Praying Circles. Coming Full Circle at Laity

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“Don’t let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can. Draw the circle. Don’t let who you are not keep you from being who you are. YOU ARE A CIRCLE MAKER.”–Mark Batterson

Ebenezer

The Circle Maker. Praying Circles Around your Greatest Dreams and Biggest Failures. By Mark Batterson

I read this book once before. It made an impact, but I shelved it away under good stuff not applicable to me right now. Maybe it was my heart at the time or maybe it was because I could barely walk and would pass out on my knees so praying had to come in a less literal way. More likely it was because I was raised to be afraid of asking too much of God. Sure, in Acts He did some crazy awesome stuff and the Holy Spirit was spreading like wildfire. Now, not so much. Stay calm. Stay in your seat. Bow your head and very gingerly approach His throne.

It was before Danica’s miracle was realized. It was during a time I spoke about Hope and healing but in the deepest part of my mind and heart believed the intense suffering and loss we were walking was His will for my family and I. I didn’t think I needed to pray my way out of it. I just needed to pray to be more submissive in it.

Thankfully I had a bunch of circle warriors around me. People were up on their feet and down on their knees begging God to bring healing to my daughter and I. They were so believing in God’s power to do this thing they invested in our lives financially in a way I’ve never heard of before. They sacrificed to feed us, clothe us, give us shelter, pay for medicine, pay for gas and hotels and brain surgeries. When they couldn’t give anymore they asked their friends and family to give. One friend even drained their bank account because she wrestled with God all night about what He wanted their family to do for ours. This is crazy, right?

My sister Rochelle is one of my best circle stories. She would stay up nights begging God for salvation from the pain. She wrote ridiculous letters to people asking them to give us a place to live when my parent’s basement was making me so sick and the dark room I laid in was slowly killing what little light I had left in my heart. She came for surgeries when arranging her life to do so was short of impossible. She called me every day and talked me through hours of weeping. She listened to my despair when no one else could. She was the only one I could say out loud to, “It hurts so bad I want to die.” She didn’t flinch. She prayed.

I brought this book back out a few months ago, along with a journal I had started to make prayer circles in. I had some big praying to do for people I love. As I read back through Mark’s stories and what he calls “back stories” of the huge things he asked of God and the ways God said “No” to make room for the many ways He said “YES” I reevaluated my prayer life. Everything looked different because I had experienced first hand this kind of power.

Prayer is a tricky thing for people who believe God is sovereign, which I do. If God has every single thing planned out already then just throwing out, “According to Your will,” should do the trick in most cases, right? No. Not at all. Here’s the number one reason why. God has made really BIG promises in His Word. When we fail to circle those promises and pray for them we also forfeit the miracles. They may still happen, but because we didn’t ask, the answers are often lost in some other explanation or not recognized at all.

I love how Mark’s book talks a lot about financial prayers. Money was needed for His new ministry in Washington DC. He prayed specific prayers about these needs. He talked about them. He made the need known in many cases. Then he walked around and around these prayers in literal steps of faith until God provided. Sometimes it was the provision of taking something away to make room for something bigger and more God honoring. Oh, how we have lived this truth. He also talks about resisting the temptation to manufacture your own answer. I think my sister was definitely at that point when she was calling people and asking for a free house for us. I still love she was that brave. In one of Mark’s stories about a generous gift given their church the givers said, “We’re giving this gift because you have vision beyond your resources.” In this same spirit we have been given gifts that were seen not just by us but by the givers as LIFE. It was a currency of living and breathing. They trusted us because we kept telling our story and making our needs known. They trusted God because they were prompted by the Holy Spirit and backed up their giving with really big prayers. As our provision grew so did our faith and our willingness to tell anyone who would listen about what God was doing. Many have watched this from the sidelines in awe.

Have you ordered this book yet???

My copy is underlined, page flagged and tear stained. I am getting somewhere with all this. Mark uses lots of Biblical examples from the Old Testament as he weaves through his own story. I’m super close with Moses for many reasons. I was just up in the gaps with him the other day. After the complaining people were tired of manna Moses went back to God. I’m sure he was ashamed and embarrassed they were grumbling again. I’m sure he felt like God had done His best work with this bread from heaven that showed up outside every day. Just enough. God asks Moses this, “Is there a limit to my power?”

“The obvious answer to that question is no, God is omnipotent, which means by definition, there is nothing God cannot do. Yet many of us pray as if our problems are bigger than God. so let me remind you of this high-octane truth that should fuel your faith: God is infinitely bigger than your biggest problem or your biggest dream. . . Our biggest problem is our small view of God.”

It was only this year, after a staggeringly generous gift loosened the vice grip of hourly panic about how our family would not only survive but continue to fight, I began to ask God in earnest for healing for myself. I could ask others to pray for me all day long, but I did not ask God for myself. It was only then God began to open up understanding about how no matter how much neurosurgery I had or what pressure we removed from my brain, I was fundamentally sick ALL THE TIME. It was also in this new treatment He resurrected the original call to write “Gauntlet with a Gift.” (Please don’t freak out about the word “call.” I can see some of you coming unloose. Simmer down.)

I began to pray in circles. My sister Rochelle needed a circle around her son and their family. My sister Alecia needed a circle around her own health and their family. My dearest childhood friend has cancer for the fifth time. Ohhhh, that’s a big circle. I started to draw more and more circles. I got more specific in my prayers. I asked bigger things, because I’ve seen him do HUGE things. There is no limit to His power!

When I arrived at Laity, now almost two weeks ago, I was swimming in a sea of circles. It was all private. I began using the term when I would talk to people and add them to my book, but I didn’t share too much of the changes going on in my heart. I would write their names and their family’s names and their specific needs in circles. It felt like something HUGE shifted in my praying and also my faith. Still, I was alone in this.

