LTRP Note: In 2017, Lighthouse Trails released a booklet titled Circle Making and “Prayer Circles” Versus the Straight Line of Truth because many Christian leaders have been promoting and endorsing a book (and its practice) called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Earlier this month, one of our readers called and was concerned that Christian leader Michael Youssef’s September-released book, Treasure That Lasts includes a back cover endorsement by Batterson as well as a promotion of a new Batterson book inside Youssef’s book. We believe it’s important for the church to be aware of deceptions and false teachings that enter in. We pray that Michael Youssef and other teachers will examine such matters before giving a thumbs up to them. Below is the content of our booklet on The Circle Maker.
Circle Making and “Prayer Circles” Versus the Straight Line to Truth
By Cedric Fisher and Nanci Des Gerlaise
In 2011, a book titled The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Washington, D.C. pastor, Mark Batterson, was released and marketed as a new way to pray. Batterson says his book is inspired by a legendary Jewish sage, Honi, the Circle-Drawer, who lived centuries before Christ. The mystic sage, purported to be skilled at praying for rain, drew a circle about himself and declared he would not move until it rained. The story ends with the rain falling.
The premise behind Batterson’s The Circle Maker (which has become a very popular book) is that if we draw circles around important things in our lives, including our prayers, we will receive great blessings. Batterson explains:
Over the years, I’ve drawn prayer circles around promises in Scripture and promises the Holy Spirit has conceived in my spirit. I’ve drawn prayer circles around impossible situations and impossible people. I’ve drawn prayer circles around everything from life goals to pieces of property.1
Batterson says that drawing “prayer circles” isn’t “some magic trick,”2 but he admits that even if it is not necessarily God’s will that you get something, the prayer circles can still give you things you want:
Drawing prayer circles starts with discerning what God wants, what God wills. And until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply. Sure, you can apply some of the principles you learn in The Circle Maker, and they may help you get what you want, but getting what you want isn’t the goal; the goal is glorifying God by drawing circles around the promises, miracles, and dreams He wants for you.3 (emphasis added)
Reading Batterson’s circle-making formula for getting prayers answered is reminiscent of the still-popular book that hit the evangelical market in 2000, The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. Researcher and author Mike Oppenheimer, in his expose of Wilkinson’s book, says:
From the start of the book, the reader is being offered a method for success in his spiritual life by one daily prayer. . . . Wilkinson thinks he has discovered something he wants to share with all. If we’ll just pray the prayer of Jabez, word-for-word, every day for a month, we’ll see God’s blessing and power in our lives. To Wilkinson, the answer isn’t found in any choice of God of when or how He is to answer Jabez’s prayer. The key is that Jabez learned the right formula for asking things of God. Wilkinson implies a cause and effect action that is guaranteed—ask this way and wait until you see the results!4
As one commentator recognized, The Prayer of Jabez was really fulfilling a lustful desire of man—to be like God:
Unfortunately, this book is one indicator of the condition of the church today; it reflects the desire for many to share in His glory, just like Adam and Eve did 6,000 years ago. Today, we don’t want to submit to God; we want to be God.5
The repeated prayer in The Prayer of Jabez is really no different than the idea behind the prayer circles in The Circle Maker. Man develops a formula to get what he wants, and God must now answer these requests or prayers.
The Circle Maker describes the legend of Honi in 1 BC where the land was subjected to a drought. In the excerpt below, Batterson says:
With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi began to turn like a math compass. His circular movement was rhythmical and methodical. Ninety degrees. One hundred and eighty degrees. Two hundred and seventy degrees. Three hundred and sixty degrees. He never looked up as the crowd looked on. After what seemed like hours but had only been seconds, Honi stood inside the circle he had drawn.6
Sure enough, it rained, and Batterson states, “The circle he drew in the sand became a sacred symbol.”7 Whether God brought rain in answer to Honi’s prayers or not, we will not try to speculate, but what Batterson has done in his book is turn “circle making” into a practice and a ritual (based on drawing circles) that will supposedly bring great results in a person’s life like it did with Honi.
Interestingly, the word circle is only used once in the King James Bible, and there is no precedent whatsoever in the Bible that we are to draw circles in order to have our prayers answered. On the contrary, there are countless examples in pagan, wiccan, and New Age literature that refer to circles. If drawing prayer circles is such a wonderful God-inspired idea, how is it that Satanists and those in the occult consider circles a major part of their belief system? Could it be that the church is merely imitating an occultic practice? And if drawing circles was an important and needed component for the Christian believer to have an effective prayer life, then why is it that neither the disciples nor Jesus gave any instruction on drawing prayer circles? Surely they would not have left out a vital and successful component to getting prayers answered by God.
