On February 10, 2013 I had the opportunity to ‘meet and greet’ with an author and pastor that I have learned a lot from: Mark Batterson. I have read In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, Primal, and now The Circle Maker.
If I must be honest (yes, I must), when I listened to Mark preach the sermon at Next Level Church which served as a promo for his new book, I wasn’t very impressed. The Circle Maker, really?
As I sat through the sermon I did begin to be captivated by the type of prayerful faith that Mark spoke about. I began to wonder if many within the “Preterist Movement’ had that type of faith to see the reformation through. I even wrote a Facebook Note about it.
“DO WE (FULL PRETERISTS) WHO ARE ON THE FRONT LINE OF REFORMATION HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO ALLOW GOD TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WORK AS HE DID THROUGH ISRAEL? ARE WE GETTING IN THE WAY OR LIMITING GOD? As Mark would have it said, “Are we allowing God to “show off””?”.
So, it was with those thoughts that I began reading the book. The church I now pastor, The Blue Point Bible Church has begun doing a 4 part video series about The Circle Maker through Right Now Media, and every week thus far (we are on the 3rd week) we have had great conversations about pray in our Adult Sunday School (one woman even told me she began praying circles over her life). Today, I finished the book and want to share some of the awesome insights this book gave me.
I am a visionary, bold, not afraid of danger and would be considered by many a ‘prayer warrior”. I had recently gone through a mighty move of God, “divine favor” clearly happening in my life- so reading through the book was a lot of “Amen” moments, but it seemed to rehash things I already knew. Surely, I can agree with Pastor Mark when he writes, “The longer I live the more I crazy the favor of God”.
“Drawing prayer circles starts with identifying your Jericho”.
Mark details how the beginning of ‘answered prayer’ is identifying what is it you are asking for. Now, this seems to be an easy talk until you decide to actually think about the specifics. Go ahead try it. What exactly do you want God to do in your life? What are the specifics of what you asking God for? The humbling reality is that most of us aren’t asking God for anything specific, but would love to grumble about what He is not giving us. Mark gave this pretty stirring admonishment that I believe we could all very well pay heed to:
“If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for is the antithesis of faith, isn’t it?”
So… dream big, take some time to think of some big prayer requests, and yes, hold God accountable. “..the bigger the circle we draw, the better, because God gets more glory”.
I loved that Mark Batterson explained what a “counterfactual theorist” is. Those people who ask the “What if” questions. I myself have become fond of doing that. I utilize this to encourage and inspire myself. What if Martin Luther did not stand up and post the 95 Thesis? What if Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not take a stand against Hitler? What if Richard Wurmbrand didn’t heed the pleas of his wife Sabina and take a stand for true Christianity in Communist Russia?
To get a bit personal, just as I was getting comfortable in the fact that I was a “prayer warrior”, in the middle of reading The Circle Maker, I was hit with the opportunity to put my prayer life to the test. On Tuesday May 14th, I received a call about a young man being in a coma and in need of a miracle. I grabbed my Bible and headed to the hospital. I was introduced to the parents at the hospital and let them know I was praying for a miracle. I was told the young man had a drug overdose and was brain dead- 2 doctors had already confirmed and the only reason he was still alive was that he was connected to life support. I continued to urge the family to have faith and pray for a miracle, even saying quote forcefully, that I would not be there if I did not believe in miracles. So I prayed. Did it make sense? No. Was I sure of what I was praying for? No. But I know it brought glory to God, so I prayed.
“Our generation desperately needs to know the difference between praying for and praying through”.
As I walked down the aisle and got into the elevator, I felt that nervous tension one feels when praying for something that is seemingly impossible. I knew it seemed crazy that I was praying for a miracle, but I just followed the impulse based on the capability I know God holds.
“I learned that if you aren’t willing to put yourself in “this is crazy” situations, you’ll never experience “this is awesome” moments”.
“the modern mystic, A.W. Tozer, believed that a low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils, but a high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems”.
“…if you don’t pray like it depends on God, the biggest miracles and best promises will remain out of your prayer reach. But if you learn how to pray hard, like the persistent widow, God will honor your bold prayers because your bold prayers honor God”.
“…if you pray through, God will come through. But it will be God’s will, God’s way”. I continued to pray through. Sadly, I received the call late Thursday night that the young man had passed away. Did God fail to answer me? I can be honest and say, it was difficult to see the miracle in all of this. Then the selfish thoughts began to flow- “How will I face the family knowing that I prayed for a miracle?”.
