Exclusive Interview: Christian Filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick Discuss 'War Room', and Why Prayer is Crucial to the Survival of the Church

( [email protected] ) Aug 04, 2015 12:45 PM EDT
Faith-based film producers Alex and Stephen Kendrick discuss their upcoming film, "War Room" and why prayer is needed more than ever in an exclusive interview with the Gospel Herald.
Christian filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants, Flywheel) talks to The Gospel Herald about War Room The Movie, the highly-anticipated fifth film will debut in theaters nationwide on August 28, 2015. (War Room The Movie)

Producers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, best known for their award-winning films Courageous and Fireproof, fervently believe that prayer is a powerful weapon that can transform even the most broken marriages, families, and countries.

The brothers are so convinced of the desperate need for prayer in today's culture, in fact, that they did what they do best: They wrote, produced, and directed a movie about it.

"Our number one goal in making movies has always been, 'How can we advance the kingdom of God, and how can we take the Gospel to the ends of the earth,'" Alex Kendrick told the Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview on Thursday. "God has given us such a privileged opportunity through a relationship with Jesus Christ to approach Him for whatever our needs are. In our generation, we will only survive as a Church and really evangelize the world if we will first fight out our battles in prayer."

War Room, the fifth film from the brothers, focuses on the lives of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, whose seemingly perfect lives are crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. However, Elizabeth's life is changed when she meets Miss Clara, an elderly prayer warrior who teaches her how to establish a battle plan of prayer for her family.

The highly-anticipated film is also being accompanied by children's books, Bible study components and other resources, including a book by the Kendricks titled "The Battle Plan for Prayer" and a book titled "Fervent" by New York Times best-­selling author Priscilla Shirer, who stars as Elizabeth Jordan in the film.

The "War Room Bible Study" also comes with the War Room Church Campaign Kit, War Room Leader Kit and the War Room Bible Study Book, which the brothers hope will serve as ammunition for churches to better disciple Christians on the power and necessity of prayer.

"We see the wisdom of the Lord in the timing of the War Room message. We're seeing a nation becoming increasingly racially divided. But we're seeing the Church rally around prayer and becoming more and more united," Stephen explained. "We pray God will use this film as a means to rally the church back to prayer, because we know that when prayer happens, He will be true to His word and His character, and every ministry of every Church will be blessed, and we will become salt and light to the world."

War Room stars T.C. Stallings as Tony Jordan and Karen Abercrombie as Miss Clara. Also appearing in the film are popular Christian author and speaker Beth Moore and comedian Michael Jr. The film will debut in theaters nationwide on Aug. 28,

Below is the exclusive interview with Kendrick brothers.

GH: Tell us about War Room- what inspired you to make a film about prayer?

Alex: We spent a season in prayer after Courageous and felt like the Lord was prompting us to make a movie where we call the church back to prayer- I'm talking about intense, desperate prayer, seeking Him and His intervention. So in War Room, we used the analogy of a military war room; when the military goes into a battle, they assemble the leaders, they look at what the enemy is doing, and they form a strategy. After calling it whatever resources are needed, they disseminate that strategy to the troops in the field, and then engage in battle.

In our spiritual lives, we too often run into situations with our own logic. We get in over our heads, then wonder where God, is and run back to Him in crisis mode, saying "Where are you?" We should really go to the Lord first and seek Him; God has a solution to everything we will ever face. We're reminding people of how crucial it is to seek the Lord.

Steven: Alex and I grew up in a praying home. We saw the weaknesses of the church but we saw authentic Christianity lived out at home by our parents. We've seen God work mightily through answered prayer; we attend a praying church, and every one of our films has been the result of a long string of one answered prayer after another.

We are personally passionate about this issue; we can tell a huge difference when we pray and when we don't. The counsel that comes from the Lord is a thousand times better than anything we can come up with in our own human wisdom. There was a sense of rightness about War Room--it was a timely message for the Church right now with where our culture is going, it feels morally like America is sinking even faster than the Titanic going down. But when you look at Scripture and Christian history, it was in very desperate times that God's people would unite and pray to the Lord, and He would show up in power.

GH: War Room stars Priscilla Shirer in her first acting role - how did you come to cast her and how do you feel about her performance?

Alex: We first met Priscilla when working on the resources for Courageous. My brother and I had written "The Resolution for Men" and she had written "The Resolution for Women" and did an outstanding job. We found a kinship there. When we were talking about who could play the role of Elizabeth in War Room, we wanted someone who was passionate and fervent and not only speaking about prayer, but living what they believe. Priscilla was our number one choice, and we asked her to audition. She tried out, and we saw a lot of raw talent...we thought Priscilla did an amazing job. You forget it's Priscilla Shirer five minutes into the movie-we're thrilled with what she did and we would cast her again in a heartbeat.

