- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

In the first century B.C., a severe drought in Israel threatened an entire generation. In desperation, the people asked a Jewish sage named Honi to pray for rain. What he did next became legend, as recorded in the Talmud. With the faith of Elijah, Honi drew a circle in the sand and prayed this prayer: “Sovereign Lord, I swear before your great name that I will not leave this circle until you have mercy upon your children.”

As his prayer ascended to heaven, rain descended on the earth. Ultimately, Honi the Circle Maker was honored “for the prayer that saved a generation.”

Our prayers should not be timid. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Approach the throne of grace with confidence.” Translation: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God. Truth be told, the greatest tragedy in life are the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.

It’s the story of Honi that inspired me to write “The Circle Maker.” And that book has inspired some bold prayers. I’ve met NFL coaches who are circling their stadiums; congressmen who are circling the Capitol; realtors who are circling their listings; and students who are circling their schools. One of my favorite stories is the man who decided to circle his bank, praying for a financial miracle, until the police showed up! Be careful what you circle!

The physical act of circling isn’t what’s important, though there is biblical precedent. The Israelites circled Jericho thirteen times over seven days before the walls came down.

Circling in prayer is less about a geometric shape, and more about persistence in prayer. Sometimes you have to pray through until you break through. And when you do, you discover that prayer is the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do. Prayer is the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you. Prayer is the difference between letting things happen and making things happen.

In 1996, my wife and I started pastoring National Community Church. It was small group of nineteen people, but we prayed bold prayers. Nearly two decades later, NCC is one church with eight campuses in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams, but that certainly isn’t a testament to us. It’s a testament to the power of prayer.

On a hot August day in 1996, I felt prompted to pray a circle around Capitol Hill. It was inspired by the promise in Joshua 1:3: “I will give you everywhere you set your foot.” That 4.7-mile prayer walk was the catalyst for the miracles God has done since. It’s no coincidence that we own several properties right on that prayer circle — Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse (201 F Street, NE), the Miracle Theatre (535 8th Street, SE), and the Blue Castle (770 M Street, SE).

Of course, it’s not about buildings. Technically speaking, you can’t go to church because you are the church. The greatest miracles are the thousands of people who have discovered the transforming power of God’s grace in those physical spaces and places! Each one is an answer to prayer!

James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.”

What do you need to start circling in prayer? Maybe it’s your children; a situation at work; or a God-ordained dream. Or perhaps, it’s one of God’s promises. One prayer can change anything. One prayer can change everything. Go ahead and work like it depends on you, but make sure you pray like it depends on God.

Mark Batterson is the author of The New York Times best-seller, “The Circle Maker,” and founder and pastor of the National Community Church, with eight locations in DC and Northern Virginia. One of the church’s core beliefs is that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet.

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