By James Holland
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
What about the life of victory and my prayer life? How do they complement one another? Can I have victory without a prayer life? Or can I have a prayer life and still not enjoy the victory that God has for me?
These are questions that must realistically be addressed if we want our walk to be meaningful and pleasing to God. It is very important that we see and make the connection between our victory and our prayer life. While victory is promised, I must realize that prayer helps me to recognize victory at work in my life. If I have no effective prayer life, as God moves in my life I only think it is coincidental. It just happened. Nothing more. Or worse yet, I think that God is moving because He owes me what I want.
We are actually commanded by Scripture to pray. Prayer is vital to our spiritual survival and to know what God would desire to do for us and with us. Can I have victory without a prayer life? No! Actually many believers are successful in reaching some level of overcoming without a prayer life. They do it by sheer willpower. However, it must be noted that no one will ever know the biblical victory that God has for us without a viable, ongoing prayer life.
Can I have a prayer life but have no victory? Yes! There are many reasons why some believers have an ongoing prayer life yet have never experienced the victory that God desires for them to have. Space will not permit us to look at them all; however, I do want to share a few of the reasons. Selfishness is a main reason, that while many may be involved in praying, they still are not walking in victory.
Let me give you some good news and some bad news. The bad news first: God doesn’t need you or me. He was doing fine before we came along, and He will do fine long after we have left the world’s scene. Many times, we think we are bringing to God something that He must have to be God. He’s already God! While God wants us to manifest goodness, purity, and ability used properly, as well as faithfulness, it is imperative that we realize God already possesses all of these things; we are not overly impressing Him with ours!
Ever wonder what people think about you? The truth is that most of them aren’t thinking about you at all. Selfishness produces paranoia; paranoia is the false assumption that we are important enough for people to totally organize their lives around destroying us. Spiritual paranoia assumes that God has organized His life around His need for us and that His wrath is the result of our refusal to meet His need. This produces a deep sense of guilt in many lives today.
We do not pray to get what we want but to help us to want what God wants, and we do it with the awareness that He is sovereign and that He knows best. God loves to say yes to our requests, but He never consents to demands. “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14, NKJV). Selfishness also distorts my thinking about what I should pray and believe for. Selfish saints rarely pray the will of God; they pray their will.
Natural human emotions can hurt our prayer life. When we are depressed, we feel that prayer is useless, and when we are elated, we think prayer isn’t necessary. We then wait for some kind of inspiration before we pray, forgetting that inspiration is the result of prayer and not usually the cause of it.
We have feelings of anger and bitterness that rob us of the peace necessary for prayer. And then there is the fear that God won’t listen or that He will! Our nature is to give credence to that which we can see, feel, and touch. Prayer moves us from the world of sense to the world of the supernatural. We must reach a point in our walk with God where no matter how depressed we become, no matter what doubts we have, no matter how tired we get, or how long it takes, we are going to pray. Unless this commitment is made, the prayers will eventually die on our lips.
The word is commitment! I remember reading about some war heroes. One such was Eddie Rickenbacker, a World War I flying ace and one of the major figures in the early days of the airline industry in America. He used to tell about how pilots during the war flew without parachutes because the parachutes were too tempting. Often the first Europeans who sailed to the Americas burned their boats on the beach lest they be tempted to go back when times got hard. If you are going to be effective with prayer, you must live by a major commitment. The truth is, if absolute commitment is not there, you will give up. Commitment to prayer helps us keep moving forward, not always looking back.
False expectations can be a major problem with praying as well. We must understand that God’s Word, along with our submission by faith to God’s will and objectives, will produce the expectations that are in reality what God will do.
I have never met a young preacher yet, if he would tell you the truth (myself included—I was young once, I think), who did not somehow at least for a while think that he would be able to do what no other preacher had done. He would have such anointing in ministry that sinners would beg him to stop preaching because there was no more room at the altar. I have tried to give direction to young pastors who were under the assumption that they would be able to do what no one else had been able to do! These are normally unrealistic expectations.
A lot of folks want to manipulate God, to bargain with Him, or to find out the rules of prayer that they may get God to work on circumstances and get those circumstances under their control. God simply won’t play that game. So don’t think that you are going to control God. That’s a wrong expectation. We should be praying for God to control us!
Connecting Our Prayers with Victory
Don’t worry; I am going to share some very positive results of prayer with you before we move from this chapter. The truth is that the Bible says we are winners in a righteous cause. Have you ever listened to soldiers talk about former battles where they were victorious? It doesn’t matter their age; they all get excited. Heaven will be a place where victorious soldiers of the cross will share stories of great victories in the presence of our great God. Our prayers need to be prayers that reflect the victory that God has given.
Prayer should not only be engaged in individually, but it should also be a part of what we do as a family and as a church. To live the victory that God has provided for us, we must not be known as merely “people who pray” or a “church that prays.” All that means is that after things get bad enough or if we are under enough pressure, we pray about something.
To say that we are a praying church is totally different. That means we don’t just pray when forced to do so by circumstances. We have developed an ongoing relationship with God through prayer, and prayer is part of our lifestyle. That is when real victory comes. Prayers almost always have repercussions beyond the individual. We are a part of a body, the great body known as the church. Once we understand this, prayer becomes even more important. Others are depending on my prayers as I am depending on theirs. It’s a family thing!
