No, War Room Prayers Won’t Change An Abusive or Cheating Husband

When the movie War Room came out in 2015, right away I began seeing lots of articles and even products for sale along the lines of “War Room Prayers to Pray for Your Cheating Husband” or “War Room Prayers for Marriage Restoration”, “War Room Prayers for Your Troubled Marriage”, etc.

I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. My own marriage was happy, and I didn’t have a lot of time for or interest in movies, so I never watched it or paid any attention to what it was about.

But now that I have spent the last several years immersed in training and advocacy for women escaping domestic abuse, it’s come back onto my radar.

I’m hearing way too often that women who disclose their husband’s abuse or infidelity to friends, church leaders, and counselors are being told, “Oh! Well you need to watch War Room!”

Now, as a Christ follower, I believe that prayer is important. Prayer is a place where we bring our human weakness to God and submit ourselves to his divine power to work in and through us.

But when a woman’s husband is behaving in destructive ways, and you simply tell her to watch a movie about prayer, you are behaving like Miss Clara in the movie did when she refused to listen to what was going on in Elizabeth’s life and essentially told her to shut up and pray.

For those who have not seen the movie, there is a scene where Elizabeth comes to Miss Clara’s house to be mentored. Elizabeth is trying to express to Miss Clara that her husband is self-centered and that she suspects he may be involved in an affair. He is always flirting with other women, she says. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, her husband is indeed engaged in an affair that is dangerously close to becoming physical adultery. He is also committing felony crimes (stealing pharmaceuticals from work and dealing them on the side.) Many women whose husbands are living a double life, whether it’s secret pornography use, affairs, shady financial dealings, or something else, may have only seen hints of wrong-doing but their gut is telling them that there’s something more that’s seriously wrong.

But as Elizabeth expressed her concerns to Miss Clara, the older lady who was supposed to be mentoring her, Miss Clara held up her hand and said, “Uh uh. How much of the 1 hour we have today are you gonna spend whining about your husband? And how much we gonna spend on what the Lord can do about it? Your thoughts about your husband are almost entirely negative, aren’t they?”

She continues on to tell Elizabeth that her husband is not the enemy and that it’s not her job to fix him. “Men don’t like it when their woman’s always trying to fix them.”

As well-meaning as Miss Clara may have been, she reduced the solution to Elizabeth’s distress down to an overly simplistic formula:

  1. Stop thinking and saying negative things about your husband.
  2. Stop trying to fix him.
  3. Pray for him.

That might not sound so bad, but there’s a lot more that needs to be explored here.

  1. Sometimes those negative thoughts and words about your husband are simply the truth.  That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to think about it or talk about it. In fact, if you suspect your husband is cheating on you or doing other deceptive things behind your back, you should find someone to talk to about it. If your husband is treating you badly in any way, find someone you feel safe to tell. If their response is to hold up their hand and tell you to stop, find someone else to tell. Tell until someone listens. Tell a counselor, tell a friend, call a domestic violence hotline – even if you’re not sure if it’s domestic violence — call and ask if it is! You deserve to be physically safe and emotionally safe. You deserve to be safe from potential STD’s. You deserve to be safe from the trauma that infidelity brings. You deserve to be safe from being on the hook for your husband’s crooked financial dealings you had no knowledge of. You deserve to be safe from the consequences of whatever deceptive, abusive, or adulterous actions your spouse is engaging in. Find someone who will ask questions and listen instead of someone who holds up their hand to stop you from speaking.
  2. It is true that you cannot fix your husband. But it’s also important to understand that this does not mean you cannot speak up when your husband is living in sin.
    When wicked deeds are being done, they should be exposed. (Ephesians 5:11) Speaking truth to him or speaking truth about him to someone who can hold him accountable for his actions is not being controlling. I can almost guarantee that if you do this, you will be accused, either by him or by others of being controlling, but those accusations hold no merit. You do not have to bite your tongue and watch in silence while your husband destroys you both.
  3. If your mentor tells you to pray for your abusive or cheating husband, it’s important to realize that there’s more to the equation. God will not force anyone to do anything against their will. So while you may pray that God will change your husband’s heart, your husband is free to choose to continue in his sinful ways. This of course grieves the heart of God, just as it grieved the heart of Jesus to watch his people refuse to come to him (Matthew 23:37), yet refuse they did. Praying for your husband is not a guarantee that he will change.

