One of the most basic devices used in ancient pagan spirituality is the “circle of protection.” You find it everywhere from the Eastern mystery religions to modern witchcraft. The circle of protection was commonly used in old Gypsy magic, as it was thought to create an impenetrable barrier of protection around those in which it was created.
This “magic” circle, spiritual in nature, could be something physical, such as lines drawn in the dirt or sand, or even a sprinkling of salt. But they could also be imaginary. On page 43 of Gypsy Magic: A Romany Book of Spells, Charms, and Fortune-Telling by Patrinella Cooper, she says
A similar exercise can be done at any time when you are feeling uneasy or before you go to sleep at night. Visualise the blue line of fire. In your mind’s eye, slowly draw its vibrant protective beam around yourself, your bed, or your property. Try to imagine every detail of its path until it finally closes in a protective circle.
Shaheen Miro writes in an article titled The Gypsy’s Tricks for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection: Circle of Protection,
Creating a circular boundary is an ancient form of spiritual protection. The space within the circle becomes consecrated ground. The circle itself becomes a barrier keeping all unwelcomed things at bay.
The use of this protective circle and other forms of witchcraft have been an integral part of Gypsy spiritual life and culture since the earliest foundations. It’s quite common for cultural traditions to be carried over from generation to generation, even when other religions, including Christianity, become an accepted or even prominent expression of spirituality. One famous Gypsy from the late 19th century and early 20th century, named Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, is widely regarded as a great Christian evangelist and revivalist from England. The practice of integrating the Gypsy witchcraft circle of protection into Christianity is widely attributed to Smith. When asked of Smith how to start a revival, he replied:
Find a piece of chalk, and find an empty room. Go into that room and shut the door. Draw a circle on the floor with that chalk, kneel down in that circle, and ask God to start revival right there.
Of course, this practice of circle-making can be found nowhere in Scripture. This is purely a pagan practice that Mr. Smith adapted from his cultural upbringing to fit with his newly found Christianity. So does this practice of circle-making by Mr. Smith really have anything to do with the ancient Pagan circles of the Gypsies?
Perhaps the most prominent figure in modern day evangelicalism who promotes the practice of “prayer circles” is Mark Batterson. Batterson attempts to trace his practice of circle-making back to Gipsy Smith. Batterson writes:
The goal of Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge is to help readers establish a daily prayer habit with a daily dose of prayer inspiration. It picks up where The Circle Maker left off, with the story of Gipsy Smith. Then it shares new stories and new learnings in prayer that will inspire you to dream big, pray hard, and think long!
Batterson also writes in an article, Seven Prayer Circles for Parents,
In Praying Circles Around The Lives of Your Children I share seven tips, seven circles. They range from praying a hedge of protection around your kids to making prayer lists.
So here we can see that regardless of how Mr. Smith himself intended to use his “prayer circle,” Mark Batterson has interpreted it the same way the ancient Pagans and Gypsies have done. He sees the circle as not only a symbol to ask God for “revival,” but as a device for spiritual protection. The practice of circle-making and praying circles (or hedges) of protection are wildly unbiblical ideas and completely foreign to the context of Scripture. (For more on this, I would suggest Jim Osman’s book, Truth or Territory)
Sadly this witchcraft circle-making heresy has crept its way into orthodox evangelical circles (no pun intended) through the likes of men like Batterson and former Southern Baptist president, Ronnie Floyd. But another prominent figure who is promoting this junk is Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth. A very popular women’s prayer event, CryOut, is led by DeMoss, and the event centers around this unbiblical form of pagan prayer. DeMoss, as well, attributes her practice of circle-making to Gipsy Smith, as she says,
Gipsy Smith was a nineteenth-century revivalist who did something unusual when he came to a new town. He’d stop on the outskirts and draw a circle in the dirt. Then he would stand inside that circle and say, “O God, please send a revival to this town, and let it begin inside this circle.”
It won’t do much good for me to ask God to convict the world around me of sin if there’s unconfessed sin in my own heart. The first step toward revival is to ask God to show us our sin and repent.
Would you ask God to revive His people? Would you let the Holy Spirit draw a circle within your own heart? Then say, “Lord, I long for You to send a revival to my nation, my church, my marriage, and my children. But Lord, would You first start a revival inside this circle? Let it begin in me.”
DeMoss also turns her listeners of her radio program to a known false teacher and promoter of pagan mysticism, Richard Foster. Foster is one of the founders of the Spiritual Formation movement, a movement whose central disciplines revolve around contemplative prayer and other forms of Eastern mysticism.
While she claims that her (unbiblical) practice is rooted in Christianity and is merely symbolic of the revival that we should pray for in our hearts, she is clearly misguided on what are acceptable forms of prayer and worship in the eyes of God. Has she forgotten in Exodus 32, when Aaron commanded the Israelites to remove the gold jewelry from their bodies and fashion a golden calf out of it? He proclaimed, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Exodus 32:5) Even though Aaron believed that he was doing this for the Lord, the Lord had clearly set guidelines for what he found acceptable as worship, and Aaron and the Israelites ignored. God’s wrath was against them.
Does Nancy Leigh DeMoss really believe that God is okay with her promoting and practicing spiritual paganism and calling it Christian? God has not given grounds or precedent to do this. Yet, she is opening up the doors of witchcraft and demonic influences to her followers by pushing this practice. Does she think she’s found a new way to pray for revival–a way that God didn’t already think of? Does she think that this Eastern mysticism-influenced form of prayer will be somehow more effective than the methods God has laid out for us in Scripture?
Be very careful of who you follow, whose books you read, and whose prayer conferences you attend. Test everything against Scripture to see if they are of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21). And please, do your research, so that you can’t be led astray (2 Tim 2:15).
take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ – Deuteronomy 12:30
[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]