On the back cover of The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson explains drawing circles as a “mechanism,” otherwise known as a method. Does God use mechanisms or does He instead use prayer as tailor-made conversation to speak to His people for that situation, that time, that person?
On p. 131 Mark Batterson elaborates on the passage of the Israelites at the Red Sea impasse. He quotes Exodus 14:13-14 New Living Translation (NLT), “13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”.
Yet there is a problem with Mark Batterson’s narrative for he goes on to state “But God tells them to do nothing but pray.”. In actuality, what God told them to do was nothing, not even to pray. Look at verse 15, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”.
That was it: The Lord was going to fight for them and they were to do nothing but move through the parted Red Sea. All glory to God! No prayer was needed, just obedience.
The entire lesson of 2 Chronicles 20 is not to pray at all, but to praise. Many times throughout his book, Mark Batterson states in various terms that we are one prayer away from a miracle. He actually over-emphasizes prayer in this way. By presenting it like he does, it makes the reader feel like he’s to blame when prayer requests aren’t fulfilled. It also presents a picture of God waiting for you to do your part. It becomes a “works” Gospel. It is not dependent on our praying that one ultimate prayer that Pastor Batterson says will be the key to unlock the door. Instead, it is dependent on He Who ever liveth to make intercession for us. I’ve had so many friends trapped in this dependent-on-me sort of prayer. They feel guilty because they haven’t done enough. Ultimately, they become totally discouraged.
Let’s look at one of the more famous narratives in the Bible: Abraham and the Lord as they communicate with each other over Sodom in Genesis 18: 17-33. The Lord acknowledges Abraham as “His own” and refers to him as His “intimate friend” (v.17,19), so close is their relationship. God is the One Who begins the conversation, as it should be. In verse 23 Abraham, in response to the Lord’s coming close to him, “draws near” to the Lord and appeals on the basis of both His justice and mercy to spare Sodom. This is intercession of the highest order, done with importunity and abject humility as a man who sees himself as but dust and ashes (v. 31). Abraham pleads not just for mercy for Lot and his family but for the whole town which is why he begins his intercession with the request of asking for fifty righteous men as the criteria. He treads gently with his Lord, obviously not wishing to anger Him (v.30). This gentle pleading demonstrates their closeness. Abraham is listening close to his Lord’s response with each question, always wanting to plead only according to the will of God and not his own. Finally, we come to verse 32 where Abraham asks one more request – for ten’s sake, will you not destroy Sodom? The Lord agrees – for ten righteous men in Sodom, He will not destroy it. Let us look closely at what happens next, especially if you have ever wondered why Abraham didn’t keep interceding – for nine people’s sake, Lord, for eight, for five. Look at what happened next:
33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
– Genesis 18:33 New King James Version (NKJV)
Do you see why Abraham did not continue interceding? Because The Lord left – He was finished speaking when Abraham got to ten righteous people! And then when The Lord left, Abraham left! Abraham stopped praying out of obedience to The Lord! Prayer is communication with The Lord. He stops, you stop. That is intimacy. That is truly following His will. Whenever our intention is to “seek first the kingdom of God” and desire that His will be done, it will always be like this. God restrained his spirit from asking any further. When God has determined the ruin of a place, he forbids it to be prayed for, Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:11.
(Matthew Henry Commentary)
Even if Abraham had asked to spare Sodom if there were five righteous people there, it wouldn’t have been enough. Lot, plus his wife, plus two daughters equal four. Subtract his wife who became a pillar of salt and you have three. The daughters gave birth to the very troublesome tribes of Moab and Ammon, so you subtract two more. All you are left with is “ righteous Lot”(2 Peter 2:7). One righteous man in all of Sodom. God was merciful.
He was also sovereign. Abraham prayed only as The Lord had him pray.
Batterson, Mark. Circle Maker. Zondervan, 2016.
Henry, Matthew. “Genesis 18 Commentary – Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete).” Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/genesis/18.html.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.