Follow TV Tropes


Prayer Is a Last Resort

Go To

"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.

Praying in this context is 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 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 because it is a sign of a desperation and a willingness to try anything. Overlaps with O.O.C. Is Serious Business if the person praying is an atheist.

Truth in Television, if the person doesn't regularly pray, and feels they have exhausted all other options. There are other cases such as people who pray regularly. These people usually do so as a first response, and then try to resolve the issue if that doesn't work or just praying for their attempts to succeed — and this is seen as normal among such people. Then there are the people whose first response is to pray for the strength to solve their problem themselves. Such people would include the Good Shepherd, the Religious Bruiser, The Paladin, other manly and religious men etc.

If the character issues the prayer as an ultimatum that will determine their belief in God, they're playing Religious Russian Roulette. If the character checks "All of the above" for the recipient of their prayer, then it's Emergency Multifaith Prayer. If the prayer is answered and the Man Upstairs saves the day, it's Divine Intervention and probably a Deus ex Machina, though to be fair it may not be out of character if God is the ultimate Big Good.

Related to Turn to Religion, where the character makes a more lasting conversion to faith after the current crisis is over.

See also Crisis of Faith, In Mysterious Ways, and God Is Good. Compare and contrast with Have You Seen My God? and Evil Stole My Faith. Supertrope to Say Your Prayers (where the character is actually about to die). An alternative with no religious connotations is "Good Luck" Gesture.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler: In the Pickle arc, Jack begins his fight against Pickle cocky and sure of himself... then he gradually finds out he's in way over his head, and ends up silently begging God to grant him victory, moments before Pickle gives him one hell of a beating and knocks him out.
  • Goblin Slayer: After watching everyone in her party get wiped out in truly horrendous fashion by goblins and the goblins turn to her, Priestess, well beyond the Despair Event Horizon at this point, prays to the Earth Mother as they close in. Fortunately for her, that's about the time when Goblin Slayer shows up.
  • In The Movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon is in a world where everything is Brought Down to Normal and isn't taking it well. He starts calling out to Christ, Buddha, Mohammamed, anyone to help him. And then Haruhi appears...
  • In One Piece, during the Skypiea arc, when Eneru's Kingdom Come attack is about to hit Upper Yard, the residents of Skypiea collectively pray for a miracle to save them. At the same moment Luffy disperses Kingdom Come by conducting all of the electricity in the storm cloud through the gold sphere on his arm into his rubber body.
  • From Puella Magi Madoka Magica's resident Anti Heroic Preacher's Kid, Kyoko as she is forced to take Oktavia (Sayaka's Witch forme) with her:
    "Hey God, if You're there, my life sucked. So for once, please, let me have a happy dream."

