MARK BATTERSON Guest Post: Learning To Truly Pray


I attended the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the Whitehouse this past April and right before walking through the buffet line we paused to pray. I was expecting the typical pre-meal prayer, but it turned into a defining moment for me. A sixty-seven year-old African American pastor began to pray with such familiarity and authority that after he said “Amen,” I turned to Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio, who happened to be standing next to me, and said, “I feel like I’ve never prayed before.”

Have you ever felt that way? Someone prays with such familiarity with God that you feel like you hardly know Him? Or they pray with such authority that you feel like your prayers are impotent by comparison? I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt when they heard Jesus pray. Maybe that’s why they asked Him to teach them to pray in a new way.

I’ve never met anyone who felt like they prayed too much or prayed too effectively. All of us feel like we fall short when it comes to prayer. But that’s exciting because it means there is potential for improvement. There are new dialects, new tactics, new dimensions to be discovered. And if you transform your prayer life you transform your life. Why? Because the transcript of your prayers ultimately become the script for your life. We write the future with our prayers. Or in the words of Walter Wink: “History belongs to the intercessors.”

The Legend

A few years ago, I was reading through The Book of Legends, a collection of stories from the Jewish Talmud, when I discovered the true legend of Honi the Circle Maker. It forever changed the way I pray. I pray more. I pray with more faith. I’ve learned how to pray circles around my dreams, my problems, my family, and most importantly, the promises of God.

A devastating drought threatened to destroy a generation–the generation before Jesus. The last of the Jewish prophets had died off nearly four centuries before. Miracles were a distant memory. And God was nowhere to be heard. But there was one man, an old sage who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem, who dared to pray anyway. His name was Honi. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.

With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi drew a circle in the sand. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven. With the authority of the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven, Honi called down rain.

Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.

Then it happened.

As his prayer ascended to the heavens, raindrops descended to the earth. The people rejoiced over the rain, but Honi wasn’t satisfied with a sprinkle. Still kneeling within the circle, Honi lifted his voice over the sounds of celebration.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns.

The sprinkle turned into such a torrential downpour that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape the flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed inside his protracted circle.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, benediction, and grace.

Then, like a well-proportioned sun shower on a summer afternoon, it began to rain in perfect moderation. Some within the Sanhedrin threatened excommunication because his prayer was too bold for their taste, but the miracle couldn’t be repudiated. Eventually, Honi the Circle Maker was honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.” The circle he drew in the sand symbolizes the power of a single prayer to change the course of history. It’s also a reminder of this timeless truth: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.

The Challenge

We have not because we ask not, or maybe I should say, we have not because we circle not. We give up too easily, too quickly. If God has given you a dream, you need to keep circling it in prayer. You can’t just pray. You need to pray through. You need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God.

Prayer is the difference between fighting for God and God fighting for you. Some of you have been fighting so hard. Maybe it’s time to pray hard. Then God will fight your battles for you.

I’m convinced of this: your leadership potential is directly proportional to your prayer capacity. You can’t do anything until you pray, but when you start drawing prayer circles around your dreams and God’s miracles, all bets are off. With prayer, all things are possible.

You tell me: is there anything more important or more powerful than prayer?

If the answer is no then let’s pray like it.

Start circling!

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