Christian Living


True Freedom: The Liberating Power of Prayer

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

CBN.com As a nation, the United States of America is built upon freedom; the quality and state of being free. It is the absence of constraint in making choices or taking action. The U.S. clearly embraces these ideals as Americans take pride in being "the land of the free." But how many of us are truly that: free?

Oliver North is a man who understands what it means to be truly free. A combat decorated Marine, North was at the center of the controversial Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan Administration. Due to the intense scrutiny surrounding these congressional hearings and the trial that followed, North realized that freedom comes with a price.

In his latest book "True Freedom: The Liberating Power of Prayer" (with Brian Smith, Multnomah Publishers), North shares how his understanding of freedom had to be changed. He had previously thought that its meaning was to do things his way and that God was supposed to come along for the ride but only under North's terms.

But it was through a series of trials and mishaps in his life that God was able to reveal to North what true freedom really was. This freedom is actually a dependence: to depend on God in an intimate relationship, a reliance upon Him, but most importantly allowing God to be the master and commander of your life.

"True Freedom: The Liberating Power of Prayer" has been selected as the official 2004 National Day of Prayer Book (National Day of Prayer is this Thursday). Designed to be a field manual for people fighting for spiritual freedom, North shares experiences from his own life that illustrate the liberating benefits of prayer.

CBN.com Producer Chris Carpenter had the opportunity to sit down with North recently to discuss the essence of being free, how prayer serves as a means to true freedom, and how personal experiences from his life related to prayer played a significant role in shaping who he is today.

CHRIS CARPENTER: Your new book is called "True Freedom". How would you define true freedom?

OLIVER NORTH: True freedom is giving up your dependence on self, the power of sin in our lives, the power of all of the pressures that we have that kind of define we all carry titles after our names husband, father, mom, dad, businessman, CEO, CFO, lieutenant colonel, broadcaster We get so wrapped up in trying to achieve what is expected of us. We basically sacrifice our real freedom. If we understand that He has a plan for us that is so much bigger than anything we can ever imagine. I am living proof of how much bigger the plan is than I could ever fathom. All I ever wanted to be was a Marine officer. My vision of being a successful Marine was to be a General someday. I could never fathom in my wildest imagination being a successful writer, a Gold Medallion winner, a successful broadcaster, all of those things that have come as a consequence. Nor was I, despite the fact that I advertised myself a particularly effective husband and father. So, the answer to your question 'what is true freedom?' it is freeing yourself from all of that stuff and letting Him become the master of your life.

CARPENTER: Why do you see prayer as being the key to true freedom?

NORTH: I don't know of any other way of getting there than through prayer. I am often challenged by some folks who are devout followers, who tell me all I need to do is study the Word. In fact, if you are studying His Word you are in essence praying. If you are really studying. Because you can't help but sit there and take a particularly difficult passage this morning I read Paul's very brief second letter to Timothy. I read it because there is a particular portion I was admonished about yesterday in church by my son-in-law who is the pastor. It was like he was talking directly to me. I was very busy yesterday getting here so I didn't have time until this morning. So, for my devotional this morning I sat and read Paul's second letter to Timothy. Here is a man (Paul) who was at the end of his life. He knows it is just a matter of days before he is executed and he is writing to his friend Timothy urging him to bring his cloak. All of the things that you and I would be concerned about. He reminds Timothy to be careful of some of the other people around him. He is saying, 'Here is the bottom line of my life. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.' That is prayer. That is the essence to prayer.

CARPENTER: You have had a great deal of life experiences. You have been in the military, a journalist, an author

NORTH: My life has not lacked for adventure. (laughs)

CARPENTER: No it hasn't. In reading "True Freedom" I made that discovery.

NORTH: There are very few people, Chris, who can say they have had a more exciting life than I. And the Lord has blessed me.

CARPENTER: Absolutely. I can see very clear evidence of that. With all of these experiences you have had in your life why did you see the need to write a book on prayer?

NORTH: I am now 60 years old. I have just gotten back from Iraq a few weeks ago. With that experience, I am reminded again that I am 60 (laughs). Trying to keep up with 19 year olds was a challenge. All of those experiences, all of those adventures, all of those near misses, close calls, have happened for a reason. I am convinced that the reason I am here, why I am still alive, why I am still married, why I am blessed to have four lovely children and their three lovely mates, is because the Lord wants me to bear witness to His mercy in my life. The blessings He will bestow upon us if we will simply honor Him. It took me 38 years to get there, it took me a long time to figure out why I was really here, but I am convinced that the reason why I have gone through some of the travail and some of the excitement to put it politely is so that I can be a witness to His awesome power in our lives. And that is why I wrote this book.

