The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson – A Book Review

I was first introduced to Mark Batterson’s books when I received Wild Goose Chase as a gift a few years ago. Shortly after that I found In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day for a reduced price in a local bookstore. I picked it up and read both in both in a matter of a few weeks. They have both been immensely helpful and encouraging in my desire to serve and please God.

I’ve since read another of Batterson’s books and when I heard about his latest, The Circle Maker I put it in my queue. But when I saw the subtitle mentioned in a tweet, I went right out and bought the book and dove right in.

What was that tweet? What’s the subtitle?

Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.

Batterson had me at ‘hello.’ Actually it was the part about ‘Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears’ that got me. This describes exactly where I feel I am. Truthfully, I think I’ve been stuck in this place for a while, but only recently have I been spurred on to pursue God in that space. Batterson’s book helped immensely here.

This is the second book on prayer I’ve read this year and both have challenged and encouraged me in unique ways. But it’s how Batterson specifically applies prayer to those aspects of life where we must reach higher and leap farther in our faith that made the deepest impact on me. Batterson ties the character of God and his desire to answer our prayers to our impulse to take risks when others might counsel us simply to play it safe.

Rather than simply make excuses and take the easy way out, we ought to pray through the dreams and impulses we wrestle with. Many of our big dreams have been placed there by God himself so that he could accomplish something great in and through us.

We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without His help.

Batterson is careful to emphasize that this is not ultimately about us, but about our intentionally trusting God and asking him to accomplish his purposes.

The title, The Circle Maker, comes from Honi, a first century Jew who was bold enough to ask of God to send rain. This man and his faith are the inspiration for this exercise of prayer Batterson calls circle making. He illustrates this exercise by separating the book into three major circles or sections: Dream Big, Pray Hard, and Think Long. Each one is integral to the exercise and discipline that Batterson encourages us engage.

Batterson doesn’t attempt to make much of us or even of our efforts in prayer, but rather points to the greatness of God who is able and exceedingly willing to answer even our largest leaps of faith.

Much like his other books, Batterson puts biblical feet to these ideas. Rather than just tell us what we want to hear and give us a spiritual pep talk, he encourages and challenges us through biblical principles.

We come away with a stronger desire to trust God more and to do more than just ask him in a cursory manner, but to really commit ourselves to asking and depending on him for his answer.

We come away wanting to be modern day Circle Makers.

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Ask Seek Knock by Tony Jones – A Book Review

I got this book a few years ago for free while attending a conference. This is one of many perks of conferences, but admittedly many of those books go on the shelf and wait years to be read.

At first glance this little book doesn’t look as though it will pose too great a challenge. It doesn’t look like it will take that long to read and honestly, I thought it would mostly just guilt me into praying more.

That was not the case at all. I finally picked it up thinking I would breeze through it and move on to the next book in my queue. I quickly (and happily) learned how wrong I had been.

Jones writes a simple and concise book on prayer, to be sure. But it packs a powerful punch and is highly practical. Most lessons we hear on prayer appeal to our guilt and our obvious need to pray more. Not so with Jones’ book.

In less than 170 pages Jones moves from defining prayer and how it works in the first two chapters to giving a sampling of prayer throughout history.

He spends three chapters on prayers from the Old Testament, three more on those from the New Testament, and then three more chapters on prayers from the Church’s history. He wraps up the book with a dozen pages of sample prayers meant to guide us in the exercise of prayer.

And it is this point, the exercise of prayer, that I think makes Jones’ book stand out from what I expected a book on prayer to be. Jones knows that we all know we ought to pray more, but he recognizes that there are a multitude of reasons that we don’t. And so what he encourages throughout the book is this practice of exercising—though he never does so explicitly.

Prayer takes work. It takes discipline. It takes repeated effort. It needs to be worked out. It is an exercise . . . and we don’t ever fully arrive.

Jones spends his time exposing us to a variety of recorded prayers over a long course of human history. And in doing that he not only exposes our hearts, but also shows us incredible glimpses of the God who hears and answers those prayers. And in showing us these glimpses of the greatness of God, he gives us the only true motivation for prayer.

We are drawn to prayer because we are drawn to God.

Jones follows each prayer with a short summary of the truths contained—a double-shot of truth for those times when we’re tempted to move our eyes to quickly to the next page. This provides for a much fuller exposure of our hearts as well as God’s.

Before moving on to the next prayer or next section of prayers, Jones then asks a number of penetrating and thoughtful questions, questions that are too sharp and direct to escape without answering. They are questions that further motivate and move us to pray.

I have read few books that have accomplished what this book has done: I have come away not just knowing what I ought, but doing it, and finding myself in healthy repeated patterns of this renewed exercise.