Think About It: The power of a circle

Don Meyer, Ph.D.

'We overestimate what we can do in two years; we underestimate what we can do in ten years.'

Mark Batterson Mark Batterson is a New York Times bestselling author. Although he has written about 10 books, it was his 2011 'The Circle Maker' which put him on that prestigious list.

'The Circle Maker' begins with a story about the legend of the circle maker. According to the legend, a devastating drought came upon the whole region of Israel. The drought threatened to destroy the entire generation just before Jesus was born. No Jewish prophets had spoken for 400 years. Miracles were a part of the Jewish past, not the present.

But along came an eccentric sage whose name was Honi. Honi lived outside the walls of Jerusalem and rather than be overcome with despair, he decided to pray for rain. As Mark says, 'When rain is plentiful, it's an afterthought. During a drought, it's the only thought.' And when it did rain on the day, Honi earned his name as 'the circle maker.'

According to the story, he took his six-foot staff in his hand and Honi drew a full circle around himself. He never looked up as the crowd watched him. Honi stood inside the circle he had just made. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands and called down rain from heaven.

'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.'

His words flowed out of his great soul which was full of faith and hope. He really believed it would rain. Then it happened. Raindrops started falling. All who watched were amazed. And as the people looked up, Honi kept bowing and praying. Still on his knees inside the circle, Honi's prayer continued over the sounds of celebration.

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

Instead of a sprinkle, torrential rains came down. Some observers claimed no raindrops were smaller than an egg. The rain came so hard that the people had to run to the Temple Mount to avoid the flash floods. But Honi stayed and continued to pray inside his circle.

'Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of Your favor, blessing and graciousness.'

Suddenly, the rain slowed to a peaceful shower and soaked into everything from the soil to their soul. Mark says, 'It had been difficult to believe the day before the day. The day after the day, it was impossible not to believe. 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.'

Some months ago I met Mark at his office in Washington, D.C. and he showed me the book where he first read about Honi, the circle maker. Mark is the lead pastor of the National Community Church, a congregation of more than 3,000 and multiple services in six locations throughout the metro area. NCC began in a movie theater, where, according to Mark, 'Our incense was the smell of popcorn.' NCC has been voted one of the most innovative and influential churches in America. NCC also operates Ebenezer's, the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill and in 2008 was recognized as the #1 coffeehouse in the metro D.C. area.

We recently had Mark address our students at VFCC. He will also be VFCC's 2013 Commencement speaker. His strong faith and practical insights through his writings and his presentations inspire all of us to draw circles around our biggest problems. And as we do, Mark said, 'Sometimes God shows up and sometimes God shows off.'

Think about it. Dr. Don Meyer is the president of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville.

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