“Sometimes the hardest moments in life are when you’ve prayed hard but the answer is no and you don’t know why”.
Obviously I don’t believe God said no on this request. I firmly believe “no means yes” when it comes to miracles, but what is required is what Mark constantly talks about in his book- retracing the circle. “When we pray, our prayers exit our own reality of space and time”. It is imperative that we realize God’s vision and ways are so above ours. Granted this young man died, but I did not stop praying even after the wake and funeral.
“We stop praying because we can’t see any tangible difference with our natural eyes. We allow our circumstances to get between God and us instead of putting God between us and our circumstances”.
Yesterday, May 28th, I received the following update from the family:
“Yo mike wats good I just wanted to say on the behalf of the saporito fam thank u so much for everything wat u did meant the world to them and the miracle u were asking for did come true joeys at peace and nikki n her mom gained a new brothers and Bernadette gained new sons I know that the miracle came true and I needed to let u know u are appreciated u r a gr8 man and thank u for the support”
Go ahead read that again. “I KNOW THE MIRACLE CAME TRUE”. Mark Batterson reminds us to “Never put a comma where God puts a period, and never put a period where God puts a comma”. I firmly believe that having a prayerful attitude and the desire to show God’s miraculous ways allowed for a certain mindset to prevail.
Let me add a quick side note. Mark quotes the following Bible verses in the book:
“Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways (Job 22:28)”.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11)”.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:6)”.
Well, sure these verses sound great for encouragement for the safe, comfortable, pleasure-seeking 21st century American. But what about the first century Apostles? Or the Christians facing persecution all over the world?
I believe this is where it is vital to understand “death to self” and the “will of God”. If we die to ourselves and let the will of God have total control- yes, we will see the blessing of God even as we stand by the gallows for professing our faith. Remember, God’s ways are above ours.
I want to end this giving you the admonishment to begin praying circles around your prayers.
“…it’s often our unwillingness to take a step of faith and get our feet wet that keeps us from experiencing a miracle”.
Mark Batterson talks about having “sanctified expectations”. Yes, we can hold God accountable to the things we pray for, although granted they might now come out the way you thought.
Do you really think I prayed to be pastor of The Blue Point Bible Church on Long Island? To be a “preterist”? For Quanti Barnhill to become the future Mrs. Miano? Let me be the first to tell you- NO I DID NOT. THIS WHOLE THING TURNED OUT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN I THOUGHT AND PRAYED FOR. BUT I PRAYED THROUGH! MATTHEW 6:33. And YES, I would dare to say I might be one of the most blessed people you know.
Here is where to start:
“If you want to see crazy miracles, obey the crazy promptings of the Holy Spirit”.
“Where do you feel like you need God the least? Where are you most proficient, most sufficient? Maybe that is precisely where God wants you to trust Him to do something beyond your ability”.
“IF YOU’VE NEVER HAD A GOD-SIZED DREAM THAT SCARED YOU HALF TO DEATH, THEN YOU HAVEN’T REALLY COME TO LIFE. IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN OVERWHELMED BY THE IMPOSSIBILITIES OF YOUR PLANS, THEN YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL. IF YOUR VISION ISN’T PERPLEXINGLY IMPOSSIBLE, THEN YOU NEED TO EXPAND THE RADIUSES OF YOUR PRAYER CIRCLES”.
The question is, what are you praying for that doesn’t make sense? If your not praying for things that are bigger than what you already have, you will not receive anything beyond what you have already attained. As I heard Mark preach- How are you letting God show off? You must begin a persistent prayer life because “success is a derivative of persistence”. The more consistent you are in these regards, the more passionate your prayers and overall life will be- “intensity is the byproduct of consistency”.
“You can’t fell a fifty-foot wall, but you can march around Jericho. You can’t shut the mouths of lions, but you can stop, drop, and pray. You can’t make it rain, but you can draw a circle in the sand. Don’t let your what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can”.
I’ll be damned if I am going to put a limit on what God is capable of doing, or worse yet- what He wants to do. “The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap”. Prayer is the way we take thoughts and dreams and ideas captive”.
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood”- Daniel Burnham
Blessings on your endeavors to pray hard and dream big!
Pastor Michael Miano