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Say you're a good guy. You suddenly find the Implacable Man
, Eldritch Abomination
, or some other terror is in front of you. There's no escape, no possibility of punching it out
, no amount of Heroic Willpower
is going to save you, and either death or a Fate Worse Than Death
Alternatively, say you're a bad guy and maybe the Badass Anti-Hero
you pissed off has finally caught up to you on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge
. Maybe you're just an unfortunate Mook
who turned a corner while walking your patrol in the Supervillain Lair
and came face to face with The Hero
Regardless of whichever side of the good/evil axis you find yourself on, you're in a situation where you're completely screwed, there's no way out, and you have only a matter of seconds until some unthinkable horror befalls you. So what do you do?
Some say "Oh, Crap
." Some put a curse on their killers
. Some have a last bit of bravado or badassery
. And some just quietly begin praying, knowing they are far too screwed for anything else to do any possible good.
Depending on the character and situation involved, this can overlap with anything from Go Out with a Smile
to Obi-Wan Moment
to Death Equals Redemption
This trope is not about telling
someone to say their prayers: That one is Prepare to Die
. Compare Prayer Is a Last Resort
This is a death trope, so be prepared for unmarked spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- The Preacher bit that details the Start of Darkness for The Saint of Killers had one of these. After coming Back from the Dead and taking over for The Grim Reaper, The Saint goes to take revenge on the outlaw band that prevented him from bringing medicine to his wife and child. The first member of the group that he encounters was an ex-priest who lost his faith, and the moment that said ex-priest sees the Saint he pisses himself and begins praying with as much fervor as he ever had.
- In a Sin City comic where The Mafia clashes with the girls of Oldtown, Dwight notes that one of the mobsters just stands there and begins praying in flawless Latin as the final massacre begins.
- In the X-O Manowar comic, the main character Aric starts out as a Visigoth warrior who hates Rome for slaughtering his family, and, by extension, Christianity. (The Romans having adopted Christianity by then.) In one scene he comes upon a group of Corrupt Priests and their guards tormenting and intent on raping a young girl. Aric surprises and kills the guards then advances on the priests, one of whom simply kneels there and prays in place until Aric decapitates him.
- In The Simpsons Comics issue "Survival of the Fattest", the Simpsons and the Flanderses are elected to live in a biodome. Circumstances lead to Homer's family and Ned's being trapped in the Flanders' shelter after it catches fire. Ned calls out a plan to save them, but after Homer admits he has no idea how to do it, Ned quickly launches into the Lord's Prayer ("Our father, art in heaven...")
- During the Punisher's rampage on the title characters of the "Slavers" arc of The Punisher MAX, one of Frank Castle's targets starts praying as he moves in for the kill:
Castle: Whatever he was jabbering, it wasn't English. Pavla was Albanian — maybe he was too. But I'd know the Lord's Prayer in any language. Gave him a moment. To just before the line about forgiveness.
- A common mook reaction to facing the Secret Six.
- In The Sandman, when Death comes for an old Jewish man, Harry, he tells Shema Yisrael, a prayer that Jews are traditionally supposed to say as their last words.
Harry: It's good that I said the sh'ma. My old man always said it guaranteed a place in Heaven. If you believe in Heaven...
- Humorous subversion in The Mummy. When encountering the eponymous Mummy for the first time, Dirty Coward Beni pulls out a cross and begins praying for help quietly. Then when that doesn't do anything he begins pulling out a series of religious symbols and doing the same thing in various languages. This continues until he pulls out a Star of David and begins praying in Hebrew, which brings the Mummy up short because, as an Ancient Egyptian priest, he recognizes it as "The language of the slaves" and decides to make Beni into a servant rather than a victim.
- In Batman Begins, Knight Templar R'as Al Ghul/Ducard appears to enter a position of calm meditation (although he doesn't say any prayers) just prior to his death.
- In Toy Story, as the army men report on Andy's birthday presents (and potential replacement toys), Mr. Potato Head crosses himself.
