Praying in Circles


Tim Challies of

Christians have created many patterns and systems to help us pray.  John Piper comments on the Apostle Paul’s call to prayer in Colossians 4:2 where he describes how he organizes his prayers in “concentric circles.”

Tim Challies applies this in his “FaithHacking” series on “how to organize your prayer.”

Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. This is my regular practice: I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s. So I plead with the Lord every morning for my own soul’s perseverance and purification and power.

Then I go to the next concentric circle, my family, and I pray for each of them by name: Noel, Karsten/Shelly/Millie, Benjamin, Abraham, Barnabas, Talitha and some of my extended family.

Then I go to the next concentric circle, the staff and elders of [my church]. I name them all by name.

Then I pray for you (Bethlehem Baptist Church). And then I go out from there to different concerns and groups at different times: our missionaries, our denomination and its schools, the Baptist General Conference, Evangelicalism in general and the church around the world, especially the suffering church. The wider circles include the city and the state and the nation and the cultural and social issues of the world.

You can’t pray for everything every time. So there need to be differences. And your heart will dictate much of your burden. Some days one family member or one staff member or one crisis in the church or the world will consume most of your time. But if you have a pattern—like the concentric circles—you won’t spin your wheels wondering where to start.

It is that simple and that practical: Begin close and pray in widening circles.

Praying in circles isn’t the same as “going around and around in circles” – even though you might feel that way sometimes.  It means that we pray around and around in widening circles of influence and concern, some too heavy to bear, others too complex to articulate – but always – it is around a God who surrounds us with wisdom and truth, with grace and faith.

Now go encircle Him who surrounds you with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7):

You are my hiding place;
You will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.


About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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4 Responses to Praying in Circles

  1. Like my Dad – who is a musician and even worst a free form jazz musician – you seem to examine your faith intellectually. As for me, I try hard NOT to. I’m a devotee of The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and pray, prostrate, at 3pm each day, the hour of His death and with the words He dictated to St. Faustina. I question nothing or at least try to. It’s only a few steps from the light of His life to the darkness of my suicidal one. Nonetheless, you turn over some cool rocks. 🙂


    • Thanks; I have to laugh (as much as I admire your writing) at your forthrightness. Yes, I do “love the Lord our God with all my mind” – but that is merely the foyer to the wider wonder world of the Living God. This prayer blog is (believe it or not) my less heady blog. My other blog: is a bit more intellectual – but never the less is “more enigma than dogma.” Can you send me a link to St. Faustina’s prayer? I would be very interested in that (as you will see if you scan some of my other entries in my prayer blog). Thanks for your kind remarks. Peace to you.


      • St.Faustina – the greatest Catholic Mystic – spoke with (and without) the vision of Jesus before her. She kept a journal from 1933 to 1938 as He told her. No one believed this poor Polish nun when she spoke of this experience. In time, that changed. Her experience is as powerful as the prayer itself which Jesus dictated. Here is a link that will offer you all this stuff. For me, and I am Charismatic – the Chaplet and the Lord’s prayer – are the truest of prayers as they were told to us (through others) by Jesus Himself.


  2. Thanks for the info and the link. I love how God uses a poor Polish nun, or anyone else humble and apparently “unremarkable” to speak such remarkable truths/prayers. May you (we) always have the inspiration to pray “the truest prayers.”


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