Circle Maker: Power of Desperation
Have you ever been desperate?
Desperate for anything?
Occasionally when I get hungry, I experience what I describe as a sugar crash. It’s what the snicker commercials call Hangry.
When I start to feel it coming on, it’s not that I get angry, just I get really focused on food. NOW
I’ve found that in that moment, I’ll do and say things I wouldn’t normally do. It’s like my body has been taken over. I’m desperate.
In my desperation, nothing else matters.
In a similar fashion, the author of the book The Circle Maker, tells the story of a Jewish man living just before the time of Jesus who became desperate.
in the first century BC and a devastating drought threatened to destroy the generation before Jesus. The last of the Jewish prophets had died off nearly 400 yrs before. Miracles were such a distant memory that they seemed impossible. God was nowhere to be heard. But there was a priest who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem who continued to pray for the miraculous anyway. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.
This Priest’s name was Honi.
When rain is plentiful, it’s an afterthought. During a drought, it’s the only thought. And Honi continued to pray for rain, it was on this day—the day—that Honi would earn his nick-name.
With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi began to turn - slowly, steadily, methodically, all the way around, in a circle. 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. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven, and 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.”
All who were within earshot that day felt the chill. It wasn’t his volume, but his authority. Not a hint of doubt. This prayer didn’t originate in his mouth, this prayer seemed to come from deep in his soul. His prayer was tenacious but humble; assertive but meek; expectant but unassuming.
Then it happened.
Raindrops began to fall. A united gasp was shared by the crowd. Every head turned heavenward as the first raindrops fell from the sky, but Honi’s head remained bowed. The people rejoiced over each drop, 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 a torrential downpour. Described by eyewitnesses as raindrops the size of eggs. It rained so heavily and so steadily that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape the flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed inside his circle. Once more he refined his bold request.
“Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Thy favor, blessing, and graciousness.”
At that moment, as though turning back the faucet, it began to rain calmly, peacefully. Each raindrop was a token of God’s grace. And they didn’t just soak the skin; they soaked the spirit with faith. It would be forever remembered as the day.
The day thunder applauded the handiwork of God. The day splashes of children in the mud became worship. The day the legend of the circle maker was born.
The day before the day, everyone hoped, but no one imagined tomorrow would be the day. The day after the day, it was impossible not to believe.
Honi was celebrated like a hometown hero by the people whose lives he had saved. But some within the Sanhedrin called the Circle Maker into question. A group believed that his fervent prayer for rain - demanding it - dishonored God. They threatened Honi with excommunication, but they couldn’t deny the miracle, so Honi’s honor was held intact.
The Power of Prayer
The Power of Prayer
The prayer that saved a generation was deemed one of the most significant prayers in the history of Israel. The circle he drew in the sand became a sacred symbol. And the legend of Honi the circle maker stands forever as a testament to the power of a single prayer to change the course of history.
It’s been 2000 years since Honi prayed, but God is still looking to answer prayers. He’s still looking for persistent prayer warriors.
The fact on display in Honi, and countless others, is this:
Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.
Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.
A lot of time I don’t want to offend God by asking too much. I guess I get that from my parents who taught us to work things out on our own.
My parents meant well… wanting me to be responsible, independent and all…
But God has a different desire for my life and character. God wants me to be DEPENDENT… not independent. God isn’t offended by our asking big and bold prayers. Just the opposite, I think God is honored by our asking things that that are within his promises and still beyond human limits. Remember we are praying to a God who has parted the sea and made the sun stand still.
When we pray, respecting God’s power, honoring his promises, we are asking for divine involvement… we need him to move. It’s a declaration of our dependence.
That’s the way Jesus prayed. He was passionate, he was confident, yet he asked God to move. His disciples heard him pray and were inspired to ask Jesus, teach us to pray… The Lords Prayer… then he describes the work of prayer:
Luke 11:5-13 “5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
God is for you - and God is in the promise keeping, prayer answering, miracle performing, and dream fulfilling business. That is who He is. That is what He does. And the more desperate we are for divine involvement, when we come to him with Shameless Audacity… praying bold prayers… the better, because God gets more glory. That’s what Jesus told his disciples… ask and He’ll answer, not just because of your asking, but because it reveals who He really is… the God of the Impossible… God who answers prayer… the God who Can.