GH: What do you hope viewers will take away from this film in terms of their own marriages and families?

Alex: We want people to realize that prayer is a powerful weapon...If you look at the percentage of people who divorced, then look at the statistics on couples who prayer together--it's unbelievably rare--almost nonexistent that you see couples who pray together getting a divorce.

We have seen so many miraculous stories of God reviving dead marriages, bringing the prodigal home, providing whatever is needed to heal households. The church ought to be daily living demonstrations of the power of God in our generation, because it will silence the skeptics, and they can see specifically answered prayer in our lives and it's undeniable.

GH: You've created "The Battle Plan for Prayer" and a number of additional resources for adults, children and families to use to live out the message of War Room. Tell us how "Battle Plan" will help readers craft their own prayer strategy.

Alex: "The Battle Plan for Prayer" walks readers through what is prayer, and what is it not. Prayer is not treating God like a genie in a lamp, or like He's your employee. Prayer is talking to the God of the universe who is holy and righteous but wants a relationship with us. We discuss what it means to adore God, to stay clean before Him, to repent and confess when necessary, to seek His face, to thank and worship Him, and to submit our requests before Him. What does it look like, Biblically and throughout Scripture, to pray for your spouse, your children, your church, your culture, and our leaders that we so often do not do.

War Room
Pastor Tony Evans prays together with the War Room The Movie production team and cast. (Warm Room The Movie)

GH: How did writing the book impact your prayer life?

Steven: There were a few takeaways for me personally that were so refreshing and exciting. The most powerful men and women throughout the Bible and in Christian history were always people of prayer, they were persistent and learned how to trust in His timing.

Many times we'll pray for something and it doesn't happen right away so we'll think, "Well maybe God doesn't care of He didn't hear." But God always will be patiently waiting for the perfect time to answer a prayer so it will mean the most to us and give Him the most glory.

The Bible communicates that God WANTS to answer our prayers, He wants us to get right with Him, and to engage and pray with faith, and to trust His timing. It's always perfect.

GH: Any examples of answered prayers during the making of War Room?

Alex: There are numerous examples; when we were casting for the movie, we wanted people that loved the Lord, that were highly capable and competent, and God provided just the people we needed.

When we were looking for locations, we specifically asked the Lord for certain types of houses and locations. I remember looking for Miss Clara's house, and Steven and I were walking through a neighborhood asking God for help when we came upon a house that was for rent. The man that no longer lived there happened to be there working on the property, and he allowed us to rent that house for one month while we shot in it.

 He had been frustrated that the house had been on the market for nine months with no interest, so we began praying, "Lord, sell this house for this man." The day we finished shooting, the house sold. God set that house aside for us to shoot in, and as soon as He finished, it sold. That was a huge uplift for the cast and crew to see that God really is in control and meets our needs. That's just a couple of prayers that God answered. We're reminded He's on the throne, He's worth seeking, and no matter what happens, whether He says "Yes," "No," or "Wait awhile," we're determined to acknowledge him as God.

GH: Does War Room have a message about mentoring?

Stephen: Yes it does. One of the beautiful relationships that develops in the film is between Elizabeth and Miss Clara, when Elizabeth, in all of her struggles, opens up to Miss Clara, a lady who knows how to get ahold of God. Miss Clara challenges her--she says, "If you give me one hour a week, I can teach you how to fight the right battles with the right weapons the right way." She begins to pour into Elizabeth, teaching her how to quit seeing her husband as the enemy, and how to resist the devil when he attacks their marriage, and how to pray God, specifically using Scriptures.

Then there's a twist in the movie in that friendship relationship that's exciting. We love the fact that it is demonstrating for people what biblical mentoring can look like between friends. We hope that men and women's ministries will be inspired to reach out to someone like Paul did with Timothy.

GH: From a national perspective, what do you hope will come from War Room?

Alex: If people are motivated to take the next step in their prayer life when they leave the theater, and go home and begin deepening their own prayer life, then that's success for us. Anything that will draw us closer to God and keeps us clean before Him, we're all about. That's our hope for the response to war room and really the resources that accompany it. In our lives, we've seen that God is not limited by anything, and He can do way more than we can even imagine. We're humbled by it...but it causes us to pray even bigger, and believe that God can do even more.