A Review of War Room the Movie
Last week, I watched the movie War Room with our small group at church. I had read beaming reviews and I had also read warnings about it promoting contemplative prayer. So I decided to guardedly watch it. I braced myself for viewing an hour of Priscilla Shirer sitting in a closet meditating and chanting. The story line was more involved. However, aside from the somewhat predictable plot and cheesy acting, I was left with not one, but three problematic portrayals in this movie.
Unfortunately, I know this movie reflects Priscilla’s theology and doctrine, so I don’t recommend her books and teachings. There were probably a couple of good points in the script, but this flick is one that shouldn’t be sought after.
Here are the three problematic points, which were all central to the movie:
- Lack of Biblical modesty
- Contemplative prayer
- Rebuking the devil
Let’s look at each of these and what Scripture says.
First, we usually think of modesty as not dressing too provocatively. While that’s true, I’m referring to another side of modesty. In the movie, Priscilla’s family lives in a huge house, driving very nice vehicles, and they are all dressed to the “nines.” At church, everyone is looking at everyone else with that judging look. The women comparing themselves and the husband looking too long at another woman. By the end, they’ve all gotten “closer” to God and the man has put an end to his wandering gazes. However, the other things about their life haven’t changed.
It’s okay if we have wealth. But to flaunt it, brag about it, parade it in people’s faces, that’s not okay. We will all be judged by how we steward God’s gifts to us.
“…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESV
Respectable apparel and modesty would indicate not dressing provocatively. The braided hair, gold, pearls or costly attire would indicate what the upper class women would have worn to show off their wealth. (Braided hair listed here isn’t forbidding braiding your hair, it simply meant back then, that women with braided hair were well enough off to have servants who braided their hair for them.)
How many times do we dress to impress other women? Or, how many times have we coveted what someone else has? It all takes our eyes off God, the Gospel, and good works. This is an issue of the heart and motives.
In today’s language, this verse could say, “…not with Michael Kors handbags, Gucci sunglasses, 2-karat (each) diamond studs and a GMC Yukon Denali…” That stuff isn’t bad in and of themselves. But when we’re focused on them, our appearance, flashing them around, posting pics of them on Facebook, and even making it seem like we’re “more spiritual” because “look what God has blessed me with!” we’ve gone wrong.
I love that self-control is thrown in this verse. Use it to repent and refocus. Aside from the rottenness of causing someone to stumble in envy, who cares about the handbag… when there’s a new mom in your church who could use a meal for her family? What about the elderly lady who lives down the street and needs a ride or her sidewalk shoveled? What about volunteering in the nursery? What about the Gospel message that can be shared?
Anyway, the movie showed this family with wealth that likely few of us “regular people” could relate to and it wasn’t reigned in, even when the husband lost his job. Even setting aside the material possessions, the movie was self-centered, using God like a genie to get blessings they wanted. There was no portrayal of good works or spreading the Gospel.
Second, contemplative prayer. I was not aware of what this was until somewhat recently. Apparently, the person tries to be still and quiet, emptying their mind, and then repeating or chanting a word or phrase over and over. I had heard messages on making sure your prayers aren’t all one-sided with you doing all the talking; but also be silent before the Lord and let Him talk to you. (The chanting thing threw me off, but it’s related to Eastern religions of meditation.) Either way you slice it, whether trying to hear God’s voice in your prayers or chanting, this is not how we should pray.
There was a scene or two of Priscilla in the “war room” repeating part of a Bible verse. So the movie didn’t go as deeply or obviously into contemplative prayer as I was expecting. But no matter how subtle, it was there. She does teach it.
God’s voice is in His Word. We are told to renew our minds with His Word. Years ago, I heard that it is dangerous to empty our minds. That means our guard isn’t up and we can become sitting ducks for an attack from the enemy. Nevertheless, the Bible doesn’t tell us to empty our minds or repeat things over and over. An idle, empty mind is not right.
God told the Israelites, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV (emphasis added)
Paul said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.“ Philippians 4:8 ESV (emphasis added)
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 ESV (emphasis added) The word of Christ is the Bible, so hearing/reading the Bible is what we do to grow our faith.
The Lord’s Prayer, which is Jesus’ model on how to pray, (Matthew 6:9-13), does not say anything about waiting for God to speak, being quiet and still, listening, emptying our minds, or chanting/repeating. Just follow Jesus’outline in your own words.
Finally, rebuking the devil. This was portrayed even heavier, I thought, than contemplative prayer in the movie. I have read books and listened to messages saying we need to fight against our enemy, the devil. He’s prowling around, seeking someone to devour. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy. So don’t just sit there passively, waiting to get beat up. Before he jumps on you, you start fighting. You have authority and power. You can reclaim the things he’s stolen from you. Etc., etc.
I never got on that bandwagon. It never seemed right to me, and as I’ve grown in the Word, it is clear that we are not to be calling out the devil, rebuking the devil, or approaching him or his cohorts with authority. Instead, focus on Jesus. Go to God with everything and when there’s a spiritual battle concerning you, (there is one), God will fight it. He’s got your back. He has the authority.
Here’s what GotQuestions.org has to say:
“The Bible does not give Christians the authority to rebuke the devil, but to resist him. James 4:7 says to “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Zechariah 3:2 tells us that it is the Lord who rebukes Satan. Even Michael, one of the most powerful of the angels, did not dare to accuse Satan, but rather said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 1:9). In response to Satan’s attacks, a Christian should appeal to Christ. Instead of focusing on defeating the devil, we should focus on following Christ (Hebrews 12:2) and trust that He will defeat the forces of evil.” (bold added)
There is a difference between resisting and rebuking. Satan will tempt us, no doubt. When we’re being tempted, we’re to stand firm or resist it. We do not actually rebuke and fight in the war. The passage on the armor of God repeats the word “stand” at least three times. The elements of the armor include: truth, righteousness, readiness given by the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word, prayer, alertness, and perseverance. (Ephesians 6:10-18) So with these things we resist.
GotQuestions.org concludes, saying:
“The most effective weapons we have against the devil are our faith, wisdom, and knowledge about God and His Word. Christ, when tempted by Satan, answered him with Scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11). To gain victory in spiritual matters, we must maintain a clear conscience and have control over our thoughts. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).”
Again, it comes back to God’s Word (the Bible) and having control of our thoughts, not idle or empty or chanting, but bringing them into obedience to Christ. We can be strong and resist, not falling for the devil’s schemes, without directly addressing him. Appeal to God.
So have a prayer closet? Sure, if you want, but it’s not necessary. You certainly wouldn’t need to move your clothes to another closet like Priscilla did. But a “war room?” Not so much.