As most movies do, War Room has a happily-ever-after ending. Elizabeth got everything that she prayed for. Her husband became a loving husband and attentive father overnight. Although he had made terrible, sinful choices, all of the consequences of those choices were erased and none of the family ever suffered again. While that makes for a nice movie, in real life that is not always what happens. And in the case of a husband living a double life, I would venture to say that is almost never what happens. He is living that way because he wants to and he doesn’t have plans to change.

{For those who do change, it’s important to be aware of fake apologies. Abusive and deceptive people, when facing the prospect of negative consequences for their actions, will often make a show of repentance. They too become a loving husband and attentive father overnight. But it is not this overnight change that is evidence of true inward change. If it is a genuine change it will stand the test of time; therefore the only way to discern whether the change is genuine or not is…well…time.}

So how can you pray when your abusive or cheating husband is breaking your heart? Remember that prayer is much more than simply asking for things. It is expressing total dependence on God.

  • You can cast your anxiety onto the Lord and accept his supernatural peace in the midst of terrible circumstances. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • You can pray for wisdom to know what your next step should be (James 1:5). You don’t have to silently remain in a relationship that is destroying you, and you can ask God for wisdom to know if, when, and how to walk away. God has made provision for you to be protected from a destructive spouse. (Read: What Does the Bible Say About Divorce for Abuse?)
  • You can express to God that you trust him to be your refuge and that you believe him when he says he will not forsake you. (Psalm 9:9-10)

For more inspiration on how to use prayer as protection against the enemy, and how to use scripture as a basis for prayer, take a look at Prayer Armor for Defense Against the Enemy’s Flaming Darts. This book is written by a friend who understands that prayer is not a magic cure to fix an abusive or cheating spouse, so you will find none of that in the book. You can seek God’s presence for yourself and have a close relationship with him regardless of what your spouse chooses to do.


As I thought about how to frame this article, I decided not to write an actual review of the movie (although there is a good review here about why War Room is not suitable for victims of abuse.) Instead I wanted my main thrust to be for the reader to consider the following:


  1. If you are in a destructive marriage (take the quiz here), or if you feel in your gut that something is off with your husband, I want you to know that “You should watch War Room” is not an adequate solution to your distress. Watching the movie and praying will not change your husband. Your husband will change only if he chooses to repent and submit his life to Jesus Christ. In the meantime, your physical and emotional safety have to be taken into consideration. God has already equipped you with the emotion of fear so that you can understand when you are not safe. God has equipped you with a mind so that you can make decisions about how to get safe. And God has promised that he will never leave you or forsake you, no matter what those decisions are.
  2. If you are a friend, counselor, pastor, or mentor to whom a woman confides “negative thoughts” about her husband, saying “You should watch War Room” is not an adequate solution to her distress. Enlist the help of an organization like Called to Peace Ministries who has the training to help you understand when things that appear to be normal marital conflict are something more serious. As I’ve already mentioned, many times a woman’s body will tell her the truth of her husband’s duplicity long before she actually discovers the facts. Don’t distill the solution into a formula of “Be quiet and pray.” To send her home in silence may mean that you are sending her into a war zone, where the enemy is indeed her husband who has sided with the devil who steals, kills, and destroys. While you may believe that there is only normal marital conflict, ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?” Abuse and infidelity are by nature deceitful and hidden. There may be much more under the surface that is stealing your friend’s safety and security, destroying her personhood, and slowly killing her. She can’t afford for you to be wrong. Please ask for help from someone who understands the deceptive nature of abuse and infidelity.

Dear friend, take a minute to read this comment from someone who has walked this road before you:

“I prayed and submitted and prayed and fasted for decades, not weeks. (And I know many, many other women-giants in the faith! who have similar stories). And the more I silenced myself and submitted, the more the monster was fed inside of him…I absolutely believe in the power and beauty of prayer-communing with the One we can trust implicitly. BUT I also believe many of us were once married to fools/scoffers. Some of us are called to be Abigails and leave the fool behind to be dealt with by God while we walk in freedom and safety.”

You can read more real experiences and thought provoking discussion about this movie on this Facebook thread.

No, War Room prayers will not change an abusive or cheating husband.

If your home is a war zone I encourage you to find your refuge in God while simultaneously listening for his guidance and discernment to act on the truth that you know.

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