Over the past several weeks I’ve been making my way through Mark Batterson’s latest book, The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.
The way Batterson approaches prayer reminds me of a statement I heard from the late Elizabeth Achtemeier. Achtemeier taught Bible at Union Seminary in Richmond, Va. for many years. In this particular sermon she was talking about the prophets and how they viewed and spoke about God. Without recalling the exact context, I remember her observation that “many people in our churches believe in God . . . they just don’t think he does anything.”
The Circle Maker has challenged me because it raises my suspicions that my own prayer life proves Professor Achtemeier’s point.
In my own defense, I do believe there is a variety of streams or schools of prayer. Richard Foster’s Prayer covers them quite well.
Most of my reading has dealt with a more contemplative approach to prayer - and that has naturally shaped the way I pray. Contemplative prayer seems to be a way of giving attention to God in the midst of what is actually there – the circumstances that exist now, the people I encounter. The act of paying attention is at the heart of this kind of praying.
But Batterson’s book is about a way of praying that visualizes what isn’t actually there – at least not yet. It goes beyond paying attention to visioning a desired reality. This is how Batterson prayed as he went to plant a church in Washington, D.C. His book is full of examples and stories of how he has seen God work through prayer.
My discomfort comes from the sense that I’ve never really prayed this way. But I want to. At least I think I do.
To be specific, I want to pray circles around my ministry and my family.
From time to time I’ll post a quote from the book. I might offer some commentary along with it. Batterson is an engaging writer – pithy in the style of Rick Warren. I’ll begin today with this statement about vague prayers.
A few years ago I read one sentence that changed the way I pray. The author, pastor of one of the largest churches in Seoul, Korea, wrote, “God does not answer vague prayers.” (p. 25)
If our prayers aren’t specific . . . God gets robbed of the glory that He deserves because we second-guess whether or not he actually answered them. We never know if the answers were the result of specific prayer or general coincidences that would have happened anyway. (p. 26)
Questions: Does God answer vague prayers? How do you know? And what specific prayers are you bringing before God these days?