God resides in His church. In I Corinthians 3:16, Paul said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Paul was not just admonishing that we should really straighten up and live what we are professing. He was also declaring that God’s residence is in the midst of His people. He was saying that the people of God are now the Holy of Holies, the place where God chooses to make His residence. In other words, something very special happens when God’s people come together to pray.
The church is the dwelling for the God of the universe. Even more importantly, when the people of God come together to pray and worship, it is not a performance for the congregation but rather for the God who is in residence. This is why the church will never die. It is God’s body on earth.
Making the Connection
“We carry checks on the bank of Heaven
and never cash them at the window of prayer.”
“Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance,
but taking hold of God’s willingness.”
“You pray, you stay!”
How can I get God to do what I want Him to do? This is actually an inappropriate question. The question is inappropriate because that is not what prayer is all about. God is not a bellhop or a magician. This is inappropriate because it’s a ‘what’s in it for me’ question. It misses the whole point that the world isn’t about me; it’s about God. We must pray for God’s desires to be revealed and released into our lives that He may receive the glory.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, NKJV).
Again, this passage of Scripture is not implying that we do this one time. It commands that we do it over and over again as we go through life. When we pray in the will of God, supernatural things begin to happen. Effective prayer is always within the parameters of God’s will, not necessarily your will. We must remember God is God, and He knows better than we do what is needed. Paul didn’t always have prayers to turn out as he may have desired. Yet he continued in his walk of victory with God. This is what made him so strong. His goal was to please God, not Paul; to have total trust in God. Did Paul stop praying when he wasn’t receiving the answers he wanted? No! And neither should we. We need to remember also not to make demands, only requests.
Job’s potential problem at the onset of his calamities was that he demanded to know why God was allowing this. He forgot for a bit that God was God. After God revealed Himself to Job, Job said, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, `Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak: You said, will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6, NKJV).
Probably the most important prayer you can ever pray is the prayer of relinquishment, totally turning everything over to Him. There is, I believe, something to be said about God’s checking out our willingness. The question is, are we willing to live for God on His terms? The life experience of the believer is an ever increasing realization that God really does know what is best, that He controls our lives better than we do. Given the choice between doing it His way and our way, there is no choice.
You will simply be amazed how many of your prayers are answered once you have relinquished your will to God’s. When God is glorified, there will always be miracles, signs, and wonders. The secret is relinquishment. All who have ever seen the hand of God work mightily in their lives have prayed the prayer of relinquishment. In case you do not know, relinquish means “to give up, renounce as a right.” You will never lose when you give up to God’s will.
When God Doesn’t Answer
While we are discussing the prayer connection, let’s get really bold and admit that there are times when God doesn’t answer our prayers. Or, at least, He doesn’t give the answer we are looking for. So what do we do? Does this mean that I am not living in a victory lifestyle?
First things first. What do we do? We continue by faith living for God. Remember the verse at the beginning of this chapter, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13). Abraham did not receive all that God had promised before his death. Yet he died in faith; that is, believing that in God’s time and by God’s sovereign hand, it would come to pass. That, my friend, is victory no one can take away.
There are great dangers in believing or teaching that God will always submit to your requests and will always give you what you ask for and what you want or that, if He does not, it is because you did not have enough faith or you did not exercise the proper principles of faith or try hard enough. This kind of thinking has left many of God’s people feeling defeated and guilty.
I consider myself a man of faith. I have witnessed physical miracles, spiritual miracles, and I have, I think, a good understanding of spiritual authority. I have seen thousands of prayers answered. Yet, I must confess, I have not seen them all answered. Why not? Sometimes we simply ask for the wrong thing. Also, part of living in the true victory for which God has chosen us is not only having faith in God but also having complete trust in His ability to do what is best for us.
Here’s a principle that may help you to understand this. The nature of one’s actions can only be determined by the disposition of one’s motivations. What does that mean? Glad you asked! It means that it is not enough to know what a person does; it’s also important to know why a person does what he or she does. Example: A man with a knife in his hand, going after a frightened person in a dark alley, takes on a different meaning than when a man is a surgeon and is using a knife to perform a surgical procedure that will save a life.
It is vital to our victory that we know what God is like before we question what He does. The nature of God’s actions can only be determined by the disposition of God’s motivations! Belief is an act of one’s will. We choose to believe or not believe. When Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15), he had made a choice. It is the same one we all make in the face of prayers that are not answered. At that point, we can choose to look at what we consider the unanswered prayer and say, “God has failed us; there isn’t anything to this prayer stuff,” or we can look at the answered prayers we have experienced and the revelation of God’s love and sovereignty and say, “God, I don’t understand you, but I trust you.”
In fact, the next time your prayers are not answered in the way you would like, take a moment and ask these three questions:
- Has God loved me?
- Has He demonstrated that love?
- Has God ever lied to me?
Asking ourselves these questions will remind us of God’s presence in our lives. It will also help us to remember that even when we don’t understand, He does. It will remind us never to doubt in the dark what God has taught us in the light. That truth will keep us connected to the victory that God has chosen for us.
This article “Victory and Prayer” by James Holland Sr. was excerpted from the book: Chosen for Victory. Pg.77-89. April 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.