The greatest blessings in life are revealed beyond our ability, because beyond you is the beginning of God’s ability. Praying with Shameless audacity is keeping our prayers OUT THERE.
I can promise you this: God is ready and waiting to move in your life. So while I have no idea what circumstances you find yourself in, I’m confident that you are only prayer away from it.
So, as we begin, this 4 week series on prayer, we need to get one thing straight. Do you believe God is for you?
God is for you
God is for you
Your belief about this determines how you pray. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll be satisfied with praying small timid prayers. But, if you God is for you, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers as Jesus described. And one way or the other, your prayers, big and bold or small and timid will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into one of two totally different people. Because one is prayed out of faith in a God who thrives in the impossible, and the other is prayed out of faith in a limited god.
In this way, Prayers are prophecies. They are at predictors of your spiritual future. Who you become SPIRITUALLY is determined by how you pray as the author wrote... “the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life.”
So where do we start? We are going to approach prayer like the disciples.
They asked in Luke 11:1
Luke 11:1 (NIV)
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray...”
Desperation and Confidence
Desperation and Confidence
They knew how to pray, but Jesus prayed different. I imagine the passion Jesus had while talking to his heavenly father. I imagine the closeness Jesus expressed while praying to God. I imagine the expectation Jesus had in his voice as he prayed… His disciples wanted to pray like that… do we
Over these next 21 days I want us to develop a desperate prayer nature as a church. Not that we don’t pray now… but what are we praying for. We have a prayer list in our program each week of people wanting God to move… the people on that list are desperate.. and we should be praying for our brother or sister… but what about your desperate prayer. Where are you drawing circles in your prayers?
Where does your desperation for God and your confidence in his promise for you meet?
Illustration: Prayer for my child...
When I think of stories in the bible of this collision of desperation and confidence, I think of the story of Joshua in the OT.
Joshua had been told he would see the promised land. He would get to see the day that Israel had dreamt of for the last 40 years of wandering in the desert. He had always been confident in God’s promise and having seen the people of Jericho, he knew how desperate they were for God to show up.
Outside of Jericho on passover, Joshua looked up from prayer and standing before him was a man with a sword in his hand. Joshua asked are you for us or for our enemies? The man said neither, i am the commander of the Lord’s army… he said Joshua ,take off your sandals because you are standing on holy ground...
1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” 6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.” 8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. 12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!
It seemed like God had promised something impossible - to take this grand city - and His battle plan - walk around it quietly for 7 days - seemed silly.
You know every soldier in the army wondered why. Why not use a battering ram? Why not scale the walls? Why not cut off the water supply or shoot flaming arrows over the walls? Instead, God told the Israelite army to silently circle the city. And He promised, after circling thirteen times over seven days, that the wall would fall.
Imagine how it played out… The first time around, the soldiers felt a little foolish. But with each circle, their stride grew longer and stronger. With each circle, a holy confidence was building pressure inside their souls. With each circle their obedience was feeding they faith in the promise.
By the seventh day, you could feel the expectation. Their faith was ready to pop. They arose before dawn and started circling at six o’clock in the morning. At three mph, each mile-and-a-half march around the city took half an hour. By nine o’clock, they began their final lap. In keeping with God’s command, they hadn’t said a word in six days. Then the priests sounded their horns and a simultaneous shout followed. Six hundred thousand Israelites raised a holy roar … and the walls came tumbling down.
After seven days of circling Jericho, God delivered on a four-hundred-year-old promise given to Abraham. He proved, once again, that His promises don’t have expiration dates. Jericho stood, and fell, as a testament to this simple truth: God keeps his promises.
What Is Your Jericho?
What Is Your Jericho?
This miracle gives us a pattern to follow in our prayer life. It challenges us to confidently circle the promises God has given to us. And it begs the question: what is your Jericho?
What promise do you feel convinced that God wants to do in your life, in our church, in our community?
What promise is God calling you to pray around? What miracle is God inviting you to march around? What dream has God set out before you?
This is your Jericho.
That’s the beginning... identifying your Jericho. You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue BEFORE you can begin drawing circles. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and what He wills you to have. That’s the goal.