    Comic Books 
  • In the Chick Tract "War Zone", Principal Ward, confronted with parents of Westmont students who are angry about the state of the failing school, says he's tried everything, only for things to keep getting worse, and that, "The only thing I can think of is to... uh, pray for a miracle". He gets booed off the stands, but this being a Chick tract, prayer and converting students to Christianity is what miraculously gets Westmont back on track.
  • In the (in)famous DC comics miniseries JLA: Act of God, when all the magic/mythical power based heroes lost their powers, we see Diana (Wonder Woman) praying in a Catholic Church... did we mention Diana is more related to the Greek pantheon (and was in fact literally made by them) than to the Judeo-Christian one, or that she lives on a World where supernatural creatures and Gods are known to be real and commonly seen around with other heroes in a regular basis?
  • One of the Kaamelott comics has this. Father Blaise is brought along with the expedition, but since he's no good at fighting, they tell him to pray. Despite telling them it doesn't work that way, he keeps at it, and at the climax his holy symbol unloads a Turn Undead against the monsters. When asked how the hell he pulled that off, he reminds them that he's been praying for the past twenty hours.
  • In the Runaways tie-in to Secret Invasion, the team is captured by Skrulls led by Xavin's old mentor, who has most of the team incapacitated, except for Klara, the least combat-experienced member. Unable to fight back against a fully-trained Super-Skrull, god-fearing Klara prays for someone to save her and her friends... at which point a tree bursts out of the ground, creating enough of a distraction for the other Runaways to escape their bonds and fight back.
  • One issue of The Sandman (1989) has obscure superhero Element Girl Driven to Suicide because her powers make her look less than human. Since her powers prevent her from killing herself in any of the conventional ways, she finally appeals to the god Ra, who gave her the powers in the first place, to take them back. Ra agrees.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dirty Sympathy when Klavier and Apollo flee the country after Phoenix questions Apollo with the Magatama, Klavier prays to God to keep Apollo safe.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel fic Bring Me to Life, Willow, having been cornered by Warren and Amy and being drained of her magic by Warren's Ray Gun, gives a desperate prayer to The Powers That Be to save her. Her prayer is answered; Whistler shows up and drives Amy and Warren off.
  • In Godzilla: New Era has one in the finale by widower, Dr. Yuji Shinoda; who was traumatized by the lose of his wife and couldn't prior. In the final battle at Kyoto there are no possible options to stop the Millennian, which will unleash a nuclear doomsday if it isn't stopped. But most important to Yuji, the alien, now the berserk Body Horror Orga, is trying to get to his daughter and assimilate her. With no other options and remembering what Yuki taught him, he puts his faith in the one being left still attacking and capable of destroying Orga: Godzilla.
  • In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, John Constantine is worried that the Girl of Steel won't survive the next battle, so he resorts to pray — something he seldom does, even though he's quite aware of the existence of gods in the setting. As it turns out, his prayer is answered.
    "Hello, I know You're listening," he said. "Sorry to bother You in the middle of the day and all. Look, we're in a bit of a bind. I know y'got summat y'could have against me. Let's not get into that now, all right? I'm not askin' any favors for me, in particular. Well, I'd prefer not to go like instant-start charcoal, but what the hell, excuse me, that just slipped out.
    "I'm askin' for the kids. If they could be brought through this thing simon-pure, I'd really appreciate it. And the two Action guys, they shouldn't even be in this. Them gettin' their trousers burnt really wouldn't be Marquis of Queensbury. Now, would it?
    "But the thing I'm really askin'... the thing I'm really askin'... is for Miss, excuse me, Ms. Kara there. And maybe for her guy, too. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not poaching her. But the kid's got something to her. Makes me feel kinda good, hangin' around her. You know what I'm talkin' about? Well, I expect so. She's one solid gal, she is. And from what I've gathered here, she and that Dev guy haven't had much time together. So it'd be really bleedin' improper for one or both of ‘em to catch the night train prematurely, now, wouldn't it? I mean, wouldn't it?
    "So it's like... if'n You can bring ‘er through this... and maybe her man, too... You've got my marker. For whatever that's worth. I may have walked the fence, but I don't welsh. Ask me mates. I've gone hungry till next week's payday to pay off a bet."
    Constantine was silent for a second. Kara made no sound at all.
    "Want me to sweeten the pot? Well, what? All right, I'll go to church. Just once! What else? Ah, lemme see... oh, cripes, I would think of that. I don't really wanna do that. Oh, all right. If you get ‘em both through, I'll... I'll vote for Maggie Thatcher.
    "But just once!"
    There was a pause, and a sound of shoes scuffing. Then Constantine said, "Oh, one more thing. If that bloke Rao is anywhere in the block, he better come through for them. He blew it with Krypton. If he blows it with this one, I'll come up there and kick his ruddy pants for him. That's all."
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Duo:
    • In chapter 7, Nikora prays to Aqua Regina for advice, asking what she should do to protect Lucia and the other princesses, or if she can.
    • In chapter 15, Caren prays to Aqua Regina as well, wondering whether or not she should embrace her feelings for Subaru or block them out.
    • In chapter 20, Meru, out of loneliness, prays to Aqua Regina to help her find love like Lucia and the others have. Her prayers are answered almost immediately; she meets Kaito's cousin Makoto, and it's Love at First Sight.
  • The Loud House fanfiction:
    • In Birthday Breakfast, the twins are fighting. Lincoln tries shouting their names but they don't pay attention, he considers pulling them apart but is afraid of hurting them, so he just prays that they'd either get tired or grow bored of it.
    • In The Nightmare House, Lily can't go up the stairs fast enough to escape the monster in her nightmares, so all she does is sit down and pray it doesn't find her.

