Interestingly enough, making a movie about prayer can be very difficult. Movies, especially lately, are all about action, but prayer is about talking to God, unceasing talk to God. How then do you do a movie with that as the subject matter without it being an endless harangue, or invasion of privacy, or too schmaltzy and talky for words? The Kendrick Brothers, having already made a series of so-called faith-based films (Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants) have done their best work yet in this film. The film focuses on an elderly African American woman who is indeed a ‘prayer warrior’, and on a much younger, upwardly mobile, and very successful African American family that nonetheless is drifting apart and has at best an on again, off again relationship with God. The acting in this film is not bad, although Grandma is sometimes a little over the top, but there is a genuineness to this film without things becoming too syrupy that often moved me to tears.
The film is exactly two hours long and its theology is essentially sound: 1) God does indeed answer prayers; 2) he is the Lord of every situation, and often we just need to get out of the way, even when it comes to our own inner struggles; 3) Satan is real and his aim is to lie and cheat and steal and destroy one’s love relationships; 4) God uses prayer to change things. Behind all of that is a more important truth— namely that God has not rigged the whole game in advance. This is why prayer matters. Prayer is not merely a matter of getting in tune with what God has already pre-determined. It is a matter of making one’s self available for God to use in other people’s lives, and of course in one’s own life. One has to surrender to God to be a useful and willing vessel of change. In other words, prayer is about an ongoing two way relationship one has with the Almighty and it involves love and service freely given and freely received. God treats us as persons, with wills and desires and needs, but nonetheless persons. He does not treat us as mere instruments in his preordained plan. Prayer is part of a deeply personal relationship with God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (and not just with Jesus). Now when you have a deep relationship with a person, very often words are not necessary, especially when the other person is God. Prayer is not about telling God things he doesn’t yet know about you. It is more about being open and honest with God, and transparent. To be a good parent you must be transparent with God. This movie gets that message across pretty clearly. The reason God insists on our confessing to Him what he already knows, is because like a child who has wrongly taken something which the parent already knows about, it is necessary for the child to come clean so as not to live a lie, or to think he or she may have gotten away with something.
The use of military metaphors for the Christian life and struggle (see Ephes. 6.10ff.) is of course common, but it is interesting that prayer can be said to be like Jacob wrestling with the angel, or like a warrior going to battle against dark forces. Why? Because in fact there is a struggle against evil in this world, and prayer is an essential part of prevailing over the darkness. The War Room in this movie is not heaven, from where God might be thought to manipulate everything, but rather the prayer room in the house.
This movie clocks in at exactly 2 hours, and it can indeed be soul nourishing. It is a good thing to realize that once one prays, one must leave the results in God’s hands, and let him fight the battles for you. It’s not all about us, or a particular prayer technique or the length of one’s prayers. It’s about praying from the heart. I must confess that I have not always been as good a pray-er as I ought to be. But I have always trusted God for all things. But I am reminded ‘you have not, because you ask not’. Sometimes, God is simply waiting for us to ask, if what we want is what he is ready and willing to give. This movie could improve your prayer life. I commend it.