Now here’s the problem: most of us don’t get what we want simply because we don’t know the promises of God for us. We’ve never circled any of God’s promises. We’ve never written down a list of life God glorifying goals. We’ve never defined success for our faith. And our dreams are as nebulous as the clouds.
Instead of drawing circles, we draw blanks. We are left to praying for someone else who knows what they want.
Let’s Circle Jericho Together
Let’s Circle Jericho Together
More than a thousand years after the Jericho miracle, another miracle happened in the same exact place. Jesus was on his way out of Jericho when two blind men ask him: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The disciples see it as an interruption. Jesus sees it as a divine appointment. So He stops and responds:
What do you want me to do for you?
Seriously? Is that question even necessary? Isn’t it obvious what they want? They’re blind. Yet Jesus forced them to define exactly what they wanted from Him. Jesus made them verbalize their desire. He made them spell it out, but it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t know what they wanted. He wanted to make sure they knew what they wanted. And that is where drawing prayer circles begins: knowing what to circle.
What if Jesus asked you this very same question: what do you want Me to do for you? Would you be able to spell out the promises, miracles, and dreams God has put in your heart?
I’m afraid many of us would be dumbfounded. We have no idea what we want God to do for us. And the great irony, of course, is that if we can’t answer this question then we’re as blind spiritually as these blind men were physically.
So while God is for us, most of us have no idea what we want God to do for us. And that’s why our prayers aren’t just boring to us, they are uninspiring to God.
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?
Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers and well-defined prayers result in a well-lived life.
Like the two blind men outside Jerusalem, we need an encounter with the Son of God. We each need an answer to the question He is still asking: what do you want Me to do for you?
Obviously, the answer to this question changes over time. We need different miracles during different seasons of life, we pursue different dreams during different stages of life, and we stake claim to different promises in different situations. It’s a moving target, but you have to start somewhere. Why not right here, right now?
In your program today I’ve left several blanks for you to add prayers that God is speaking to you now.
If you don’t have one to write down… Let me give you one to pray.
Lord show me what you need me to be praying for… let that be your 21 day prayer.
And then… PUSH… pray until something happens
Did you get an answer? No… then continue to pray until God Shows you. This isn’t a one and done prayer… circling the prayer means you pray until God reveals it, then you continue praying.
Praying for vs. Praying through
Praying for vs. Praying through
Mother Dabney… husband planting a church… 9am… fasting… for 3 years… during that time, the church grew and her ministry began to see miracles.. at the end of the 3 yrs, the church had grown tremendously… but so had her prayer ministry
Pray until something happens
for the next 21 days, I ask you to set aside time to pray… Ask God to show you his promise for you… Set aside time to read scripture to discover it… Fast… Journal… For the next 21 days, let us get serious about our desperation and God’s promises.
The church desperately needs to rediscover the difference between praying for and praying through. There are certainly circumstances where praying for something will get the job done. But there are also situations where you need to grab hold of the horns of the altar and refuse to let go until God answers. Like Mother Dabney, like Honi, we refuse to move from the circle until God moves. You intercede until God intervenes.
Praying through is all about consistency. It’s circling Jericho so many times it makes you dizzy. Like the story Jesus told about the persistent widow who drove the judge crazy with her relentless requests, praying through doesn’t take no for an answer. Circle makers know that it’s always too soon to quit praying because you never know when the wall is about to fall.
You are always only one prayer away from a miracle.
Praying through is all about intensity. It’s not quantitative. It’s qualitative. Drawing prayer circles involves more than words. It’s gut-wrenching groans and heartbreaking tears. Praying through doesn’t just bend God’s ear. It touches the heart of your Heavenly Father.
When was the last time you found yourself flat on your face before the Almighty? When was the last time you cut off circulation kneeling before the Lord? When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter in prayer?
DO you believe that there are higher heights and deeper depths in your spiritual life than you are experiencing right now? God wants to take you there. He wants to take you places you have never been before. There are new dialects. There are new dimensions. But if you want God to do something new in your life, you can’t do the same old thing. Let this prayer experiment, this 21-day prayer challenge; begin a new chapter in your relationship with God.
It’s time to start circling.