Circles and Native Spirituality
By Nanci Des Gerlaise
As a Cree Native American, I recognize the connection between Batterson’s circle making and Native Spirituality (a mystical New Age belief system). While Batterson doesn’t talk about Native Spirituality in his book, his “circle making” is a way that conditions Christians to more readily accept Native Spirituality and the New Age whether Batterson intends it or not. Everything in Native Spirituality is done in circles because the “power of the world” works in circles, so everything is deemed circular, from childhood to worship. As the moon, sun, and earth are all round, so it is said that all circles attract a spiritual energy as does symbolic expression. The circle that the medicine wheel represents is an integration of energy and matter, as well as spirit and man, so as to achieve a greater spiritual understanding and creation. Some segments of Native Spirituality involving circles are: round dances, talking circles, pipe ceremonies, drums, four quadrants (north, south, east and west), seasons, and life of man.
In this section of this booklet, I would like to give you some background of the Native American medicine wheel because circles, such as what Batterson is promoting, are becoming very popular within the Christian church, and Christians need to understand the nature of what they are involving themselves.
Native Americans developed the concept of the medicine wheel to illustrate their belief that life is a circle—from birth to death to rebirth—and to act as a guide to understanding self, creation, and their duties. Everything within the wheel is interrelated, and the goal is that these interconnected elements are in balance with each other. Important ceremonies always take place within a circle.
Four is a significant number within Native Spirituality—four directions, four winds, four seasons, four elements, and so forth. Hence, the wheel has four quadrants, which move in a clockwise direction because that is the sun’s direction.
There are numerous interpretations and uses of the wheel, but the following is the one my own family used (I am the daughter and granddaughter of medicine men). We believed our spirit keeper was the grizzly bear—
In the center are the creator and the individual. East represents beginning or birth, spring, and where the sun rises and is symbolized by the eagle as spirit keeper. The next quadrant, the south, is the mental area, representing the teenage years and symbolized by the buffalo as spirit keeper. The west represents the emotions as well as the season of fall and is symbolized by the grizzly bear. The north represents the spiritual self and is symbolized by the wolf.
Francis Whiskeyjack, a Cree elder and expert on the medicine wheel states:
As we share in this circle with others, we are asking the Creator, the healer, to heal us. We are asking our spirit guides, the helpers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, to pray for us, to be mediators and to help us.8
The wheel summarizes their earth-centered faith and reveals a system of interaction of animistic, pantheistic, and spiritualistic beliefs in their search for spiritual wholeness.
This is only a brief summary of a very complex teaching that has had a strong influence for centuries among Native American peoples.
Contrary to this view, however, the biblical view is linear. That is, it views human life as having a beginning and an end. From the creation to the return of Jesus Christ, from the fall of man in Genesis to the new Heaven and the new Earth, God reveals in the Bible a linear history filled with purpose: to create and save a new people for Himself. The medicine wheel (or the circle) indicates that there is no beginning and no end to the existence of a man or other created beings. But we know from Scripture that carnal man does indeed have a beginning (birth) and an end (death). Likewise, in linear fashion, those who are written in the Book of Life will live eternally in Heaven based on the finished work at the Cross by Jesus Christ while everlasting separation from God awaits those who reject Christ.
The medicine wheel is used to make contact with the dead, with spirit guides, and with the “great spirit.” But the Bible is clear that man has only one mediator between himself and God:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Prayer Circles, Small Groups, and “Revival”
An article written by the late apologist and researcher Ed Tarkowski gives some interesting insights about Christians participating in prayer circles. It should be noted that, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with meeting in small groups or joining hands with other believers while standing in a circular formation. However, such practices should not be applauded as divine remedies or special formulas for success. While these practices may be perfectly benign, in the wrong hands, they can accomplish much evil—especially considering that they may have the appearance of godly endeavors. This is what happened in numerous cases during the charismatic renewal movement. At first, it may sound extreme to criticize people holding hands, standing in a circle, and praying, but after reading Tarkowski’s material, you may be able to understand and agree with his concerns:
[T]he Charismatic Renewal brought prayer circles into widespread use through the ecumenical prayer meetings begun after Vatican II, and they were part of the early empowering of those people used to get this whole thing headed in the “right” direction. The Shepherding Movement was then introduced by Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Joe Garlington, Larry Tomczak and others. In the 1970s, many of these men traveled to our town and across the country to hold huge meetings to instill the idea of accountability within the small groups. What all this led to, of course, was demon-energized groups being brought into accountability to men while the word of God was twisted, laid down, compromised, and changed.9
As we have witnessed compromised Christian leaders putting an emphasis on small groups, unity, revival, and accountability to the leaders, what Tarkowski is suggesting makes sense. He continues:
There is a current move to link all of these small groups into a Global Prayer Circle for the sake of demonstrating unity in “Jesus” throughout the world. Christians may think that this unity would concern Christianity alone, but it does not. What is in view is all the religions of the world participating in a unified prayer circle formed around the globe. . . . [Prayer circles] will be one of the energizing tools used to maintain control and bring in the final evolution of this beast, a world church. The intimate sharing of small prayer groups will turn into Big Brother knowing all about each member. Groups will be shepherded into a global community living under a system of controlled accountability to man. The New Age consciousness of unity in diversity, as well as peace based not on God’s word, but on a universal set of values, will finally be realized by this global entity.10
Popular prolific New Age sympathizer, Leonard Sweet, reiterates this in his book Quantum Spirituality when he states:
The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another.11
This “Christ consciousness” of which Sweet refers to is the belief that all humans are indwelt with divinity (i.e., that God is every man—panentheism).12
It is also vital to realize that much of what we have in the church today is a refocusing of values. While genuine revivals of the past were characterized by repentance and faith in the Gospel—where turning to Christ and living for Him became the focus, much of today’s revival is riddled with formulas for self-accomplishments and success. Rather than endeavoring to find in Christ all that is needed for godly living, a host of formulas are being offering—as if rubbing the right lamp might bring the genie out of the bottle.
