The Circle Maker – A Polemical Review

Heresies taught in this book:

Montanism 

Mysticism

Review

[From Worldview Times, author Gary Gilley] This latest prayer fad stems from the teachings of Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., and in particular his 2011 book, The Circle Maker. The publisher claims that Batterson is offering a new way of praying (see advertisement on page 233 of The Circle Maker) based on a Jewish legend of Honi the Rainmaker, also called Honi the Circle Maker (pp. 11-13, 226). Honi, who lived a century before the ministry of Christ, supposedly drew a circle in the dirt, stepped into that circle and prayed for rain to end a devastating drought. He told God that he would not leave the circle until the Lord sent rain and, according to the myth, God soon sent rain. It should be noted that the story of Honi is at best a legend and most likely a myth. There is no independent or historical evidence that anything like this event ever took place. Even more importantly, this account is not drawn from Scripture. Nevertheless, when Batterson discovered the story he claimed it forever changed the way he prayed (p. 21). Now he circles his prayers, either by stepping into a drawn circle (it is recommended that a circle be drawn on the ground with chalk) like Honi, or by walking around the object of his desire, as the Jews walked around Jericho in the Old Testament. Batterson teaches that circling our prayers will result in God responding by producing a miracle. If my count is correct, and I am sure I missed a few, the word “miracle” shows up some 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. Despite these obvious issues, on the back cover of the book it is boldly stated:

In The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark Batterson shares powerful insights from the true legend of Honi the circle maker, a first-century Jewish sage whose bold prayer ended a drought and saved a generation. Drawing inspiration from his own experiences as a circle maker, Batterson will teach you how to pray in a new way by drawing prayer circles around your dreams, your family, your problems and most importantly, God’s promises. In the process, you’ll discover this simple yet life changing truth.

There are numerous red flags in this short blurb. Two that should be noted immediately is that the author is “drawing inspiration from his own experiences,” not from Scripture. Experiences are not inspired, the Bible is. Therefore personal experience, not backed by the Word, is of little value at best and highly dangerous and destructive at times. We must never base our lives and theology on experience but on God’s revealed truth. Secondly is the word “new.” Batterson is offering us a “new” way to pray, which means it is not taught in Scripture. When someone offers us something new as a way of living the Christian life, the wise believer runs the other way. If it is new, it is not of God. If the Lord wanted us to incorporate something into our lives He revealed it in the Bible. 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. It should not take a theologian, or even a very mature Christian, long to realize that something is wrong with drawing circles as part of our prayer life, and especially making outlandish promises in connecting with this method.

The very fact that a church leader and author is attempting to instruct fellow believers how to practice the Christian life, especially in a vital area such as prayer, based on an extra-biblical myth rather than Scripture, should be all a discerning believer needs to know to walk away from his teachings on the subject. But it might prove helpful to dig a little deeper into Batterson’s theology. This is especially true given that Christian notables such as John Ortberg, Ruth Graham, and Rich Wilkerson (founder of Peacemakers) endorse The Circle Maker, and that Batterson considers Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio among his close friends. In fact, he has spoken at Stanley’s Catalysis Conference on a number of occasions. [1] And his teachings on prayer have been adopted by Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Life Action Ministries (more on this later).