CARPENTER: You provide a wealth of excellent anecdotes in "True Freedom", stories from your life. I am sure it was hard to pare down these stories and I am sure there are many that did not make the final cut for the book. Was it a difficult process to determine what stories went into the book and which ones that didn't?

NORTH: I am blessed to have had Brian Smith work with me on this project. In fact, all of the people I have worked with over the years in publishing have been a great blessing. I have people who can take my 20 pages of writing and boil it down to five and have it be more lucid than what I was able to do.

CARPENTER: You tell an interesting story in "True Freedom" early on about how prayer played a significant role in your life. It is a story about how you were thrown from a tank and you were lying badly hurt on the ground. Could you share that story with our readers? This experience seemed to be a turning point for you.

NORTH: Even before that happened to me the Lord put in front of me a battalion commander, John Reynolds, who was a man of God. I took that assignment for all the wrong reasons. I knew, even though I don't have the gift of prophecy, I knew that John Reynolds was going to be a General. Everyone who knew him knew that. I figured that if I hooked my wagon to his star I was going to go right along with him. I was willing to overlook the fact that he was from West Point. I was from Annapolis (Naval Academy). I was also willing to overlook that he was one of these "born again" Christian types. And everyone knew those things about him. They also knew he was going to be a general someday. So, when he asked me to be his operations officer, and I agreed, I like to say I was in the right place for all the wrong reasons. I jumped off this tank because I thought I was so macho. I landed the wrong way, re-injured my back in exactly the same place that I had broken it in an automobile accident in 1964 and again in a training accident in 1973. I now found myself laying in the dirt in front of several officers and probably a dozen young Marines. I lost control of my bladder. The Sergeant Major called for the corpsman. And the next person who came to help was John Reynolds. He knelt down next to me and said, "I am going to pray for you." I was very embarrassed.

CARPENTER: That is probably unheard of in those types of situations, a commanding officer praying for one of his subordinates. Would I be correct in saying that?

NORTH: Yes. You don't see that happening. Reynolds ignored my admonition to please just get a helicopter and get me out of there. He prayed over me. I was the participant in a miracle. I know that. I had been hurt like this twice before. I knew I was going to be in the hospital for quite some time. I was hurt bad. But I got back up off the dirt, felt fine, and said about the stupidest thing I could possibly say. As a graduate of an engineering school you would think I would have figured something a little smarter to say. I looked at him and said, "Thank you sir." Reynolds grabs me by the flak jacket and pulls me until I am about an inch from his nose. He said, "North, don't thank me; thank your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You had better come to know Him." So, a few weeks later he gave me a Bible right in front of 2,000 Marines. We got on a ship and he said, "Read this on the way across the Atlantic Ocean." We were going over to the Mediterranean. I started in Genesis and got to Matthew 8:5-11. It was all about a Roman Army infantry officer, a centurion. This centurion risks it all (his standing in the Roman Army), not for his own promotion, not for his own advancement; this Roman Army officer risks his life, his career, his family, to heal a sick servant. And it suddenly dawned on me that is what John Reynolds had done. He put himself at risk by grabbing me and telling me that I better come to know Jesus Christ. He put himself at risk by handing me that Bible because the military frowns on senior officers proselytizing to subordinates.

CARPENTER: So, was this the turning point in your life?

NORTH: It was such a stunning revelation to me. It was an epiphany. It came right out of the blue.

CARPENTER: I believe we have all had them one way or another. These types of experiences are very sobering and they wake you up from whatever point you are in your life.

NORTH: If we are willing, prayer is like communicating on a two way radio. In order to talk on it, you have to push it to transmit. In order to listen you have to release the little button on the side of the handset. Push to talk, release to listen. A lot of folks pray but it is a one way street. They don't release the button on the handset to receive. I have learned over my 60 years that prayer is a two way communication. If you open your heart and just stop talking long enough He will show you. Don't get me wrong. I don't pretend that God appears in the flaming bush or a cloud. What I am saying is He had led me to do the right thing when the wrong opportunities were there all the time. He has saved my marriage, He has helped me become a better father, and He has prospered me in all that I have tried to accomplish since. He has led me in directions that I didn't even know were open, through doorways I didn't even know existed, simply because I was willing to sit down, pray, and tell Him in all sincerity that all I want to do Lord is glorify you in what I do if you and honor you. I will tell you right now and anyone who is reading this and thinking about it, if you honor Him, He will bless you.

