Priscilla Shirer, a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, Bible teacher, and founder of Going Beyond Ministries, believes in the power of strategic prayer. But when Alex and Stephen Kendrick approached her about playing the lead in War Room, her first reaction was shock, laughter, and a resounding, “No, you’ve got to be kidding,” she said. Priscilla immediately directed them to real actors and actresses.
But after committing the matter to prayer, reading the script, and seeing the power of the message, she knew this was a message dear to her heart that she wanted to deliver. Priscilla prayed fervently for her acting to be natural and not deter from the message in the movie. And nail it, she did! Her follow-up book, Fervent, delivers her message once again as she presents prayer as a powerful weapon for women.
War Room tells the story of Elizabeth (a young mom played by Priscilla) who has achieved the American dream. A closer look reveals her marriage is on the rocks and her daughter is collateral damage. Miss Clara (an elderly widow played by Karen Abercrombie) mentors Elizabeth and teaches her to battle life’s most challenging problems on her knees. T. C. Stallings plays the husband in this powerful drama which emphasizes the power of prayer and casts an African-American family and their transformation as positive Christian role models.
Ginny Dent Brant spoke with Priscilla Shirer about her debut role in War Room and her new book, Fervent, which both deliver a message about the power of strategic prayer which is dear to her heart.
SCH: You come from a family that has modeled for you the Christian life at its best. How has this background impacted your life?
PS: I’m grateful that my parents were people of integrity in ministry who believed what they were preaching and teaching. They were for real. We always had dinner together during the weekdays and my father gave devotions at the table and prayed over us. We were normal kids in that we wiggled and sometimes did not want to listen. But my parents persisted even when it was not easy.
SCH: In your book you said, “Not everything is a God thing.” How do you organize your life to be a wife and mom first and say no to things that would enslave you to not repeat the mistakes your character Elizabeth makes in the movie?
PS: Wow, it is an ongoing matter of assessment and prayer in my life. As women when we finally think we have it balanced out, things change, and it’s no longer balanced. We must give ourselves a break and realize when we say, “No,” there should be no guilt attached to my “no.” I’m constantly asking God to help me see what He wants me to say “yes” to. That “no” opens up the door for bigger “yes’s,” and I’m keeping my eyes on the “yes’s.”
SCH: Tell us how your ministry, Going Beyond, is a family affair and how you use prayer to protect your primary responsibility—your family?
PS: Prayer toward our families is so important because one of the enemy’s main tools to advance his will is to break down the family and diffuse its power. We see this in our culture in broad ways through reorganization, redefinition, and restructuring of the family away from what the Lord intended. We can’t allow him to take advantage of those we love the most, so prayer for our family is one of our main prayer strategies. Going Beyond is a family ministry that my husband and I do together.
SCH: What was it like to work with Alex and Stephen Kendrick?
PS: They are just a delight in every way. Every morning we had devotions and prayer with all the people involved in the film (over 100 people). We even stopped and prayed before specific, powerful scenes that might draw people to Jesus. These guys love Jesus and are for real about using this medium to reach people. They are not interested in Hollywood, fame or fortune. They only want Jesus to be glorified, and people to be edified.
SCH: How do you think other women will relate to your character as Elizabeth?
PS: I think they will relate to Elizabeth right off the bat. Who does not know what it is like if you are married to be frustrated with your spouse, and wondering how that will affect your child? Who does not struggle as a woman in balancing and juggling all the details of life and work whether you are single or married? I think they will relate to how Elizabeth begins to enjoy the relationship with this older and wiser woman in the faith, Miss Clara, who takes the time to pour into her life. I know so many women who would really love to have a Miss Clara to pour their heart out to and receive encouragement and instruction so they can move forward in a healthy way.
SCH: Do you believe the average Christian in our country knows how to use prayer as a daily weapon in their battles rather than an afterthought?
PS: I think they know they’re supposed to, but I don’t think most Christians emphasize the impact and priority of prayer in their lives. And the reason is that deep down, we’re not sure this prayer thing works. We are more convinced that physical solutions like throwing our money on the problem, using our words, etc. are the way to solve the problem. The reason prayer does not work is that we are not praying. We must put the cart before the horse. For prayer to be effective, we must implement it in our lives. This movie is about uncovering the unseen enemy behind life’s most pressing problems, and then teaching you how to craft a strategy to push back against that enemy.
SCH: Speaking of that enemy, my favorite part of War Room is when you informed Satan your home was under new management, and told him to go back to Hell. How did that feel?
