I don’t like extra biblical writings when teaching or researching biblical truths, however, even my writings here are extra biblical to be perfectly honest. I am just not a big fan of people running to sources other than the Word of God for Truth; it makes me see how easy it is for people to run to man instead of the Word.
The latest success spreading through the Pentecostal churches is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Our church and many others are using it and the devotional studies and videos to teach the congregation about prayer. Our pastor, thankfully, focused specifically on the prayer aspect of the book and the emphasis on being specific, determined and trusting in the power of God. Unfortunately, not all churches or ministries are taking this focus and are allowing the congregation to border on the “magic” of circles and how we need to really make literal circles around the words of the Bible or in written notebooks in an effort to ensure the prayers will come to pass.
Now let me be honest, Mark Batterson never says that you have to draw the circles in order to have your prayers answered and in fact says that some of his prayers were not answered (yet) or were answered with a “no.” He emphasises that there are no magic formulas or anything special about the circle, circling your writings or walking in circles. However, he does spend a lot of time talking about prayers being answered after he and or his congregation marched in circles and prayed around buildings and the areas near their churches. Sadly, I know several people who would read this and examples like these and want to boil everything down to a formula for God’s blessing must include circles.
So let’s be certain that there is nothing inherently wrong with this book. It has created a fad in the church that is causing people to pray and to focus their prayers on specific things and issues (personal and corporately). But this unfortunately shows how gimmicky our society and culture is, even in the world of Christian authors. If Mark had written a book on prayer and used any of the many common stories like Elijah praying for rain or Daniel praying before his arrest, it would not be regarded as anything new or different. But by focusing on this Jewish man who according to tradition was a man of prayer, it gives us something new and different in which to study and learn.
Personally, I see it close to another prayer book fad that included the prayer of Jabez. That book and many others based upon it, blew onto the scene a few years ago and became so popular. I feel Mark could have focused on available Bible stories and not strayed into writings from the Talmud and historical tradition. I look at it in terms of the creative license used in the Prince of Egypt movie. That movie made Moses and Ramses brothers to help the story with a dynamic battle between Moses and Pharaoh. The movie is very good to attract people to Biblical stories and to get people interested in reading more about it. So it can bring people in and hopefully they will get “hooked” on the real story when they get here.
I would have preferred Mark use only Biblical sources and his personal examples, because the atttraction to the Word would be throughout the entire book and not really just hanging as branches from the tree trunk of the story of the Circle Maker.
In the end, draw a circle around yourself and ask God to start a revival in that circle. (adapted from Gypsy Smith)