Below are some concerns about Batterson’s approach to Scripture and his theological teachings, in addition to the fact that the whole circle prayer methodology 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. For example, Batterson was reading from the book of Joshua concerning the Lord’s promise to Joshua that he would give “you every square inch of land you set your foot on – just as I promised Moses.” As he read this promise given specifically to a biblical character he felt that God wanted him to stake claim to the land that he believed God was giving him and his church (p. 17). Such misuse of Scripture and misappropriation of biblical promises to others, but claimed for himself, are found throughout the book (see pp. 15, 41, 53-55, 59, 89-90, 100-101, 128, 131, 151, 199). Batterson is even willing to mistranslate Scripture to make his point. The most blatant example is Habakkuk 2:1, in which the author inserts “circle” into the verse to support his theology, translating, “I will stand upon my watch, and station me within a circle” (p. 159). The NASB reads, “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me…” Batterson claims that Habakkuk and this text were the inspiration for Honi: “His inspiration for the prayer circle was Habakkuk. He simply did what the prophet Habakkuk had done” (p. 159). This clearly is not true. At no time did the Old Testament prophet (or any other personage in Scripture) draw a circle and then step into it to pray.
  • Prosperity theology abounds. In addition to the constant use of the word miracle to describe answers to prayer, statements like the following are common: “I’m confident that you are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed” (p. 15), and “[God] allows our small plans to fail so that His big dream for us can prevail” (p. 71). Nor are these mere cheerleading slogans which echo the preaching of Joel Osteen and other prosperity teachers, (pp. 15, 51, 71, 180-188, 197-198); Batterson obviously embraces the theology behind the prosperity gospel which is that visualization plus faith plus verbalization lead to miracles. At one point he tells his readers to record their vision (visualization), have faith and verbalize (pp. 184-185).
  • Following prosperity methods, He adds that drawing a circle and stepping into it in prayer are the keys to getting what we want from God. Batterson often promises that by drawing circles around what we want will lead to miracles and fulfilled dreams (e.g. p. 16). After all, “God said it, I’ve circled it, and that settles it” (p. 94). This quote is found in the context of a story of a young boy who is unable to talk. A pastor claimed Isaiah 59:21 as a promise from God that someday the boy will be able to speak. Apparently the promise has not been fulfilled ten years later, but his parents have circled it in their Bible and are convinced that God will one day deliver on His promise. The tragedy of accepting false teachings becomes real when a story such as this is read. It is more than a bit irritating that people buy into these deceptions; it is heart breaking (cf. pp. 23, 37, 64, 79-80, 129, 138).
  • Much of Batterson’s understanding about how God directs us is based upon the idea that the Lord will speak to us directly apart from Scripture. Batterson assures us that we should expect God to prompt us regularly, giving us revelations which carry the full weight of His promises. It is these subjective promises that we can claim, not just biblical promises. In addition to the story above we can expect God to give us the name of our child (p. 26), define our specific purpose in life (p. 29), give us revelation about the purchase of property (pp.40-41, 107), show us how much money He will give us (pp. 63, 67-68), and tell us when to take wool socks to work (p.115). He will occasionally tell us what to preach (p. 131) and prompt us to make phone calls (pp. 200-202). And despite the fact that there is no clear way that these so-called voices can be discerned to be the Lord’s (something he admits), still we need to obey these promptings as we would Scripture (pp. 117-121, 125, cf. p. 208).

Given the obvious problems with the exaggerated claims of Batterson and the clearly unbiblical basis and assertions in reference to prayer circles, what is the attraction? Apparently, the incredible promises given coupled with such little effort (praying inside a drawn circle or walking around the object of one’s desires while praying) are just too much to resist. After all Batterson tells his readers, “The Circle Maker will show you 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 job, your problems, and your goals” (p. 16). In a YouTube video Batterson adds, “You can’t just read the Bible, you need to start praying circles around the promises.”[2] I guess such an offer is just too good to refuse for many Christians. Of course, those who actually analyze Batterson’s promises in light of Scripture, especially that the basis of prayer circles is an ancient myth and not the authoritative Word of God, will see through the deception.

Biblical Prayer

To hear all the praise being poured out on Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker and prayer circles, the unaware child of God might swear that this kind of prayer is what Jesus practiced and taught His disciples. But this is not true. As a matter of fact, circle prayers are not mentioned in the Bible at all. David did not write a psalm about them, Jesus did not mention them, and the epistles, while calling on us to pray without ceasing, are silent on the subject. Paul, in his marvelous New Testament prayers (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Colossians 1:9-14) ignores them. At no time or place in all of the Word of God are we commanded, told to examine, follow as a model, or use circles for our prayers.

It would be good to close this paper with a very brief overview of what the Bible teaches about prayer. It is not as if the Bible has no instruction concerning how to pray. And it is always of utmost importance to begin with Scripture on any subject and let it inform us before we jump in another direction. What do we know about prayer from God’s Word? There is so much mentioned concerning prayer in the Bible that whole volumes could not do it justice, so we will narrow our scope to just one incident in the life of Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), what did He say? Did He say, “Well, boys, first you draw a circle in the sand; next you stand in the circle and pray for what you want”? Not at all. In Luke 11:2-4 He gives them what we often call the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with God and His greatness. Next it focuses on the big picture of God’s plan for the future – His kingdom. Concerning the individual the requests are simple. While there is certainly nothing wrong with bold prayers, and there are many found in Scripture, most are not “big, audacious, and hairy” as Batterson calls for (p. 179). The disciples were taught to ask for daily physical needs, “Give us each day our daily bread.” And they were to seek the forgiveness of their sins even as they forgave others. And finally they were to ask for deliverance from temptation. While other prayers in the Bible, especially the prayers found in the epistles mentioned above, line out many other things for which we are to pray, it is most instructive to read Jesus’ answer to a direct question about how to pray. How simple, clear, free of gimmicks, and authentic is this example of prayer. No true Christian wants to minimize the power of prayer, but it must be prayer as taught in Scripture not based on myth and/or invented by people. [Source link with full article]

Watch this video to discover the real Gospel.


 
Please check out these online reviews that explain in detail how dangerous and unbiblical this book is.
Review – Challies
Review – Beginning and End
Review – Glen Chatfield
Video – Chris Rosebrough and Brannon Howse 
 
 



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