What War Room Really Teaches You About God & Prayer

Keith KettenringChristian Living, Prayer & Fasting, The Uncommon Journey

Rhonda and I recently enjoyed an evening together watching the movie War Room. The message of the movie was good. But, it left me wishing for a more complete portrayal of prayer. The movie has become all the rave among evangelicals, some of whom are my family and friends. In this post, I’m not critiquing the movie itself. However, I am troubled by the underlying perspective and understanding of God and prayer that the movie portrays. Here are my thoughts.

The movie in a nutshell: Develop a prayer strategy and God will answer your prayers.

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The Movie’s Portrayal of God

  • God fixes things but can’t handle the day to day stuff. God is able to fix a marriage but struggles to sustain one, especially a not so great one. God struggles to help you in your long-suffering. For God to be God, He must make your circumstances better. No doubt, God wants to make you better even if your circumstances don’t change. God shapes you and your heart in the routine, day-to-day “stuff.” He’s right in the middle of it trying to make you a better person.
  • God is at your beckon call. God will make things right if you are fervent enough in prayer especially prayer that includes Bible verses. Actually, God isn’t required to do anything for you. He can’t be made to obey you no matter how fervent your prayers or how many verses you quote. Do you really have a God that can be manipulated? Remember Job. Look at the end of Hebrews 11. People of deep faith did not receive what was promised. Many of them suffered greatly. Yet, “the world was not worthy” of them. The martyrs of the Church tell us by their lives and deaths that God is not a tame lion. He will not be trained to do your bidding. God is not a magic genie waiting to eagerly grant you your every wish.
  • God wants victory above all. There is danger in formulating strategies that focus on outcomes. Can you only be happy if you have a happy marriage? A godly husband? A successful family? If you pray for God to produce these things in your life are you not trying to control what He should do? If your primary goal in prayer is “victory” then you have really painted yourself into a corner in your closet.

The Movie’s Portrayal of Prayer

  • Prayer is primarily a weapon against Satan. This is a major theme in the movie. There is some truth here. Prayer is powerful. Yet, it is a disservice to the beauty of prayer to reduce it to weaponry. I believe prayer is primarily communion with God. In the midst of that communion spoken prayer can be practiced many ways. A bigger question is: “Against what or whom is the weapon used?” It can be powerful to defeat the encroachment of Satan. Yet, your own self, your own ego, is as great an enemy. When is the last time you did battle with your own ego using prayer as the primary weapon?
  • A good prayer strategy will get results. Is a real Christian the one who has a strategy and gets answers to prayer? Is she the one in whose life all things work out the way she wants them to? As I left the movie I felt like a second-class Christian citizen. I don’t pray as portrayed in the movie. And, I don’t see those kinds of answers. I’ve tried this kind of thing in the past and “failed.” So, my life is filled with unfulfilled hopes. My expectations of God are often disappointed. See, I am not a very good Christian after all.

Additional Thoughts 

  • An overlooked reality of God’s work portrayed in the movie is the changes that took place in Liz’s life. Her heart transformation, peaceful demeanor, and loving actions made all the difference. Perhaps more impactful than her prayers. Yes, she prayed. But she also showed many characteristics that would, on their own, impact her husband and daughter. A better take away for you would be to learn from her transformed heart and manner of life not just how she prayed.
  • If we are to rejoice always and be thankful for all things, then why wasn’t Liz and Miss Clara doing that even when Tony was acting like a jerk? Do you think Miss Clara would have danced around, raised her arms, and sung even if Tony had not changed? That would have been more “biblical” and godly it seems to me.
  • Finally, why is it that the man is the jerk and rotten spouse? I’m sure this is quite common.  Yet, there are many men who hunger for God. But, as C.S. Lewis notes, their chest has been ripped out of them; and so we wonder why they have no heart. I fear Evangelicalism sells men short. It has little to offer them except something intellectual, emotional, or vocational. It doesn’t quite know what to do with a man’s spiritual, and in many ways, physical life. The movie made that evident, loud and clear.

Practices You Can Engage to Journey in the Battle 

  1. Ask for God’s mercy on all people, situations, and yourself. Leave the results to the only wise and loving God.
  2. Seek God alone not what He can give. Seek His heart not His hand. As you find His heart you find His hand.
  3. Allow your circumstances to shape your heart, soul, mind, and relationships. Don’t fight them. Learn what God is “up to” in them.
  4. Battle your own ego. The greater war is within yourself not outside yourself. “Put to death what is earthly in you…” (Colossians 3.5-10)

I hope this movie inspires people to take a hard look at prayer. I hope it spurns on conversations about prayer. I hope you will read future posts that will help you further strengthen your prayer life and your journey with God.

Was this post helpful? What questions do you have about prayer? Let me know with a comment below. 

Dr. K