    Film — Animated 
  • Hey Arnold! The Movie: During the bus chase, Gerald starts reciting a Hebrew prayer.
    Arnold: I didn't know you were religious.
    Gerald: Neither did I.
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: Even after Kovu proves himself a good friend to Kiara, Simba still has doubts about him for being an Outlander, so he decides to speak to the stars, hoping that the spirit of his father could give him the answer as to how he could possibly accept Scar's heir. Fortunately, Nala shows up to help.
    Simba: I was seeking counsel from the Great Kings.
    Nala: Did they help?
    Simba: [sigh] Silent as stars. My father would never—
    Nala: Oh, Simba... You want so much to walk the path expected of you. Perhaps Kovu does not.
    Simba: What? How do you know what—?
    Nala: [giggle] I can see them down there as easily as you can. Get to know him and see.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The titular character of Bruce Almighty refuses to refer to God for help with his newfound omnipotence, even in the face of global disasters, mass rioting, and a seemingly unending backlog of unanswered prayers. There's only one thing that makes Bruce completely break down, get on his knees, and beg God to take back His duties: Bruce hears his ex-girlfriend praying not to love him anymore.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) (the Arnold Schwarzenegger 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!
    • Justified, in that in the original stories Crom will kill people who pray to him for direct aid.
  • Arnie (as Jericho Cane) also prayed toward the end of End of Days and since he's fighting off Demonic Possession from Satan himself, it's appropriate.
  • George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. It's downplayed in that his Guardian Angel Clarence has been looking out for him all along.
  • From Mad Max: Fury Road.
    Toast: What are you doing?
    The Dag: Praying.
    Toast: To who?
    The Dag: Anyone who's listening.
  • The Mummy (1999): Benny resorts to desperately running through prayers and religious icons when faced with the resurrected Imhotep. He gets nothing out of the cross, the representation of the Buddha or the Muslim crescent. But he's saved when he breaks out the Star of David and mumbles in Hebrew — Imhotep recognizes "the language of the slaves."
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Everett near the end, about to be killed by the Warden, asks God to save him. After being saved, he goes right back to being an atheist, denying that God had any hand in it.
  • 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.
  • In Space Jam, while all the NBA players who lost their talents are trying to figure out what happened to them and how to reverse it, Charles Barkley gets himself to church.
    "I promise I'll never swear again...I'll never get another technical...I'll never trash-talk..."
  • Played ham-fistedly straight in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, where Holly convinces Lola Beck to pray with her because they have nothing left to lose. Holly then proceeds to pray for God to send them an army of Angels to save them... as behind Holly Rico's Marauders can be seen dropping from orbit, and forming a Background Halo on her.
  • Played with in the opening Kobayashi Maru simulation in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. After Kirk enters the simulation room, Saavik asks for his suggestions, and he drily replies, "Prayer."
  • In United 93, a Tear Jerking and Real Life example is given when Todd Beamer recites the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with GTE airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson before they storm the cockpit. A few other passengers join in, too.

  • There is a joke about someone praying to God when about to be devoured by a bear, asking to make the bear a Christian. The bear says "Thank you for this meal I am about to receive."
  • There's one about a man praying to be be rescued, and another boat comes along, a helicopter comes along, and so on, and he turns all these down waiting for God to come save him. The man dies and meets God in the afterlife, so he asks "Why didn't you save me?" "What do you mean?" God replies. "I sent a boat, a helicopter..."
  • An atheist is about to be eaten by the Loch Ness Monster (or similar cryptozoological beast), and in his last desperate moment calls out to God for help. Time suddenly stops and he hears a voice from Heaven:
    God: Why should I help you when you never believed in Me before?
    Atheist: To be fair, five minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness Monster either!
  • There is an old saying: "There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole." The traditional response is "That's not an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes." Of course, it's not true literally. There's even an organization for atheists serving in the US military called "Foxhole Atheists".
  • A Good Ol' Boy is fixing his barn roof when he begins to slip. He calls out "God, save me!" as he falls. His overalls get caught on a nail, saving his life. Comically Missing the Point, he then tells God to never mind, as the nail saved him.
  • As the semester starts, an angel is sent to a technical school, a medical school and an artsy school to see how the students are conducting themselves. He comes back to God, reporting the medical students are studying, the artists are partying, and the tech students are partying even more. In the middle of the semester, he is sent again and reports both medical students and the artists to be studying, while the tech students are still partying. Then he is sent again, just before the exams, and comes back with the report that medical students are studying like crazy, with the artists close at their heels, while the tech students are praying. God decrees "They shall pass."

