- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

I remember vividly being on my knees in prayer. It was one week before filming my brother’s and my third feature film, an inspiring, true sports story called “Woodlawn.” The tale was truly incredible; in the torn city of Birmingham (our hometown) one high-school football team’s commitment to love and unity saved their school from collapse and brought their community back together. The film centers around one spontaneous moment of prayer, with what ended up being a powerful scene in the movie, where the entire team commits themselves to Christ and to each other. So, it was fitting that I should be on my knees to begin the project, even if that wasn’t my decision.

Desperate times call for desperate prayer, and the situation we had gotten ourselves into warranted it. The actor we had cast to play Tony Nathan, the lead in the film, was having problems with his work visa and was stuck in London. Our film had no star. Even worse, a large portion of our production budget had fallen out at the last minute, and we no longer had enough money to finish the movie. So, there I was, praying my heart out wondering if Andy’s and my dream of telling this incredible story that our own father had told us as children, would end in disappointment and disaster. The feeling that hung in my gut: desperation.

It seems like desperation is always a catalyst to prayer, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Maybe we need more of it. I remember talking to Gov. Mike Huckabee about the time our story was set in: a turbulent season for America in the early seventies which gave birth to something called “The Jesus Movement.” It was also the moment that changed his life and that of many other Christian leaders today. He told me desperation was the fuel of it. It was necessary. It’s what served as the catalyst to the greatest spiritual awakening in a hundred years. It began a movement of prayer among young people. It began a season of renewal.

Desperation, it seems, has its purpose and its place.

The trouble is we so often avoid it. We outrun it and rationalize it. We build the walls of a false sense of security, so we don’t have to feel this terrifying thing. We see it as a “bad” and “weak” emotion. But what if we are running from the cure? What if embracing our own desperation is the key to change and growth? What if desperate prayer actually works?

It certainly did for me. God simply showed up. There is no other way to describe it. Within the week we discovered an incredible young actor, Caleb Castille, who was just amazing and even better for the role of the film. His personal life’s story was so inspiring; he had traveled for months while we were promoting the film, inspiring high school kids everywhere to follow their dreams. We never ran out of money. In fact some of the final remaining needs were met within 12 hours of us needing them. God provided, and we got to see Him do it. There is just no other way to explain the existence of the film, Woodlawn.

People all over the nation have now experienced the film, and this story of love conquering hatred couldn’t come at a better time. It will be, by far, our highest box-office success to date. The film has been extremely well received by critics and audiences alike. Hundreds of stories similar to the film, of young people making the same decisions for love and unity, are truly humbling and make the job worth it.

So, I challenge you to have the courage to be desperate. And in your desperation reach beyond your own ability or competency. Reach beyond the stars to the one who created them. It may just change your life. It may be that your biggest battles are meant to be won on your knees.

Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, began their careers as teenagers, working as camera operators for ESPN. In 2005, the brothers ventured into directing commercials and music videos for platinum artists including Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Skillet. They have directed the movies “October Baby” (2011), “Mom’s Night Out” (2014) and “Woodlawn” (2015), in theaters now.

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