In the fall of 2016, a number of Christian leaders came together for an ecumenical event titled The Gathering: A Solemn Assembly. A promo piece for the event stated:
Whenever a solemn assembly or sacred gathering has been called in Scripture, it has usually been called by those in leadership—whether that be a priest, prophet or king—and it has usually been called for leadership first. Even in America, our historical records verify that prior to every national awakening, the spiritual leadership of the day has placed a heavy emphasis on gathering in smaller groups for fasting and prayer which then led to larger gatherings and greater change.13 (emphasis added)
Today, there is much talk in the church about unity and revival. The consensus is that we cannot have revival unless we all come together (all meaning evangelicals and Catholics, and in some cases, people of all religions), laying down our doctrinal differences. This is a disconcerting thing because doctrine is the framework of our biblical Christian faith.
The Circle Maker and Mystical Prayer
Coupled together with this emphasis on ecumenical revival is a mystical spirituality that helps to expedite the momentum. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson helps to accentuate this by convincing people that if certain rituals or methods are performed, then things can be changed. In his 2017 book Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, Batterson continues with this mystical focus (i.e., contemplative spirituality). In one section, he gives a lesson on Lectio Divina, a practice that involves taking a word or phrase from Scripture and repeating it slowly, which is said to facilitate hearing God’s voice (in reality, Lectio Divina is a gateway practice to full-blown eastern-style meditation; Lectio Divina uses the Bible as a tool to find a mantric word or phrase). Batterson explains what happens when meditation like this is practiced:
If we slow our minds down, we enter a state of relaxed alertness that produces alpha waves between eight and thirteen cycles per second. Those alpha waves are amplified by closed eyes, which might be a physiological argument for praying and meditating that way.14 (emphasis added)
Researcher and author Ray Yungen discusses the alpha waves in his book A Time of Departing (which identifies and critiques contemplative spirituality:
When I hear a Christian talking like this [about alpha waves], it creates a very deep concern within me for that person because I know what is meant by “alpha.” In Laurie Cabot’s book, Power of the Witch, alpha is a term she uses extensively to mean meditation or the silence. In fact, she makes no secret of it but confides:
“The science of Witchcraft is based on our ability to enter an altered state of consciousness we call ‘alpha.’ In alpha the mind opens up to nonordinary forms of communication, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. Here we also may experience out-of-the-body sensations and psychokinesis, or receive mystical, visionary information that does not come through the five senses. In alpha the rational filters that process ordinary reality are weakened or removed, and the mind is receptive to nonordinary realities.”15 (emphasis added)
Cabot further says of the alpha state:
Alpha is the springboard for all psychic and magical workings. It is the heart of Witchcraft. . . . Mystics in every religious tradition speak of alpha states of consciousness and the lure of Divine Light, although they do so in their own metaphors and images. In their own ways they have learned how to enter alpha as they pray or worship. They learn how to become enlightened.16
Some reading this might say, wait a minute, Mark Batterson is not promoting witchcraft. Maybe not knowingly, but this is exactly what is being promoted by him and others who are teaching their followers to engage in mystical prayer practices.
At one time, Batterson had a recommended reading list on his website that included the books by several New Age and meditation advocates. Of one of them, Eckhart Tolle’s book, Practicing the Power of Now, Batterson claimed it was “instrumental in the way I think about life.”17 Batterson no longer has that page on his website, but there’s been no public denouncement of the New Agers he was recommending (as a Christian pastor). And with knowing what The Circle Maker and Whisper promote, one cannot help but wonder how much influence these mystics have had on Mark Batterson.