  • 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 luckily a submarine was passing nearby).
  • In the final book for Dr. Greta Helsing, the apocalypse is happening — angels and devils are slaughtered by an army of angels from another reality and humanity has nuked itself almost to extinction. The vampyre Varney is broken and feeling helpless, that all he can do is pray and beseech God for help. It works.
  • Discworld
    • Played with in Going Postal. Once when Moist von Lipwig, con artist turned postmaster, is in dire need of money to repair his post office which has just been burned down, he pretends to a) pray for divine guidance and b) get it before "discovering" his stash of loot from his conman days. Later, when he is in dire straits again, another character semi-sarcastically suggests he should go up to the roof of the Post Office and pray, which he eventually does — which is the cue some potential allies take that he's serious about wanting to help.
    • In Making Money, Moist does resort to praying to Anoia, Goddess of Lost Causes and Things Stuck in Drawers. When a very strange coincidence saves him from his ex-partner in crime Cribbins when the dentures Cribbins stole from a dead man years ago break and explode in the man's mouth, Moist resolves to make a thanksgiving offering of a really big ladle, just to be on the safe side.
  • Shows up a few times in the Heralds of Valdemar books. Justified at least once with the comment that a Herald's first instinct is to try and fix a problem, so they won't pray for help unless nothing is working.
  • Grimma's prayer while leading a search-and-rescue mission on a snowy night in the Nomes Trilogy is a thing of beauty:
    Oh, Arnold Bros. (est. 1905), she thought. Dorcas doesn't believe in you, and I certainly don't believe in you, but if you could just see your way clear to existing just long enough to find them, we'd all appreciate it very much. And perhaps if you could stop the snow and see us all safely back to the quarry as well, that would be a big help.
  • The Priest, the Scientist, and the Meteor has the priest praying to God to save Earth from the dinosaur-ghost ridden meteor. It works.
  • In Skin Game, Harry Dresden doesn't pray precisely to God, but does take an action in full Faith that God's Mysterious Ways will save the day and revive the shattered broken Sword of Faith. Harry hopes and has faith that Charity Carpenter, wife of Knight of the Cross Michael Carpenter, and her faith in God's Goodness and Greatness can mend the broken blade, saving her from the two hosts of Fallen Angels and cult of humans aiming to kill her, another man named Waldo Butters, and everyone in the Carpenter house. So, Harry lobs the hilt of the broken blade at Charity and she fumbles it, causing it to fall into the hands of Waldo Butters, who is more Geek than Jewish, but his deep Faith in Right overcoming Wrong, of Good triumphing, of the Sacrifice of One for the sake of others (which he ran into the fray expecting to die but at least stay the assault long enough for help to arrive) does revive the broken blade into the form best representing his ideal for those attributes: A blade of angelic light with a soft thrumm as it is formed. In short, a lightsaber. As Archangel Uriel notes later to Harry, it was a culmination of many prayers and acts of Faith that yielded that unexpected but beneficial outcome.
  • Lampshaded by H. Beam Piper in the story "A Slave Is a Slave". After a strawman liberal character has misquoted the Foundation line about "the last refuge of the incompetent", the viewpoint character muses that it is true in that "only an incompetent waited until the last resort to use force, and by then it was usually too late to use anything, even prayer."
  • Subverted in A Song of Ice and Fire. Arya Stark is captured by the Mountain That Rides, who selects a random prisoner each day for torture, interrogation and death. Nothing saves the victims; not resistance, co-operation, bribery or professions of loyalty. As a wannabe Pretty Princess Powerhouse, this passive role infuriates Arya and so originates the Prayer of Malice that she keeps up throughout the series; a recitation of the names of those she plans to kill herself.
  • Twilight Of The Red Tsar: Right before being put to death, Vyacheslav Molotov, an outspoken atheist before, becomes so terrfied with the prospect of imminent death that he asks the executioner to say a prayer. This request is denied When Stalin heards the story, he bursts into laughter and mockingly imitates Molotov saying the Lord's Prayer).
  • A Wolf in the Soul has a mixed example. Greg begins to question his disbelief in God surprisingly quickly, but his prayers are at first half-hearted because of his uncertainty. Even when he starts to believe and pray out of desperation, he does so merely because Holmes said it would help, and his prayers are still fairly rote and dispassionate. It is only when he sincerely thanks God for the existence of his best friend that he takes a major step towards being cured.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Attack of the Show! skit "Bustice and Power Girl Save The Nuclear Power Planet", said plant is about to go into meltdown, despite everything a pair of badly-acting white-coated technicians can do to stop it.
    "What can we do?!"
    "You're not a religious man, are you?"
    "Then I don't know what to tell you."
  • In the premiere miniseries for Battlestar Galactica (2003), Doc Cottle, a man of no particular or obvious faith, further hammers home Laura Roslin's prognosis to the audience.
    "I would seriously consider prayer."
  • Played for Laughs in The Big Bang Theory, when the website to buy Star Wars premiere tickets freezes and Sheldon resorts to what, to his usual standards, is extreme measures.
    Sheldon: [getting down on his knees] Lord, this is Sheldon Cooper. You're good friends with my mom. I know I've spent my life denying that you exist...
    Howard: GOT THEM!
    Sheldon: [gets up, still looking up] AND I WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO!
    • Not his first time doing so either. During the third time he ever begged in his life (least when Raj was counting), he was praying (or at least begging) to "the deity he didn't believe in" to end his suffering when Sheldon was struck with severe food poisoning.
  • Daredevil (2015). Discussed but averted by Wilson Fisk when Vanessa is poisoned and Fisk with all his wealth and power feels helpless to save her. He thinks it would be meaningless without the belief to back it up, so instead promises her that he will take vengeance on whoever it was who did this to her.
  • In Downton Abbey, Lady Mary prays for Matthew's safety in the war. She opens with "I know I don't have much credit with You. I'm not even sure if You're there", and her sister Edith is incredulous when she catches her at it, which shows just how out of character it is for her.
  • The Drake & Josh episode "Helicopter" sees the two step-brothers trapped on a helicopter with no fuel and no parachutes. In his panic, the paranoid Josh can see nothing else to do but get on his knees and pray very, very loudly about the most absurdly minor sins.
    "Dear Savior, I am sorry about the time I was 5-years-old and stole that piece of bubblegum! I am sorry about the time I watched that pretty lady's laundry spin in the dryer at the laundromat!"
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: In the Season 5 episode "Witness: Jesse Duke," Uncle Jesse, a witness to a bank robbery, has suffered a concussion and lost his eyesight (temporarily, as it turns out). When all available treatments are showing no signs of restoring his eyesight, Daisy breaks down in tears and recites a prayer to God to restore her beloved uncle's eyesight. Unlike many TV episodes, where this trope is used by a scoundrel to worm his way out of a situation he caused, prayer as a last resort is portrayed positively here: a family that, when the chips are down and all else has failed, turns to God and trusts in Him for things to be made right.
  • In Father Brown, Inspector Valentine gives prayer a try when faced with four disappearances, including Father Brown’s, and no clues. His attempt sounds more like he’s asking a disliked colleague for help with the case.
  • In Father Ted the title character is only ever seen praying when he wants something, usually to avoid getting into trouble. It rarely works.
  • One episode of House, M.D. has the husband of the patient-of-the-week, who has already moved heaven and earth to get her the best care, praying for her recovery. He admits that he doesn't think it will work, but he promised to do everything he could think of to help her, and praying is a thing he can think of.
  • In Kitchen Nightmares, in moments where the situation with the restaurant seems especially dire Gordon Ramsay will occasionally pray to the heavens to avoid food poisoning.
  • Little House on the Prairie: A common trope seen in many episodes, underscoring the deep Christian faith of the main characters. Mind you, the outcomes were not always positive — for instance, in "I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away," Charles and Caroline desperately pray for a miracle to save Mary's sight, but Mary goes blind anyway. Hence, the message was that even though things don't always turn out positively, God has a plan, often different than what the protagonists were hoping, and it is them that must decide how to deal with the conflict.
    • The above is lampshaded somewhat in the course of the two-parter, as it ends with Mary not only coming to grips with her blindness, but becoming a teacher for blind children. The Reverend Alden states during his sermon that "this must have been God's plan".
  • Discussed in one of Roseanne's final episodes. The family is gathered together with pizza after going through several recent cataclysms, most notably the premature birth and miraculous survival of Darlene's baby. Roseanne notes that they should say prayers before eating, rather than always waiting until something bad happens before turning to God.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajorans are a religious people (it doesn't hurt that their gods turn out to actually exist), though exactly how this plays out varies based on the individual. Kira is usually an Action Girl, not necessarily given to faith as the first answer for everything, but she'll turn to prayer when all else fails. The most notable example is in "Starship Down", after Sisko is gravely injured and she fears that he may be dying.
    Kira: I know my beliefs make you uncomfortable around me sometimes, and that maybe that's why you keep me at arm's length. But I don't care about that right now and I am going pray, because I don't know what else to do. I'm losing you and I can't let that happen.
  • Supernatural:
    • Referenced by Dean Winchester in Season 5. As the Apocalypse begins, the heroes conclude that the only party powerful enough to stop both the forces of Hell and Heaven from destroying Earth is the long-absent God, so they go looking for him.
      Sam: Go looking for God? Last I heard you wanted to kick God's ass [for allowing the Apocalypse to happen].
      Dean: Prayer: call it the last call of a desperate man.
    • Later in the season when Dean starts to hit rock bottom, he wanders outside and looks up at the sky, then tearfully says he needs some help.
    • Dean also attempts prayer once in Season 4 when he starts to crack under the pressure. Castiel encourages him, saying it's a sign of faith.
    • Mocked by the Yellow-Eyed Demon as he's about to slaughter a room full of nuns in 4.22 Lucifer Rising.
    • Dean prays again at the start of Season 9, when Sam is dying, specifically to Castiel, whom he's prayed to multiple times over the course of series just because it's the easiest way to get a hold of him. However, his reasons for praying are desperate and the last time he saw Castiel he was furious with him, so turning to him now is more desperate than usual. Then when he gets no response, (because Castiel was human at the time), he prays to any angel who can hear him, about 98% of whom probably want to kill him, because he needs help that badly.
    • Sam takes a turn doing this in Season 11. The latest big bad has unleashed a rage plague onto a rural hospital, and Sam is infected. While trying to invent a cure before succumbing, he visits the hospital chapel to ask for guidance.
    • In the Season 13 premiere, Dean prays to God / Chuck — who he's never cared for, and by this point knows is the cosmic equivalent of an airport novelist — because Castiel is dead and his mother is trapped in another universe, and he has no one else to turn to. Being Dean, he calls Chuck a son of a bitch while he's at it.
  • In the Ted Lasso episode "Beard After Dark", after being put through the wringer for most of the episode, Coach Beard finds himself in a church and ends up praying to God for a way to get back with Jane. He even lampshades the fact that he's a "long-time listener, first-time caller". The prayer works - the rain stops, allowing him to hear the rave music coming from the basement, where he finds Jane.
  • This is the Life and other Christian anthology series from the 1950s through early 1990s. Once again, prayer is often a sign of strength, an admission that secular ways of resolving conflict isn't always the right way (in fact, it is often the wrong way), and that by trusting God and His guidance, and walking in His ways, it may not make things "all better" but it will make us better people.
  • In the The X-Files Season 7 first episode, all Scully can do for a dying Mulder is to pray. It helps (this particular season-finale/season-opener trilogy was huge on hinting that Mulder is Jesus in purgatory, suffering for humanity, whose sacrifice might save us).