I was “fresh off the boat” when I crossed the Frio into the canyon. I was like an awkward first timer. It was certainly another lifetime since I’d been at a spiritual retreat. I think I have lost much of my “Christianese” in all my time away from community. In a way I’m glad for this. Still, I don’t quite know how to act when surrounded physically by the body of Christ. So, imagine my surprise when at dinner Friday night, with a strained vocal cord I quietly shared my story to a beautiful woman sitting next to me. She was moved. I’m not sure how it happened but suddenly I was surrounded by women, and they were literally circling me in prayer. Every one of them prayed specific prayers over my healing, my purpose at the retreat, the story I have to tell and God getting the glory. I was blown away. They prayed right through the clanging bell calling us into our evening session. I opened my eyes to question them. One said, “Oh this is more important!”

We went outside after the prayers ended and one of the women shining with Jesus pulled me aside and shared this passage from Isaiah 38 with me. If you don’t know about King Hezekiah you need to run and check his story out. At the beginning of the chapter it says he was “ill to the point of death.” God told him to get his house in order because he would die. He would not recover. I’m pretty sure if God sent me a real life prophet that said I was going to die I would make some funeral plans, hug my husband and girls and submit to it as God’s will. Hezekiah did something different. He turned his face toward the wall and as he wept bitterly he prayed, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.”

Guess what? His prayer changed God’s mind. Here’s that tricky sovereignty thing again. If Hezekiah hadn’t prayed this prayer would God have taken his life then? Did God plan for this prayer to open Hezekiah’s eyes all along so He would get the glory?

Listen to these beautiful words penned by Hezekiah himself after his illness and recovery:

I said, “In the prime of my life
must I go through the gates of death
and be robbed of the rest of my years?”
I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
or be with those who now dwell in this world.
Like a shepherd’s tent my house
has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
and he has cut me off from the loom;
day and night you made an end of me.
I waited patiently till dawn,
but like a lion he broke all my bones;
day and night you made an end of me.
I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”
But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.
Lord, by such things people live;
and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.

In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.
For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness.
The Lord will save me,
and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
in the temple of the Lord.

How I have studied through Isaiah twice in my life and never grabbed on to these verses before I will never understand except God had this circle intervention planned long ago, and His word became ALIVE in this setting, in this time, for a purpose I could not have lived until now.

I will tell this story hundreds of times I’m sure, because it was just one of the gentle ways God meant for me to enter back into real community as I am made more well. I wouldn’t have trusted this in a church setting. God knew this about me.

There’s another amazing story coming soon about the circle I drew around my book, and the stunning way God began to answer in the Texas Hill Country, but I will save that for another day.

Do you believe there is no limit to God’s power? If so, how should this change your prayer life? I’d encourage you to sift through your Bible for the larger than life stories of answered prayers and then look around. He is the same God. Nothing has changed. He is still doing BIG things for our good and His glory. Let’s pray some circles together!

(Thanks to Tim Miller for taking this stunning photograph of the Ebenezer I built Friday afternoon and to Cindee Re for the gift of the cross. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” As I write tonight I have horrible intracranial pressure building. I write these believing words in a broken body made up of glitches in my DNA strands that scream in the face of long lasting relief from my pain. The difference is I am asking. I’m asking BIG. I need to be well enough to finish this book. Will you ask this for me as you pray?)

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6 Comments on Praying Circles. Coming Full Circle at Laity

  1. Diane Bailey
    December 3, 2014 at 8:51 am (3 years ago)

    Monica it was so wonderful to meet you at Laity and hear part of your story. Thank you for the honor of praying for you as you sat in the circle. You and I need to talk. I have seen the miracles of our Lovong God! Nothing is impossible for Him!

    Reply
    • Monica
      December 3, 2014 at 9:19 am (3 years ago)

      Diane, Thank you for coming around me in love and truth as a sister and friend when you knew nothing of me. It’s such a blessing to know when we share the same Father our hearts are already one. I want to know about your miracles. I’m hungry to hear how He is still the same God doing BIG things for our good and His Kingdom and glory! Grace and peace to you today. And Love.

      Reply
  2. Cindee Snider Re
    December 3, 2014 at 9:10 am (3 years ago)

    Monica, I’m in tears here. Your heart, your faith, that you rise each day to love on your daughters, your husband, those who read your words, it is beautiful and life-giving, pointing unmistakably to the One who makes the next breath possible. Thank you! I am better for knowing you — as iron sharpens iron — your life encourages mine. I am overwhelmed that we met in that holy space — for such a time as this, to know that I am not alone — for community that only God could orchestrate.

    Reply
    • Monica
      December 3, 2014 at 9:25 am (3 years ago)

      Cindee, No doubt, long before either of us planned to attend the retreat God was smiling knowing He would bring our hearts and lives together. You are not alone. I feel each moment of your days and the hard things God is asking of you and your children. I know the pain and the fear. I grasp for Hope even when I know it is a sure thing. Lean hard into Him today. Whatever He is asking of You, and He will give you the measure of strength and Grace you need. When you don’t feel it and reach out to empty space know He is still there. I am there. I love you dearly.

      Reply
  3. Jennifer Dukes Lee
    December 3, 2014 at 9:23 am (3 years ago)

    This is stunning — as are you. I’ll never forgot that moment. I had to go to my room and process it, alone with God, for about a half hour afterward. God shines so beautifully through you, and your story. Praying for you still, Monica. I’m so glad that God crossed our paths.

    Reply
    • Monica
      December 4, 2014 at 10:12 pm (3 years ago)

      Jennifer, I have not experienced the Holy Spirit moving in a group like He did that night. Thank you for your spontaneous courage to love me and gather around me. I am expectant of what God will birth from those powerful prayers.

      Reply

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