By Rusty Wright
Got marital problems? Job-related stress? Ethical conundrums? Try prayer.
That’s the theme of “War Room,” a Kendrick Brothers / Sony TriStar release opening August 28. This film, clearly aimed at a Christian audience, is not your typical Hollywood fare. Rather it weaves prayer insights into a lively drama about a troubled middle-class family.
Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) and Tony (T.C. Stallings) are busy professionals with little time for each other or their daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts). Elizabeth’s real estate work and Tony’s traveling sales job keep them headed in different directions. At home they bicker. Away, they lament to friends. Tony’s wandering eye doesn’t help.
Spunk and attitude
Enter Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), a spunky elderly widow who’s selling her house. She asks prying questions of realtor Elizabeth – about her home, marriage and spiritual life. Think matriarchal Sunday School teacher with attitude. Also think refreshing, funny, appealing. Elizabeth’s guard is up at first, but her deteriorating home life eventually prompts her to seek this woman’s counsel.
Miss Clara’s solution? Instead of fighting with Tony, Elizabeth should pray for him. She shows Elizabeth her own “war room,” a closet where she shuts out the world and focuses on God and prayer.
Seeking to balance sensitivity with aplomb, Miss Clara invigorates the younger woman to intercede for her meandering spouse. We see humor and agony, pathos and surprise, despair and encouragement. Two strong women model how to pray and how to mentor others.
White brothers’ production; African-American cast
Brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick (“Courageous,” “Fireproof”) co-wrote “War Room.” Alex directed, Stephen produced, and both act in it. They first caught Hollywood’s eye when their Georgia-church-produced Facing the Giants garnered $10 million at the box office.
“War Room” features a largely African-American cast. Were the Kendricks channeling their inner Tyler Perry? Alex told me that, as two white guys, they had already produced several films that mostly focused on Caucasians and wanted to broaden their emphasis. One “War Room” actor, comedian Michael Junior, especially enlivened the process.
Alex reflects for the press: “Michael Junior … comes on my set, rewrites my jokes, thinks he’s funnier than I am … has the crew cracking up. … He’s hilarious and brings funnier stuff to my script than I originally had in there.”
Stephen mulls the film’s desired impact: “Any time a person’s in a crisis and feeling discouraged, to know someone is praying for you is just wind in your sails. This movie brings that home.”
Of course, not all prayers bring the outcomes we desire. The late Jim Morrison, 1960’s rock icon with the Doors, famously and loudly proclaimed, “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer.” “Unanswered” prayer leaves many disillusioned and bitter.
Perhaps like me, you’ve prayed earnestly for things that never happened, and were deeply disappointed. In 1996, I asked God to save my failing marriage and call off HR reps pursuing my termination. My hopes were not fulfilled. During a two-week period, my wife of twenty years divorced me, my employer of twenty-five years showed me the door, and I had a cancer scare. Life seemed swirling out of control.
During those dark days, my mentor reminded me that “Romans 8:28 hasn’t been repealed yet.” That biblical statement asserts, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love [him].”
Now, nineteen-plus years later, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman, have thriving work and good health. My mentor was right. My thoughts and ways are not always the same as God’s. He sees the whole picture. Though it may not seem that way at the moment, trusting him to guide you through your problems can bring an outcome better than you imagined, as “War Room” illustrates. Lots of good lessons in this film.
- Opens August 28
- Rated PG (USA) “for thematic elements throughout”
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com