  • "Night Crawler" by Judas Priest features some victims being stalked by the titular beast.
    Sanctuary is being sought
    Whispered prayers, a last resort!
  • The second verse of "Hold On" by Sarah McLachlan:
    Oh God, if you're out there won't you hear me?
    I know we've never talked before—
    Oh God, the man I love is leaving,
    Won't you take him when he comes to your door?
  • Subverted in Steve Earle's "Tom Ames' Prayer", about a bank robber who finds himself "trapped in an alley in Abilene with all but four shells spent" and turns to God for the first time in his life... only to wind up bragging at length about that time he saved himself from hanging and concluding:
    "Yeah, but who the hell am I talkin' to, there ain't no one here but me."
  • This is the theme behind El-P's song "Flyentology", and not, in fact, a rap about flies or... other stuff. Specifically, it's about a guy in a soon-to-crash plane talking to God as it's in free-fall.
    I adore you,
    The same way that others always adored you,
    Emergency humility, just break glass.
  • Blatantly defied in Death Grips’ “Beware”, intersecting with Blasphemous Boast:
  • "Soon You'll Get Better" by Taylor Swift, which is about her mother's battles with cancer.
    Holy orange bottles,
    each night I pray to you.
    Desperate people find faith,
    so now I pray to Jesus, too.

