A character is stressed or scared, and is confused at what to do. Things have gotten rough, and their faith is close to breaking. Or they could just be lonely and seeking a place to feel at home, and there's nothing like God's house to help them there. They often sit in a pew by themselves, thinking, or even praying to God about their situation. Sometimes a pastor comes in to talk to them, or another character from the series does. The question of why the church is being left unlocked and seemingly unsupervised even in the sort of neighbourhood where this would attract thieves and vandals is usually left unaddressed.
It's a common thing in dramas and Soap Opera shows for someone to go pray alone in the hospital chapel for the deathly ill person to pull through.
Seeking Sanctuary is a different trope in which the heroes of the story are being pursued by evil forces and they run into a church for protection.
Truth in Television, obviously, particularly in the case of the hospital chapel. After all, that's why they're there.
- In Code Geass, CC does this in the final episode.
- Hinako's attempt at this is the event that kicks off Bitter Virgin's plot. Daisuke's sister also sees Sanctuary towards the end of the story.
- Much of the world does this after news of the Tokyo blast in Future War 198X.
- Played for tears in Trigun — Wolfwood is shot and goes into the church, bleeding, begging forgiveness for his life by himself and begging to live only awhile longer. He doesn't.
- Cassidy does this in Preacher. (And no, it doesn't hurt him, either.)
- Spider-Man villain Venom's origin story: Eddie Brock, down-on-his-luck reporter, is contemplating suicide in a church◊ while Spider-Man is trying to escape from the Symbiote. After he successfully drives it off, it bonds with Eddie, and Venom is born.
- In The Punisher's Franken-Castle arc Morbius sits alone in Monster Metropolis' church, seemingly to overthink what to do with the Bloodstone in his possession.
- Played in the creepiest way in The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Frollo singing "Hellfire".
- The Queen Mother (Anne Parillaud) does this in the 1998 film version of The Man in the Iron Mask.
- In Interview with the Vampire, Louis visits the church on his old plantation. It's a rare case of self-inflicted Last-Second Chance.
- Cole in The Sixth Sense is sitting in a church by himself when Bruce Willis goes to talk to him.
- Cool Hand Luke does this at the end, with Luke sneaking into a church to talk to God. Mocked in MAD's parody of the movie. "Lord, please, just give me a sign, any sign of what to do!" God sends a sign on the altar in front of him: "GET LOST!"
- In the very first scene of John Woo's The Killer when Sidney Fung meets Ah Jong at the church, he asks if he believes in God. Ah Jong replies in the negative but that he "enjoys the tranquility here," making it clear that the church is a place of peace for him. The church gets blown to hell during the course of the final shootout.
- Kevin on Home Alone is lonely on Christmas night, so he goes to the church to hear the choir sing.
- In The Sound of Music, Maria sits contemplating in the church, and the reverend mother comes and talks to her.
- Ronnie's father in The Last Song often went to the church alone to play the piano, contemplating his past life before cancer.
- In Easy A, Olive feels bitter when she enters a confessional and spills out all her insecurities, only to find out later that no-one was in the other half of the cell. (Of course, the whole point of God is that no human can replace Him, so...) The 'solitude' part of the trope is especially important because the bullies victimizing her are mostly religious fundamentalists. Olive correctly anticipated they would not be in the church they claim to honor so much.
- In Sodom's X - A Song For The End, one of the characters, Parini, sneaks off to the church at night time.
- Harry Dresden broods in the sanctuary of St. Mary of the Angels a few times. At least once an archangel shows up to chat while he's there.
- Sarah Miles in The End of the Affair often seeks refuge in a church after the, well, end of her affair.
- Charles Smithson from The French Lieutenant's Woman seeks solace in an empty church after committing adultery with Sarah.
- In Warrior Cats, occasionally a character will visit the Moonstone or Moonpool to commune with the spirits of their ancestors when they are troubled.
- In the television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, Charles visits the chapel at Brideshead to reminisce about his experiences with the Flytes.
- Happens several times in Criminal Minds:
- At the end of "Lucky", Morgan, who's been dealing with a crisis of faith, goes to church for the first time in years. Ironically, he's there because his 'baby girl' Garcia is mad at him, and refused to spend the evening with him. As a result of that she gets shot by her date. The team can't reach him to tell him because he's turned his phone off in church. Morgan lampshades it in the next episode asking Reid "What are the odds that the first time I pray in twenty years, she's on the table?"
- Prentiss subverts the trope in "Demonology", when she walks home instead of leaving with the team when Silvano is finally captured. She ends up outside a church (which she hasn't been in since her abortion at fifteen) and while she looks longingly at it, the last shot is of her deciding not to go in.
- Gideon ends up in a church at some point for himself (I'm blanking on when it is), but he also follows a young girl into one in "The Popular Kids". She confesses what's really been going on with the murders the BAU is investigating and she blames herself, though Gideon tries to help.
- Doctor Who: "The End of Time" begins with Wilfred Mott doing this after having unsettling nightmares. The church he goes into just so happens to have the TARDIS depicted in one of its stained glass windows...
- Dr. Gregory House occasionally goes to the chapel of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. Never to pray, of course; it's just a place where a) nearly everyone who comes in there is going to be quiet and self-absorbed and (the key part) not bother him and b) it's not a place that would logically come to the mind of anyone who actually knows him even slightly, so it's a good place to hide from Cuddy/Wilson/The Fellows.
- In episode 10x12 of NCIS, Ziva David sits alone in a synagogue after her father is killed.
- Played for Laughs in Peep Show: Jeremy stumbled across Mark praying in the church on the latter's (much dreaded) wedding day. Mark unconvincingly insisted he was simply "kneeling".
- The West Wing: It features President Bartlett giving God himself a chewing out in the National Cathedral after the funeral of Mrs. Landingham.
You're a son of a bitch, you know that? She bought her first new car and you hit her with a drunk driver. What, was that supposed to be funny? "You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God," says Graham Greene. I don't know whose ass he was kissin' there, 'cause I think you're just vindictive.
- Wayfarers Moon: Lily is rather surprised to see Iri joining her as she prays to one of their gods.
- During an Animaniacs sketch, Dot goes in search of quiet, but is thwarted at every turn, even in a church.
- Moral Orel does this quite often.
- In the South Park episode "Cartmanland" after Kyle gets a hemorrhoid, he goes to the synagogue to contemplate by himself. He yells at God and wonders how this could have happened to him.
- Wolverine does this in X-Men, shown here◊. Rogue notices him from the back of the church and her eyes well up with tears.
- Spoofed in The Simpsons, "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson":
Homer: *kneeling in a church* I've never reached to you before but my wife is in her hour of need. Your help could make all the difference in the world.
[Reveal Shot shows that he's actually talking to a group of gangsters]
- Some episodes have Ned Flanders praying alone in church when in a dilemma, such as "Hurricane Neddy" and "Homer and Ned's hail Mary Pass".