The Circle Maker
by Mark Batterson

A few years ago a discovered a true legend in the Talmud that changed the way I pray. It gave me a new motivation, a methodology for prayer. It inspired me to not just pray, but to pray through. No more ASAP prayers, as soon as possible. I started to pray ALAT prayers, as long as it takes.

In the 1st century BC, a draught threatened to destroy the Jewish nation. But there was one man in Israel, like the prophet Elijah before him, who was famous for praying for rain. Josephus, the Jewish historian, called him Onias the Rainmaker. The Talmud calls him Honi the Circle Maker. When the people asked him to pray, he drew a circle in the sand with his staff, dropped to his knees, and offered this prayer: Sovereign Lord, I swear before your great name that I will not leave this circle until you have mercy upon your children.

It was a risky prayer! If God didnít answer, heíd be in that circle for a long time! But thatís the essence of faith: faith is the willingness to look foolish. And Honi wasnít just willing to look foolish; he was willing to die in that circle!

Some within the Sanhedrin criticized Honi, saying his prayer was too bold, but you canít argue with a miracle! Ultimately, Honi the Circle Maker was honored for ďthe prayer that saved a generation.Ē

Never underestimate the power of a single prayer! Prayer has the power to change anything, change everything. Itís the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do. Itís the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you. Itís the difference between the possible and impossible.

One warning.

God is not a genie in a bottle and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish. Prayer isnít about getting what you want from God. The ultimate objective of prayer is to discern and do the will of God. But if you pray in the will of God, for the glory of God, all bets are off. And what was true two thousand years ago is still true today: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.

There is nothing magical about drawing a prayer circle, but there is something biblical about it. Just like the Israelites who circled the city of Jericho until the wall came tumbling down, we need to pray until God delivers on the promise. Drawing prayer circles is a metaphor that means interceding until God answers, no matter how long it takes.

In 1996, I was the rookie pastor of a struggling church plant in Washington, DC. National Community Church only had twenty-five members and monthly income was $2000. I didnít feel like a pastor and the church didnít feel like a church. I honestly didnít know what to do, but sometimes that is when God has you right where He wants. Why? Because all you can do is pray like it depends on God.

It was during this season of desperation that I felt the Lord prompting me to pray a perimeter all the way around Capitol Hill. I claimed the promise in Joshua 1:3: ďI will give you every place you set your foot, just as I promised Moses.Ē The Holy Spirit quickened it to my spirit and I prayed what would be my first prayer circle.

That 4.7-mile prayer walk took three hours, but God has been answering that prayer for fifteen years. NCC is now one church with seven locations. Weíre influencing thousands of attendees every week. And every piece of property we own is right on that prayer circle! Coincidence? I think not. I walked by a rundown crackhouse at the corner of 2nd and F Street, NE that is now Ebenezerís Coffeehouse. I walked right under the marquee of The Peopleís Church, which became our seventh location in 2011. And I walked right by an $8 million piece of property at 8th and Virginia Avenue, which we own debt-free and where weíll build a future campus. Let me ask a question: what would have happened if the Israelites had stopped circling Jericho on day six? The answer is nothing. They would have forfeited the miracle right before it happened. The greatest tragedy in life are the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.

Keep circling!

Mark Batterson is author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Circle Maker.
He serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC.
Follow Mark on Twitter: @markbatterson.

Use by permission, granted by Intercessors for America