  • An episode of the Dad And Dave radio show had the protagonists trapped on a hilltop about to be hit by a meteorite, leading to this exchange:
    Dad: If you know any prayers, better say 'em.
    Dave: A bunch of boys were whooping it up at the Malamute saloon...
    Dad: That's not a prayer!
    Dave: Oh. No wonder I never got an answer.

    Role Playing Games 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the board game Tales of the Arabian Nights some seemingly unwinnable situations can be salvaged or even turned to your advantage by selecting the reaction "Pray." It rarely hurts you and sometimes can pull out near-miraculous results like the evil Bedouin horde being chased off by a swarm of angry bees before they can attack you. Or the Evil Vizier who threw you in the dungeon mysteriously dying before he can order your execution.
  • In The Dresden Files RPG, one of the faith-based supernatural powers allows you to do this. When your party's in dire straits, if you have the power, you can pray to basically have the god of your choice smite your enemies and save your ass.
  • The Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons features this with Divine Intervention for Clerics. The Cleric prays to their god to get involved on their behalf; if it works, the Cleric can ask their god for basically anything, from healing the party to instantly smiting an enemy. The chances of it succeeding are very low — it only has anywhere from a 10-20% chance of working (depending on Cleric level). If this Divine Intervention roll fails, it can't be used again until the character has taken a long rest, so that's a wasted turn. But if Divine Intervention succeeds, it can't be used for a week in-universe, which might mean several more sessions before a Cleric can try it again. But if things are looking really bad, a Cleric praying to their god might be the one thing that prevents a Total Party Kill.
  • In Exalted, its noted that for the general populace praying to the Unconquered Sun is done only once the situation is past the Godzilla Threshold, because asking for his help would imply that giving Creation the light and warmth necessary for humanity's survival isn't enough. To quote Glories: "It is said that the Unconquered Sun's blessings come with a hard touch of disaster that leaves his subjects amidst the curse and ruin of his apocalyptic miracles. Because of this, prayers to the Most High often come in the form of thanks for rented light and another day's lease on life — for any day when the Unconquered Sun didn't act directly on their behalf is another day where his wrath was stayed."
  • A genuine option in Pathfinder, 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).
  • RuneQuest also features divine intervention as a low-chance (for most characters at least) last-ditch option. To make it even more of a difficult choice, a successful divine intervention also extracts a hefty price: the petitioner loses some points from his permanent POW attribute.