CARPENTER: Praise God. Is this a "How To" book on prayer or is it a book of reflection?

NORTH: It is a little bit of both. If you look at our nine things prayer will do for you as I see it I don't pretend to be a theologian. I am not. I am a prayerful person who walks with the Lord and who knows he is saved.

CARPENTER: And you know what? I think it is better that way. I say that because sometimes when you are listening to theologians you have a tendency to get lost in what they are saying. You are real. You are a regular guy who has waded through many trials in life like all of us, and you can relate to us on an everyman level.

NORTH: And you don't need to be a theologian to be saved.

CARPENTER: A lot of times people are scared away by theological books because they are so complex and academic. They are like a text book. This book is very applicable to everyday life and that is crucial. It really meets you where you are at.

NORTH: That is what it is supposed to be.

CARPENTER: You can read it fairly quickly. I read it on a treadmill at the gym last week.

NORTH: You were exercising mind, body, and spirit.

CARPENTER: I was. I will say it is a great book. It doesn't take long to read and it is chock full of insight. It is such a great book that it has been selected to be the National Day of Prayer book for 2004. That must be quite a thrill and quite and honor for you.

NORTH: When the Dobson's (James and Shirley) asked me to do it I told them that I didn't feel worthy to be in that position. I am just a flawed sinner. I get up every single day, get down on my knees and ask God to help me stay on the right track. And I know just as sure as you and I are sitting here I am going to come off the tracks. I am going to fall all of the way from those footprints I am supposed to be in. At the end of the day I am going to get back down on my knees and I am going to ask God to forgive me and to help me again tomorrow. Bless me and my wife, my children and their mates and offspring, and help me to do what I do to honor you. That is all I am asking Lord. I'm not asking for a new paycheck or a different boss. I know there are people who are out there who have lots of burdens. I've been there. I've been broken and laying in a hospital bed thinking I was never going to get out of there. I have been months without a paycheck not knowing if I was ever going to see another one. I have been uncertain as I sat there in the witness chair whether I was going to walk away a free man or not. And I know there are others who have been through those same kinds of experiences, probably less visibly than I, but they go through them everyday. I've been through the crisis of a marriage that has almost fell apart. I've been through the problems of kids who have hated their dad for what he did to their mom. The guy who was never home because he was out saving the world for democracy. And yet to have come through all of that because of the power of prayer and the freedom that it gives you to stop all of the anxiety. I can't change the past. I can't change the stupid things that I have said. I can apologize for them and commit myself to never do it again and know that I am going to mess up. But you know what? There is real freedom, true freedom, in knowing that you are forgiven. And if you would stop transmitting long enough He will guide you to get through those tough times.

CARPENTER: I think you have answered this question in some of your other answers but I am going to ask it anyway. Why do you think prayer makes such a difference in our lives?

NORTH: I don't pretend to understand all of it, Chris. I don't understand how Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. I know it happened. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it happened. I can't explain as an engineer how you can take seven loaves and fishes and feed a multitude of 5,000. I have no doubt that it happened. On one level there is a 'Hey, how could this have happened?'. But for me the most important thing is opening myself up His realness, His desire to have me love Him. That is what He is after. All He is asking me to do is honor Him and glorify Him. So, I am convinced that that is what prayer has done for me. Prayer opens me up to that. It gives me that kind of freedom that otherwise if you go to bed at night and all you are doing is worrying about what the boss is going to think about you tomorrow morning, or whether you are going to get that job that you desperately need, or make the mortgage payment, or whether your wife is still going to be there after you get home from that business trip, if that is what you are worried about, it will consume you. It will eat you alive. It kills your spirit. If all I did was worry my mind would never rest. I sleep like a baby. It is not because I take sleeping pills or drink myself to sleep. It is because I know with absolute certainty that He is the master of my life. He is not going to let evil intrude. I may not survive my next helicopter ride because I might get shot down but I know where I am going and I know why I am going there. It is because I have prayed about it and He has told me, 'You are saved.' There is enormous freedom in that.

CARPENTER: What is the one thing that you would like people who read this book to take away from it? What is one thing that they can apply to their lives?

NORTH: If you are not praying then your life is only half full.

CARPENTER: Well said. Thank you for the time.

NORTH: Thank you.

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