- In Mel Brooks' 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be, when the German air raid on Warsaw starts, the Catholic Dobish, fleeing to the cellar, crosses himself; immediately afterward, the Jewish Bieler signs himself with a Star of David.
- In The Cowboys, Jeb Nightlinger is about to be lynched by Asa Watts' gang, and asks for a moment to pray first. Asa complies. Jeb's prayer ends with him asking forgiveness "for those I have killed in anger... and those I am about to."
- In the film version of The Crucible, John Proctor and company recite the Lord's Prayer at the gallows as a final Take That against their persecutors because they shouldn't have been able to if they were truly against God.
- In Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski starts reciting a Hail Mary right before he gets himself killed on purpose.
- Titanic: A man is heard praying as he scrambles towards the lifeboats. Later, an emergency Mass is given by a priest as the ship starts tilting.
- In The Town, before an armored car robbery, Gloansy tells Doug and Jem "Say your prayers", which cues them to put on rubber nun masks (complete with veils).
- A blonde woman is riding on a two-seater aircraft when the pilot has a fatal heart attack. She radios the tower which assures her that they are experienced and will be able to help her get to the ground. They ask he her height and position and she responds "I'm 5'4" and in the front seat!" The tower says "Okay, repeat after me: Our Father, who art in heaven..."
- Flight of the Intruder: Major Frank Allen, after requesting a Mercy Kill from his Wing Man because he is badly injured and trapped in his plane after being shot down.
- In the Gaunts Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, after a bout of vicious street fighting, Gaunt and two of his troops are pinned down and about to be overrun by Chaos forces. He begins praying aloud, commending the souls of his troops to the God-Emperor. They are saved Just in Time by the arrival of Saint Sabbat and her bodyguard.
- Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi quotes from the confession of John Murrell, a "considerate" bandit who would allow his victims time to say their prayers before he cut their throats.
- In PLAGUE, the 4th GONE book, Hunter sings "As I lay me down to sleep", before being charred to death. Dekka Talent helps him sing it.
- In War and Remembrance Aaron Jastrow starts telling the Shema Yisrael when he's killed in the gas chamber in Auschwitz. (It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words).
- A few examples from the Left Behind series:
- The Christian on board the cruise liner stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no power leads the crew in a final prayer of salvation just before the Giant Wall of Watery Doom hits it in the Dramatic Audio version of Soul Harvest.
- A woman in New Babylon who took the Mark of the Beast is left desperately saying prayers to God during the supernatural Big Blackout caused by one of God's Bowl Judgments in Armageddon, despite the fact that she's utterly screwed.
- Chloe Williams in Armageddon leads an unsaved woman in a prayer of salvation before they both go to the chopping block.
- Demetrius Demeter and Lukas Miklos' wife in The Mark also lead people in prayers of salvation before their deaths.
Live Action TV
- A variant: There was an episode of ER where Kovacs was in the middle of a war zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and was just about to be shot by a death squad. He got to his knees and started to pray, and that combined with the cross he was wearing and the testimony of a local woman convinced the shooters that he was a priest and it would be bad luck to kill him.
- In flashbacks, some of Angelus's victims are revealed to have done this. His father recited the Lord's Prayer, and another character said the Twenty-third Psalm in the Buffy episode "Amends".
- Spoofed in "Tabula Rasa" when the Scoobies lose their memories. Xander starts praying when a vamp is about to eat him, but can't remember which religion he follows.
- A non-death example: In Season One of LOST, just before switching on the transceiver with a few minutes of battery life that may be their only shot of communicating with the outside world, Sayid mutters a quick prayer under his breath. It's weirdly sweet.
- In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a group of Buddhist monks being killed were saying prayers, not for themselves, but for the man who was shooting them.
- A Lifetime Movie of the Week found a woman being dragged into the woods behind her home. As her attacker tears off her clothes and rapes her, she begins to recite the 23rd Psalm. It doesn't stop the attack, but it provides her with a much-needed distraction from the horrible thing happening to her.
