Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson is a forty day devotional guide and a companion of sorts to the author’s earlier book The Circle Maker. It takes the ideas from The Circle Maker and applies them in a 40-day prayer challenge. I have not read The Circle Maker but, from what I can gather, it is an exhortation to persistent, faith-filled prayer. Furthermore, while reading The Circle Maker might be helpful, this book really does a pretty good job of standing on its own. I never felt lost or confused.
The style of the book is devotional and pastoral. You can tell it was written by a preacher. It’s filled with some catchy one-liners: “We’re so focused on God changing our circumstances that we never allow God to change us! So instead of ten or twenty years of experience, we have one year of experience repeated ten or twenty times.” The style works well for a daily devotional guide.
Draw the Circle has a lot of good insights on prayer and I honestly say that on numerous occasions I was challenged, inspired, and encouraged.
Theologically, I read with my guard up. Batterson relies heavily on the concepts of “divine appointments” and “Spirit promptings.” His theology of prayer is extremely experiential. It has a lot to do with recognizing and responding to the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit. He encourages use of Scripture but it’s clear he expects a lot of our decision making process to include special (individualized) convictions, “prayer fleeces,” and even some prophetic words. My old professor, the author of Decision Making God’s Way (a book I highly recommend, by the way), would probably have a conniption reading this book.
I don’t think, however, that Batterson crosses any lines theologically, though he sometimes comes right up to it. He is clearly aware that his stories and content might lead people down the wrong path and so he explicitly states on numerous occasions that prayer is not magic, that it’s not about getting what we want but about learning God’s will, and that we need to test to see whether our feelings or “promptings” are from God or are only products of wishful thinking. It’s clear he sees Scripture as authoritative and wouldn’t recommend following anything contrary to Scripture.
Ultimately, the book is a good lesson in persistent and faith-filled prayer. The practice of “drawing circles in prayer,” for Batterson, is a metaphor for persistence. At one point he says, “Drawing prayer circles is a metaphor that simply means ‘praying until God answers.’ It’s a determination to pray as long as it takes, even if it takes longer than you ever imagined.” Despite some of my theological reservations, the book moves the reader in the positive direction of faithful and fruitful prayer.
Update (1/13/2014): As I stated in my review, while Batterson makes me nervous, theologically, I don’t think he crosses the line into “name-it-claim-it” theology. Challies, on the other hand, believes Batterson’s technique is not only “extra-biblical” and “un-biblical,” but also “anti-biblical.” He’s a good thinker, so I commend his thoughts to you, which you can finder at his post “Don’t Pray In Circles”
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