  • In Pippin, when Theo's duck Otto gets very sick, Pippin can do no more for it than kneel down together with Theo and pray all day. Then the duck dies.

    Video Games 
  • In the trailer for Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, the Imperium just got its ass kicked and a new rift to the Realms of Chaos has opened. The Imperial commander featured in the trailer can only sound the retreat for his fleet and pray to the Emperor for deliverance.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, the Golden Paladin Roland de Ronceval pulls out a crucifix and starts praying to the archangels as a last resort when he is defeated by Dracula. This fails because Dracula aka Gabriel Belmont is still God's chosen champion.
  • At the very end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Elder One Corypheus desperately prays to the Old Gods for help when he realizes he is about to die. It doesn't help.
    • In his first appearance it was his first resort, being a priest and all. His shock and despair over not getting a response (because his God Is Dead) fuels his entire character arc.
  • In Dragon's Crown, if the players take a long time trying to defeat the Arch Demon boss, Rannie, who is described as not being very religious, starts praying for aid. After a minute or two, beams of light will rain from heaven, damaging the Arch Demon heavily.
  • EarthBound (1994) 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.
  • In Legend of Legaia, after defeating Songi at Noaru Valley, the Great Genesis Tree appears to be on the verge of death, and is too weak to be revived. With the life of the Seru-kai and their own lives about to perish along with it, Gala suggests they turn to their faith as their last bastion of hope and pray for a miracle.
  • NetHack has this for all characters. If you haven't bothered your god too much lately, and you're in big trouble of some sort, there's a pretty good chance they will help you out.
  • In Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Sam resorts to his old Catholic prayers as the gang's jeep hangs over the edge of a cliff by its winch.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nanase pleads God to help her when she experiences death repeatedly through her fairy doll avatars while battling Abraham.
  • In Exterminatus Now, Flat-Earth Atheist Eastwood begs the god of law Tyrus for help when he is cornered by a gigantic spider demoness who has insinuated that she is going to rape and eat him (Eastwood is especially terrified due to his severe arachnophobia). Prayer really is the last resort here since he tried shooting himself first — it failed since he was already out of bullets. He is immediately struck with inspiration (which he initially mistakes for a fatal stroke — which he still thinks is better than being on a horny giant spider demon's menu) and saves the day.

    Web Original 
  • In Demo Reel, Donnie comes to this conclusion after he's been left in the woods to die, and has a rough few days with no food, shelter, or clean water.
    Donnie: Okay. I know I'm out of my element. So, I have reached the final act of desperation. After you've drank your own urine, eaten leaves, and committed possumcide, there's only one other desperate act one can make: prayer.
    (Cut to Donnie on his knees and looking towards the sky.)
    Donnie: I'm a worthless man, I'm a small man... I just need Your help. If You can give me anything, some sign, just a... a little bit of hope for me to cling onto, I will dedicate my life to making things better, not worse. And if not... I swear, I will sell my soul to Satan. I'll do it! I will find the nearest woodland critter, bludgeon it to death, and sacrifice it on a black altar of pine cones and tree sap!
    Donnie: ...Nothing? Nada? Okay.
    (Cut to Donnie now speaking to the ground.)
    Donnie: Hey, Satan, it's Donnie. Um. I know we haven't talked much before, but, uh... if you could just send me a woodland critter, and maybe some pinecones and some tree sap...

