This is a continuation of my first post, The Circle Maker.
I didn’t have time to address this in the first blog, and I’ve already received negative feedback from people saying I’m missing the point. I haven’t missed the point. I think good has come from The Circle Maker, and I think good will come from it because despite it’s poor foundation it has nuggets of good Biblical points, and it has motivated people to pray and believe. Maybe I should have started my first blog this way. Sermons three and four of Mark Batterson’s sermon series The Circle Maker are pretty good from what I’ve skimmed so far. They teach about persistence in prayer, and looking at the long term and he uses in context, untwisted Bible passages. My point is we don’t need extra-biblical gimmicks and scripture twisting to motivate or teach people to pray. As Christians all we need is the Bible. I know mature Christians are taking the wheat and leaving the chaff without even really thinking about it, but what about those that are immature? What about those people that honestly believe their small, timid prayers about a kids runny nose, or performing well at a sports event will offend God just because a pastor said so?
Bad Bible Teaching
My concern is also with the outright wrong teachings and Bible twisting in Mark Batterson’s sermon series The Circle Maker, and I can only imagine those exist in the book also. The second sermon in the series Mark talks about Numbers 11 where Israel is complaining about just eating manna, and they are crying out for meat. The way Mark tells the story, Moses had to circle the promise of quail for it to happen, then the quail came because Moses made this big bold circle around the promise, God deliveres unimaginable amounts of quail and everybody was happy.
Read Numbers 11 for yourself, that is not how it happened. Moses didn’t even petition God for the quail! The nation of Israel is crying out for meat because they are tired of manna. Moses then asks God to kill him if he was going to have to keep dealing with the whining and crying of the nation of Israel. Then God says, ““Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month…” The Lord heard the nation of Israel’s wailing for meat, not Moses prayer circling. He didn’t hear Moses’ big bold audacious prayer to provide meat for all of these people. Moses doesn’t believe God! Moses looks at their assets and says we don’t have enough livestock, or fish in the sea to feed all of these people for a month. Then God performs a miracle, but what God does seems kind of underhanded ( it’s not underhanded because He is God and everything He does is just ). He gives them all this meat, an unimaginable amount of quail flies in. Everybody gathers A LOT of it and God kills the people who craved the meat before they have a chance to swallow!
But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food. Numbers 11:33-34
The quail wasn’t a promise but a curse! Mark Batterson, again twists scripture to fit his preconceived idea that God only honors bold prayers, timid small prayers insult him, and God only has big dreams for us. Like the story of Jericho, Numbers 11 isn’t about prayer or God’s promises or big dreams. I think there are many things to learn from this chapter of the Bible. I think one of those is, if God performs a miracle and provides for you, don’t be ungrateful and ask for more.
In closing these are my main concerns. The extra-biblical foundation in the legend of Honi the circle maker. The lack of scriptural support that God only honors bold prayers, God is offended by anything less than the biggest, humanly attainable prayers insult God, and that prayers are prophecies. I’m concerned with Mark Battersons’ premises when he has to twist the Bible to make these preconceived notions fit into the Bible.
Not every instance of prayer in or outside of the Bible is a pattern or formula that can unlock our full prayer potential. It doesn’t matter if it’s Elijah praying seven times for rain, Joshua praying for the sun to stand still, or Jabez praying for more territory. Those aren’t necessarily patterns or examples we are supposed to follow in our prayer lives. Those serve as reminders that God does answer prayer and perform miracles. Jesus gives us the only explicit example of how to pray in the Bible. I don’t necessarily have a problem with “circling” stuff as a device to help you focus on what you are praying for. I have a problem with drawing circles just because Honi made circles, or because a pastor tells you “If you draw the circle, God will multiply the miracles in your life.” I have a problem with putting faith and emphasis in drawing circles and not focusing entirely on God.