What Do Circles Have to Do with Prayer?

By Randall Cartwright

I recently read Mark Batterson's book, The Circle Maker. I am not a very consistent reader, but this book about prayer grabbed my attention and inspired me to pray harder, pray longer, and most of all, pray more boldly. 

Batterson claims that our prayers have the power to change everything, but most of us give up way too easily. The idea of prayer circles are simply a way to encourage us to keep asking until God delivers. “Drawing prayer circles around our dreams isn’t just a mechanism whereby we accomplish great things for God. It’s a mechanism whereby God accomplishes great things in us,” he says.

In the book, Batterson relates the story of Honi, a Jewish hero famous for praying for rain. During a drought, Honi the Circle Maker drew a circle in the sand and refused to budge from inside it until God answered his prayer for rain. It was a bold, seemingly impossible request, one that drew criticism from others. But God honored Honi’s faith by finally sending the rain they desperately needed.

Instead of praying bold prayers like Honi, I often find myself just praying what Mark Batterson calls “911 prayers.” I’ll pray “emergency prayers” or prayers that request something I need right away. But Batterson says, “We shouldn’t seek answers as much as we seek God. If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you.” 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like Honi. I want to pray boldly. To pray with more focus and with more faith. Do you ever sense that there’s far more to prayer, and to God’s vision for your life? What impossibly big dream is God calling you to draw a prayer circle around?

Here’s a look at what goes on behind the scenes when we create our video announcements.

Check out this new Christmas rap from Life Church!

In Deep Water, Surrounded by Jellyfish

By Randall Cartwright

Last week I spent my vacation in Destin, Florida, a place that should be closer to Wisconsin. Everything was perfect, the weather, the water, the food. I spent most of my time swimming in the ocean. The very last day Hannah and I took a couple of rafts out into the water to soak up some sun. Mind you, my raft was only about four-foot long and one-foot wide; I think it was the smallest raft a store could sell.  

While we were floating a few yards out from shore Hannah screamed,“Randall! What is that dark thing in the water?!!” I looked in panic but couldn’t see anything. Hannah then realized it was a jellyfish, the size of a basketball. We began to see more and more jellyfish. I started to panic. Remember I was on a raft that was smaller than me! I began swimming towards the shore trying to dodge every jellyfish in sight. I was freaking out so much that I almost drowned myself, trying to stay on that raft. After a long swim with Hannah laughing at me all the way, I finally made it back to shore. 

This story reminds me of a lot of people (including myself) who are afraid of hurt and pain. We sometimes feel like we’re on a little raft floating over deep waters with no firm foundationBut the Bible reminds us that “the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil,” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Next time you feel like you are floating over an ocean filled with jellyfish ready to sting, remind yourself that God will faithfully help you to cross safely to shore.

What One Man Discovered in the Aftermath of a Hillsong United Worship Experience

By Randall Cartwright

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to catch Hillsong United, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.  I’ve seen them before, and always left refreshed.  They are one of the best worship teams out there.  

A couple of days before the concert, Hannah and I decided to really open our hearts and ask God speak to us individually in any way He wanted to during the concert.  I prepared my heart and asked God to show me new things.  

During the concert they sang a song called “Aftermath.” Joel Houston, the worship leader for United, explained why they chose to call it Aftermath. He said that normally “aftermath” has a negative or a traumatic meaning. Similarly, when you look at the Crucifixion as an event, it brings to mind a negative and horrific picture.  But the “aftermath” of the Cross is Hope for all mankind.  The aftermath of the Cross is grace, freedom, peace, life and everything that is good about God. Some of the lyrics go like this…

And in a moment of glorious surrender

You were broken for all the world to see

Lifted out of the ashes

I am found in the aftermath

And I know You’re with me

And I know You’re with me

And I know You’re love will light the way

When they sang this song I felt the comfort of God like never before. In that moment I felt God reassuring me that everything is going to be ok no matter what comes my way. No matter what’s in the past, no matter what’s in the future,  God is with me.  It was just what I needed to hear. That I am found in the aftermath.

When Reality Hits Hard, Make a Grilled Cheese (and Repeat Philippians 4:13)

By Randall Cartwright

Have you ever found yourself stopping in the middle of a busy day just to take a deep breath?  I find myself doing that more and more.  Ever since I got married, I feel like reality is hitting hard.  “Life” as I know it is happening.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being married, but there are so many things to figure out, take care of, transfer, fix, change, etc. 

One major change is that we, as a couple, just moved from West Bend to Germantown.  It took us about two weeks to paint and move in, with the help of some friends.  During that time there were a lot of stressful, frustrating, and restless nights. 

There was so much going on at once… marriage, moving, work, finances, and eating out all the time (I have to quit doing that!).  I felt like I was going to fall over, collapse, and give up. 

But a well-known verse kept popping in my head.  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I know this verse is over-used, but it is so true.  The times I’m stressed, running out of energy, and want to give up, are the times I need to look to Christ. 

Maybe that sounds cheesy, but throughout every physical, mental, and emotional struggle I should look and seek strength from Christ.  He is my source.  Once I finally came to my senses and took that verse into action I noticed how things began to work out and slow down.

Now excuse me, I’m going to make a grilled cheese for lunch.