A Straight Line to Truth
Christ taught His disciples and followers how to pray through the example of several prayers, none of which contained circle praying (e.g., Luke 11:1-4; John 17). Elijah is presented in the book of James as an example of how to pray with faith. No circles were mentioned. Elijah did not draw a circle around himself when he prayed. He simply bowed down, put his face between his knees and prayed. He did not insist on anything or inform God how he (Elijah) wanted the rain to fall.
The reality is that although Mark Batterson insists we should pray to God, his circle-making practice is similar to that of witchcraft. And by pointing to Honi the mystic, he further validates that: what Honi did was draw a circle around himself, which is exactly what a worker of magic or a witch would do as is described in the following:
[M]agic circle is a circle (or sphere, field) of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, which they generally believe will contain energy and form a sacred space, or will provide them a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualised. Its spiritual significance is similar to that of mandala and yantra in some Eastern religions.18
There was a time when churches believed that lifting up Jesus Christ, preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word, and simply being God’s unique and godly people would draw individuals to the meetings.
That method began to gradually disappear when gimmicks to draw crowds became popular. Ministers thought that eating their lunch on top of the church building would draw people to Christ. Other churches put on pew-packing contests, and large prizes were given to the ones who could fill the most pews with the most people. The gimmickry grew in proportion with the mimicry of truth and godliness. In spite of copious and polemic warnings by men of God who knew the consequences of such shenanigans, they continued to work at increasing the numerical value of church attendance until it became the primary focus. A rancid pragmatism developed that many churches now use to justify whatever it takes to get people through the doors. They drew a circle around secular marketing techniques and took them in.
Is love truly the motivation of the present paradigm of circle drawing? Let’s consider the ramifications. Numerous churches and even denominations have drawn circles around false teachers, New Age teachers, gurus, mystics, those of false religions, cults, evolutionists, and secularists. Not only have they taken them in, but they have even set them before congregations to present their heresies.
I remember a time when most ministers would not accept vain honor and glory. It appears that now they draw a circle around the accolades and adoration of the masses and take it in. They grovel in it as if it is a godly benefit. They have also drawn circles around much of the world system’s entertainment methods and musical genres and have taken them in.
Preachers now perform rather than preach under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They appear more as entertainment icons, stand-up comedians, and secular motivational speakers rather than men of God. They have no brokenness or contriteness, no passion for truth or sincerity, nor are they led by the Holy Spirit, who always points to God’s Word and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Their churches musical offerings are more like secular music concerts. So much carnality is involved, one has to wonder if it is possible for participants to worship God in Spirit and truth. The truth is that these churches have drawn a circle around the spirit of the world and have taken it in.
It is not circles that people need, but rather, what God offers them: a relationship with His Son—no gimmicks, no magic, no trickery—no circles. God offers the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ to all those who make a straight line to His throne of grace and to His everlasting truth.
For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. (Psalm 33:4)
To order copies of Circle Making and Prayer Circles Versus The Straight Line to Truth in booklet format, click here.
1. Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, Epub edition, 2011), Kindle location 82.
2. Ibid., Kindle location 89.
3. Ibid., Kindle location 91.
4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Praying Like Jabez?”
5. Bill Koenig, “Prayer of Jabez: The New Christian Mantra.”
6. Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, op. cit., Kindle location 37.
7. Ibid, Kindle location 63.
8. Francis Whiskeyjack, “The Medicine Wheel.”
9. Ed Tarkowski, “Prayer Circles: Tools of Empowering Intimacy/Accountability Groups.” Note: We thank Warren B. Smith for bringing this article by Tarkowski to our attention.
11. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, 1991), p. 147. For a documented report on the spirituality of Leonard Sweet, read Warren B. Smith’s booklet Leonard Sweet—A More Magnificent Way of Seeing Christ?
12. Read Warren B. Smith’s booklet Be Still and Know That You Are Not God.
13. The Gathering.
14. Mark Batterson, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God (New York, NY: Multnomah, imprint of Crown Publishing Group, 2017, Kindle Edition), p. 74.
15. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed., 2006), pp. 176-177, citing, Laurie Cabot, Power of the Witch (New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, 1989), p. 173.
16. Power of the Witch, Ibid., pp. 183, 200.
To order copies of Circle Making and “Prayer Circles Versus The Straight Line to Truth,” click here.
ALSO BY LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS AUTHORS
By Cedric Fisher
IF It Is of God: Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering
The Unacknowledged War and the Wearing Down of the Saints
Faith Under Fire: Are You Growing in It or Fleeing From It?
By Nanci Des Gerlaise
Can Cultures Be Redeemed?
Native Spirituality and the Emerging Church
For a complete listing of booklets and other resources by Lighthouse Trails, visit www.lighthousetrails.com or call 866-876-3910.