- In Vikings, the war band led by Ragnar attacks a Saxon army during the night, and begin massacring the camp, quickly dispatching the few soldiers who are awake. When the army commander finally wakes up and realizes what is happening, rather than attempting to rally his men he begins praying. Once he finally finishes the prayer it does look like he's going to try die fighting, but he's promptly incapacitated before he gets the chance.
- Happens in the Grand Finale of Poirot ("Curtain"): Hercule Poirot is dying of a heart condition, he has just killed the murderer he could not bring to justice through proof, and he has refused to take the amyl nitrite he needs for his heart condition. According to David Suchet, Poirot feels that he is afraid and "wonder[s] whether God will truly ever forgive him for his deeds, and, as a good Catholic, that thought troubles him deeply. For once in his life, Poirot cannot control the events around him." After an Obi-Wan Moment, as he is bedridden, isolated, and minutes closer towards his death, he prays to God for forgiveness and clasps the rosary in his hands while doing so, resulting in Death Equals Redemption. So heartbreaking.
- Subverted in Sabaton's The Caroleans Prayer. The chorus is the Lord's Prayer in Swedish, but it's in Thanks for a victory, rather than in resignation.
- When Leo in 'Parade' is just about to be lynched for supposedly murdering Mary Phagan, his last act is to recite the Sh'ma.
- In Miss Saigon, Kim prays before a shrine (though her specific religion is never stated) before killing herself.
- In Les Misérables, the rebels face a hopeless situation after repelling the first attack on the barricade. Their supplies are running low, the Parisians have not joined their cause, and they have pretty much resigned themselves to death the next day. Valjean prays not for himself but for Marius, that God will "bring him home". This is echoed in the epilogue when Valjean is on his deathbed, praying that God will go ahead and "bring me home".
- Due to the Relationship Values in the second Onimusha game, one ronin character may decide to sell his services to the Big Bad if you don't have a good relationship with him. If this happens the two of you will fight to the death just before that last couple of boss fights. If you win he'll collapse with a smile and will say the beginning of a Buddhist prayer several times before dying.
- The Final Boss of EarthBound can be defeated only when Paula prays for spiritual support from all the people you've met in the game. Including you.
- In Crash Twinsanity, when the teamed up Crash and Cortex fall into a bottomless pit. The duo have enough time to react before gravity kicks in. Cortex starts praying while Crash struggles to fly.
- In RuneScape you'll be saying your prayers a lot. Especially since praying can actually save your life in this game.
- The puzzles of Portal 2 are all based around physics-based puzzle solving. The artificial Announcer cheerfully tells you that "If the laws of physics no longer apply in the future, God help you."
- Might save your life in Nethack, since you entered the dungeon on your god's command in the first place. They won't smite any monsters, but they can and will help with most other problems if you haven't called on them too often.
- Thane's death scene in Mass Effect 3, although, in a subversion, he isn't praying for himself—he's praying for Shepard.
Kalahira, mistress of inscrutable depths, I ask forgiveness. Kalahira, whose waves wear down stone and sand. Kalahira, wash the sins from this one and set him on a distant shore of the infinite spirit. Kalahira, this one’s heart is pure, but beset by wickedness and contention. Guide this one to where the traveller never tires, the lover never leaves, the hungry never starve. Guide this one, Kalahira, and (s)he will be a companion to you as (s)he was to me.
- In Yahtzee Takes On The World, Rob is about to be killed and is told to say his prayers, he says okay Psalms 13 verse 7 or something of the like.
- Dr. Insano doesn't so much start praying as he does randomly screaming for Jesus and Santa to help him when confronted by a gun wielding Nostalgia Critic in Kickassia.
- In Paw Dugan's Top 10 Video Game Composers Cedric takes his vengeance on Paw. When cornered...
Cedric: Time to start saying your prayers!
Cedric: Stop saying your prayers!