  Honi had prevailed in prayer.
As I look ahead into 2016, I feel compelled to draw a circle around this city, this state, this nation… and pray! Until God answers. Do the same. Please. On this first day of the New Year, draw your own circle. Then pray for everything that’s inside of it.”
According to legend, Honi lived through a time of terrible drought and brought it to an end by his unique prayer technique. During the drought time, Honi drew a circle upon the ground, stood inside of it, and told God he would not leave it until rain was sent down. Rain came, apparently answering Honi’s prayer. However, the audacious Honi was not satisfied with the amount of rain that initially fell. Honi stayed in the circle until even more rain fell. Rather than submitting to God’s will, Honi demanded that God carry out his own (Honi’s) will.
This issue with Lotz’s email should be clear to discerning Christians. In a similar fashion to those of the Word-Faith Movement, Lotz has said that we need to pray like Honi. The way Honi prayed was not how a humble, worshipful Christian should be expected to pray. Honi, who treated God as his personal cosmic butler, is not a man who should be held up as an example to be imitated.
Lotz’s email, in a way similar to Batterson’s book “The Circle Maker”, promotes a mystic practice that misunderstands both the nature of God and of prayer. Christians need not draw a circle (physical, mental, or spiritual; literal or metaphorical) around any nation to pray for it . Furthermore, Christians should not be presumed to present God with ultimatums.
Those subscribed to Anne Graham Lotz’s mailing list should rethink the widsom of their subscription. It is prudent for Christians to keep one degree of separation between themselves and heretics. For example, if Athanasius and Arius wrote a joint declaration on the nature of God, then Athansius would have broken the one-degree rule. If Augustine had spoken at the same conference as Pelagius without rebuking him, that would break from the advisable one degree of separation. If Todd Friel were to interview Kenneth Copeland in an attempt to paint him in a positive light, then he would not be properly separated. If John MacArthur were to look back and promote the writings, teachings, or actions of A.A. Allen, then he would be violating the degree of separation. In the same way, Anne Graham Lotz is violating the degree of separation by promoting the teachings and actions of Honi ha-M’agel. These verses show the folly of her actions.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
[**Note – This post was originally posted at Brandon Hines’ blog, edited from its original form and reposted here with permission]
[Editor’s Note: I have been interacting with Jill Rische who is with Jan Markell’s radio program, who first pointed out an error with Brandon’s dating – which he immediately corrected. She has since, however, demanded an apology to Ms. Lotz – who she had on the program December 26 – for insinuating that she promotes mysticism, and demanded we retract this article, or else she will “evaluate our methodology” on her program. The answer to that, obviously, is no. We don’t do real well with threats or ultimatums. – JD ]
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