PS: It was the most difficult and favorite at the same time. Doing that with 50 people standing around and making it authentic for my role as Elizabeth was difficult. But it was fantastic because the house we were filming in belonged to an incredible Christian family who had experienced much tragedy in the past year. Before I prayed over that house, this couple laid hands on me and prayed for me. They asked God to allow that prayer to be effective and released into their home. So I was thinking about them when I walked through that home.
SCH: How did God prepare you to write a book on prayer?
PS: In looking back, I realize He was preparing me back when I was involved in a home Bible study group years ago for seven years. The main priority was prayer. We began the first hour in prayer—just on our knees speaking to God and allowing Him to speak to us. That began to stir in me a desire for prayer that I see now is what the Lord would use as fuel and in this season of my life. I could not have known then what was coming, but that is where that desire began for me.
SCH: You said your book, Fervent, is not for pretty reading; it’s for survival for the fight of your life. Tell us how strategic and specific prayer can help us as we fight the fears of terrorism and our country’s turning away from God in these dark days.
PS: Fervent is not for pretty reading. There are some effective and important books that are. Fervent is a book you should be ripping pages out of. You should be writing down your prayers and strategizing against the enemy. As you strategize against the enemy, it shows him his cover is blown, and that we see him behind life’s most pressing problems. In everything we see happening in our culture today, we have to be reminded that these aren’t just random, arbitrary problems. There is a sinister enemy doing everything he can to cripple the advancement and health of our culture and our families, and in our personal hearts and minds as well. Fervent is designed to stir you up with a holy indignation that causes you to want to push the enemy back from your life.
SCH: If we do not realize this soon, I’m afraid it may be too late.
PS: You’re right.
SCH: Your book and War Room portray the power of forgiveness. Elaborate on this for us.
PS: Absolutely. Unforgiveness is what the enemy wants because it causes your heart to be hardened and concocts a poison that you drink. When you harbor unforgiveness, it’s like you are drinking that poison, and you are the one who is damaged. Fervent and War Room, bring up the issue that forgiveness is what frees the other person from the debt they owe us, but it also enables us to have ongoing, vibrant communication with God which allows His power to be released in the circumstances of our lives.
SCH: I loved your analogy about friendly fire and how it impacts our unity and effectiveness as the church. What should our specific prayer be as we work together for the sake of the kingdom?
PS: Our prayer should be, “Lord, help us to be able to see past man-made lines that divide.” We need to see the benefit that comes from unity, remembering that unity does not mean sameness. You don’t have to look like me or act like me or worship like me. But we must be walking in the same direction to advance against the enemy. The enemy desires for the church and relationships between husband and wives to be fractured and divided. The more division there is, the less strength there is to advance against him. So we must be praying for unity and cohesiveness in the body of Christ as well as in our homes.
SCH: Why do you encourage your readers to write down their prayers?
PS: The enemy is strategic, and he knows your weaknesses and hot buttons. Writing down your prayers helps you to craft a battle plan against him. It allows you to be strategic with your prayers. It also reminds you of your requests by giving you a record of how God has answered them, and encourages you to be more disciplined in your prayer life.
SCH: You admonish women to open their eyes as to who the real enemy is behind most of our struggles. How do we determine what is our own fault and what is the devil’s deeds?
PS: Everything ain’t the devil! Sometimes Christians blame stuff on the devil that is really our own fault. Maybe we’re walking outside His will, or we’ve rebelled against His standards. Then when we reap the consequences, we point to the devil. When we are in a circumstance and earthly solutions don’t work, that is your first hint that this is a spiritual problem that can only be solved with a spiritual solution like prayer. It is also important to self-examine and ask, “Am I out of alignment with God?” If so, we must ask forgiveness as David did and get back in alignment with Him.
SCH: As women we have the tendency to nag. How do we let go when we are praying for a loved one and let God fight our battles?
PS: It must be a matter of constant prayer, “Lord, help me to let You do this, leave this in my prayer closet, and trust You to fight this battle.” We must as Galatians 5 says, “Walk in the Spirit,” and let God do what only His Spirit can do.
SCH: How was your personal prayer life changed through the making of War Room and writing this powerful book?
PS: It was changed because I was reminded of the strategies that need to be involved in my prayer life. For prayer to be effective, it must be consistent and strategically driven.
SCH: What do you hope women will take home from reading Fervent?
PS: I hope they will be fired up to pray and craft effective prayers. I want them to realize that prayer is not just for Christian leaders. We don’t have to have a seminary degree to use the power of prayer in our lives. We need to pour out our heartfelt needs and prayers to Him and experience the power it can bring to our lives.
War Room releases December 22 on DVD!. For more information go to www.warroomthemovie.com
Fervent is available nationwide and also at Priscilla’s ministry website http://www.goingbeyond.com/product-category/books/