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Boondocks animated series, Huey exhibits this trope. After all his plans to save an innocent black man from execution have apparently failed, at the last minute, he breaks down and prays; saying that he's never prayed before, and isn't sure who he's praying to, but that he knows the world isn't supposed to be like this. Moments later, as they're about to flip the switch for the electric chair, lightning strikes Reverend Ruckus (just as he dares God to strike him with lightning if any of his racist preaching doesn't come from God himself). Then the governor calls off the execution as one of Huey's plans (threatening to expose the governor's gay affair, not knowing about one but figuring there was about a 5% chance that one existed) comes to fruition.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Brian, a notoriously outspoken atheist, prays to god when he thinks the world is ending (Channel 5 had been reporting that a black hole was about to consume Earth, which turned out to just be a mean-spirited prank by the news team). When it turns out that the whole thing was a hoax he stalks off to the soup kitchen, mumbling that he made a promise to Someone.
    • Peter in "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein", resorts to praying for a Jew to help him with the family finances. Granted, he "wishes on a star", but he kneels and clasps his hands in prayer. It's apparently granted, as soon as the song is over, a man named Max Weinstein knocks on the door and asks for help with his broken car.
    Peter: *singing* Now my troubles are all through/I have a Jeeeeew!
    Max: HEY!!
  • Gravity Falls: As he dies in the Grand Finale, Bill Cipher desperately shouts out a backwards prayer to the Axolotl, begging for it let him return to life. It doesn't work. Or does it? The "last resort" aspect is especially pronounced here because supplemental material indicates that the Axolotl is actually an enemy of Bill's, and he will have to pay a steep price for its intervention...
  • Quite a few Looney Tunes characters pray in hopeless situations, such as falling from great heights or while restrained and awaiting execution.
  • Parodied in Rick and Morty:
    • Rick prays to God for help when he thinks he's about to die, than immediately starts hurling verbal abuse and mockery at Him upon miraculously escaping, as if he somehow gamed the system.
    • A later episode has them at the mercy of Story Lord, a villain who wishes to exploit them for their story potential. Rick and Morty start praying to Jesus, which sabotages the Story Lord's machine since they're doing something wildly out of character as well as narratively unsatisfying. Through this they manage to literally invoke a Deus ex Machina as Jesus himself comes to save them. Morty's a bit conflicted since he's not sure whether or not this counts as a cheap shot towards religion.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Happened to Bart in "Bart Gets an F" and "Bart Sells His Soul". The page quote is taken from the former episode, as Lisa paraphrases the Samuel Johnson statement "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
    • Parodied in "Lost Our Lisa", when Homer says "I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!"
    • In "Missionary: Impossible", Homer ends up signing on to do missionary work in the South Pacific to get out of paying a huge sum to PBS, and objects that "I don't even believe in Jebus!" As the plane flies off he runs to the window and calls "Save me, Jebus!"
    • Marge is already fairly religious (and probably the only reason the family goes to church), but doesn't really incorporate religion into her daily life, except on three occasions when she succumbed to this trope. In "Hurricane Neddy" when Springfield was hit by a tornado, which ironically destroyed the Flanders house but spared everyone else, when Homer abandoned organized religion in "Homer the Heretic", and when she was on trial for attempted murder. Unfortunately, in that last case, the judges thought God was her imaginary friend and had her committed.
  • Total Drama:
    • Bridgette holds her palms together when she reveals her vote for Eva in the confessional in "No Pain, No Game". Eva's been gunning for her ever since she came back that morning, so Bridgette needs to be rid of her as soon as possible. Bridgette's sentiment is a common one, so Eva does get voted off that evening.
    • While the Total Drama Jumbo Jet is seemingly at risk of crashing in "Anything Yukon Do, I Can Do Better", Bridgette holds her palms together for that not to happen.
    • It takes some time, but eventually Leshawna realizes her team has given up on rescuing her in "Ocean's Eight - Or Nine". She knows she's got her own deceit to blame for that and begins monologuing half to the camera and half to her teammates. As she places her palms together, she proposes forgiveness for her misdeed.
    • The contestants are about to go over the Niagara Falls in their paddle boats in "Niagara Brawls" and there's nothing they can do against the strong current. Courtney is the first to resort to praying, promising one entity or another that she'll tutor anyone who asks, even a numbskull like Duncan, if she and the others survive. Duncan adds that if they get to live, he'll forget what Courtney just said. Cody one-ups the both of them by promising he'll let Sierra kiss him if they live, but admits he only makes the promise because they won't survive anyway. Sierra has other ideas and, with a kiss in mind, pulls off superhuman feats to save everyone.
    • Lightning falls a long way down from the zeppelin in "Up, Up, and Away in My Pitiful Balloon" and with nothing better to do with his time, he resorts to praying for a soft landing. He gets both that and, by landing on Jo, a vengeful landing.

    Real Life 
  • In Discordianism, prayer is generally inadvisable.
    Erisians seldom pray. The Goddess might be listening.
  • The last words of Voltaire were a play on this trope. He was asked to turn to God and renounce Satan on his deathbed, and he replied "Now is not the time to make new enemies." Voltaire was not an atheist, but a deist, believing God did not intervene, which went against the traditional dogma.
  • On September 11, 2001, the final words that GTE airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson had with United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer were the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. The passengers stormed the cockpit minutes later and crashed the hijacked plane into a rural field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • Hermit-thief Chris Knight, who lived apart from society in the Maine woods for more than a quarter of a century, is not a religious believer and does not normally pray. But sleeping in a tent in the depths of a New England winter... "That's when you do have religion. You do pray. You pray for warmth."