Prayer Is A Last Resort YKTTW Discussion

Prayer Is A Last Resort
When a main character has no options left to deal with the conflict, they'll try prayer
(permanent link) added: 2011-05-11 20:15:48 sponsor: ginsengaddict (last reply: 2011-05-16 19:07:10)

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Indexes: Religion Tropes

"Prayer: the last refuge of a scoundrel."
-- Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons, "Bart Gets An F"

Nothing seems to be going right. The character is continuously failing to make any progress, despite constantly trying. But eventually, they reach a point where they've exhausted all avenues for success and there are no other options.

Now is a good time to pray.

This trope is an observation about the use of prayer in fiction. Praying is seen as a sign that the character is giving up and acknowledging that they have no control, and so for a character to pray as a first response is almost always a sign of weakness. As such, works will typically portray prayer as a last resort or an act of desperation after the character has tried and failed to resolve the conflict on their own.

Sub-Trope of Godzilla Threshold. If a character prays as a first response rather than a last resort, it signifies that the character is weak or has no initiative.

Not always a case of Truth in Television, as people who pray regularly usually do so as a first response, and then try to resolve the issue if that doesn't work - and this is seen as normal among such people. However, it is a case of truth in television if the person doesn't regularly pray, and feels they have exhausted all other options.


Comic Books Film
  • Patch Adams.. Sort of.
  • George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life. Slightly subverted in that his Guardian Angel Clarence has been looking out for him all along.
  • Conan the Barbarian (the Scharzanegger film).
    Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!
  • Arnie also prayed toward the end of End of Days.
  • Patton. During the Battle of the Bulge the situation is desperate. The Germans are winning and Allied air support is grounded because of the bad weather. Patton calls in an Army chaplain and orders him to write a prayer to ask for good weather so Allied planes can smash the German forces.
Jokes Literature
  • In Deception Point when the cast are about to freeze to death (having been trapped on an ice sheet by a group of Delta force soldiers) the female lead comments it probably looks like she's doing this in her internal monologue, but she's actually attempting to tap out an SOS message in the hope a secret array of microphones might pick it up. It doesn't, but luckly a submarine was passing nearby).
Live-Action TV
  • In The X-Files season 7 pilot, all Scully can do for a dying Mulder is to pray. It helps.
Video Games
  • A genuine option in the Pathfinder pen & paper RPG, high level clerics have tiny chance (a matter of 3% or so) to turn the tide massively in their favour when all seems lost by praying to their god(s).
  • EarthBound has this in its final battle. The final boss is defeated by praying to everyone the protagonists have met on their journey, and the player.
Western Animation
  • This also happened at least once on The Simpsons, in "Bart Gets an F".

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