The idea of prayer circles has been an interesting concept; opening our eyes to what God lays on our hearts. As I look around at what I am led to be praying for, it's becoming less of a circle than a growing spiral--one that gets bigger as you move out, but is still one defining line.
The first thing we think about is individuals--family and friends, and our home: our first and most intimate layer. This grows out to our church, neighborhood, workplace, school-wherever we spend a good part of our days, but is still connected. They are part of a larger community--our city, which here in San Bernardino needs a lot of prayer! It keeps growing, but still connected; state, country, continent, region, world. Here the connections get more complicated--some are places and cultures we are familiar with, some are not. However. we are aware that events many miles away can have a profound influence on us. Again, it becomes larger and larger, but is still connected.
Taking a a closer look at Acts 1:8, the spiral that Jesus drew: first Jerusalem, where they were based, the center of their cultural and religious community. Jerusalem, however, was connected with a community that had members in all sorts of places--look at the languages and dialects mentioned in Acts 2:8-11! And then Judea, where some of the most significant parts of Jesus' life and ministry had happened; the next stretch of the string. Samaria is an interesting addition to the list; it was an area that Jesus had visited and had some response, but not one that would naturally occur to his disciples. However, when the persecutions began to scatter His followers, Samaria became a refuge and fertile field for them. From there, they spread to Syria, Asia Minor (today's Turkey), Greece, Rome, Cyprus, Crete, Spain, Egypt and North Africa, Gaul (today's southern France), Britain, Persia, India...an astonishing list. And in the centuries and millenia to come, it has spread to the most of the known world, although there are still places it has not reached or not taken root. So as we make our prayer circles, let them spread out and include more and more, especially places where we do have some knowledge and contacts--family, friends, missionaries; let God open your eyes to the growing spiral of places He leads you to pray for.
This next week includes a day dedicated to one of the most remarkable of God's servants, and we can see his circles grow. The man we know as St Patrick was born in Britain or Scotland, of a Christian family. His circle expanded abruptly to include a pastured hillside in Ireland, where he was placed as a kidnapped slave. God then led him to a way to escape to Europe, where he made his way to Rome and a priestly education. Then back to Ireland, where his circles of influence grew until it encompassed all of the island. One of his major interests was in discipling and mentoring students and followers, some of whom then found themselves led to Scotland and then back to the Continent, where they were able to bring learning and Scriptures to places that had suffered political and social collapse. And in the last two centuries, the waves of Irish immigration to the US has brought Patrick's faith a long ways!
We are all where we are spiritually because someone's prayer circle touched us. God works not only in circles but in growing spirals; may our prayers grow with God's leading.