It depends on the occasion and the religion, but a lot of prayers are pretty serious. Even most prayers that aren't serious, or are even lighthearted, aren't really meant to be funny. In fiction, however, prayers can be comedy gold.
There are many places the humour comes from. Maybe the prayer is ludicrously short (like grace with just the words "thank you") or long (for instance, a Long List of people the character wants God to bless). It could also be humorously casual— maybe it uses words like "hey" or "what's up?" or lacks words like "Dear Lord" or "Amen".
Maybe the prayer is for something crazy— maybe it's treating God like a genie or Santa and asking for something like a pizza or a dog or a rocket launcher, or maybe it's praying that something crazy doesn't happen (e.g. "Dear God, please don't let me get abducted by aliens, Amen.")
They might be a bit hesitant/unsure what to say since they've never prayed before or are worried that they're "bothering" God, or they might start asking God about His personal life.
They might also be praying to someone crazy, like Lady Gaga or the Easter Bunny, possibly as part of an Emergency Multifaith Prayer, which could also qualify as a Silly Prayer if the character is praying to a deity they do not believe in.
Sometimes doubles as characterisation for someone who's either very religious (sometimes The Fundamentalist but not necessarily) or who doesn't care that much about religion. Either way, they could also be a joker or even a Cloud Cuckoolander. The prayer could also reveal that the character is Egocentrically Religious or Holier Than Thou.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: One early episode begins with Sho praying to a poster of Osiris the Sky Dragon for good grades on an upcoming exam.
- One short strip in Archie Comics had Veronica's young cousin praying to God to make Montreal the capital of Canada. When Veronica asks why he asked for that, he replies because that was what he had answered on his geography test.
- Bloom County had Milo give a semi-silly Thanksgiving prayer:
(panel 1) Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank thee for the Thanksgiving turkey before us...(panel 2) A turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human-like compassion...(panel 3) ... Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family...(panel 4: Milo has been ejected from the house) ... AMEN!
- In a strip of The Far Side, a dog prays to be able to see colour, along with his family and two other dogs named Rex and Tucker.
- FoxTrot: One week long arc has Jason having a nightmare where he is tormented by Lara Croft coming on to him (Jason is still at the Girls Have Cooties stage). The last strip of the arc has him explaining this to his 16 year-old brother Peter: telling him how she kept tackling him, pinning him to ground, kissing, and generally acting she wanted him to be her boyfriend. Peter, meanwhile, is looking like he is about have a stroke and/or strangle his brother:
Jason: It was total nightmare.Peter: Jason, are you aware of that special, extra prayer I say every night?
- Pearls Before Swine: One is said by Larry the Croc when he tucks his son into bed.
Larry: Now me lay me down to sleep. Mow dem zeebas down like sheep. Give dem to me nice and dead. Me no happy 'til me fed.
- Downplayed for this grace. It's a pretty generic prayer in terms of content, but the humour comes from the fact that it's to the tune of The Addams Family theme.
- There are some joke stickers based on Calvin and Hobbes that usually either feature Calvin peeing on things or praying. One of them combines the two by having Calvin saying, "Lord forgive me for peeing on everything."
- Religion on the Discworld is a complicated thing. A.A. Pessimal presented worship and prayer in the Church of Blind Io as a combination of the Anglican Church of England's Book of Common Prayer and lyrics from Blue Öyster Cult songs. note
- In Peeking Through the Fourth Wall (where characters from The Loud House MST their fanfiction):
- The episode about One Angry Person has the fanfic version of Lincoln muttering angrily in bed, to which Lucy remarks that it sounds like her nightly prayers.
- One episode has Lori say that, according to the behaviour of the characters in the fanfiction, Lincoln is Satan. Lana says to Lucy, "Oh, so Lincoln is the person you pray to every night."
- In Despicable Me, Edith prays not to have bugs crawl into her ears and lay eggs in her brain at night, then Agnes prays to be adopted by a family with a pet unicorn.
- In The Iron Giant, Hogarth says grace but tries to hide his commands to the giant robot's hand in his prayer, which makes his prayer seem rather strange.
Hogarth: "Oh my God! Uh, oh, my God, we... thank you... for the food that Mom has put in front of us and— STOP!— uh, the Devil from... doing bad things and— GET OUT OF HERE!— uh, Satan? GO, GO!... so that we may live in peace. Amen."
- During a debate in The Campaign, after Cam Brady brags about his Christian living, his opponent Marty Huggins challenges him to recite The Lord's Prayer. Cam doesn't actually know it, and so watches his campaign manager Mitch perform charades, getting most of it wrong.
Mitch: mimes passing a footballCam: Forgive us...pass...forgive our passes we commit sometimes on womenfolk with their dresses that are on too tight. Like...baby, that's a nice caboose you got on your... wait, that's not part of it!Mitch: starts dancing, first to one side, then the otherCam: Forgive our trespassers, and do not lead us to The Temptations, because we are tired of them and their dancing.
- Catch Me If You Can: When asked to say grace at the home of his girlfriend, Frank Jr (who has never done so before) instead recites his father's go-to inspirational story:
Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.
- In The Fast and the Furious, the team has a barbecue and the duty of saying grace falls on Jesse for being the first to grab some food. It goes something like this:
Jesse: Dear Heavenly, uh...Leon: Spirit.Jesse: Spirit. Thank you. Please bless this meal which we are about to eat. Also, thank you for direct port nitrous injection, four-core intercoolers, ball-bearing turbos, and titanium valve springs. Amen.
- In Jennifer's Body, Needy gives a surprisingly serious (but still darkly comic) one as she sees Jennifer eating Chip and prepares to kill her for real this time.
Needy: St Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, please give me the power to totally crush this bitch.
- Meet the Parents Early in the film Jack (the prospective father-in-law) requests that Greg (the prospective son-in-law who is Jewish and implied to be atheist) say grace for the evening meal. What begins as a modest attempt at a prayer slowly and uncomfortably devolves into lyrics from Godspell
- In the "Part II: Growth and Learning" part of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, the Chaplain at a British Boy's Academy leads the student body into prayer which can only be described as mindless flattery. After the prayer is done, the Dean tells everyone not to rub linseed oil into the school cormorant (it Makes Just as Much Sense in Context) and tells a student that their mother died before the Chaplain leads the students into a psalm begging God not to cook them all in various ways in Hell.
O Lord, please don't burn us.Don't grill or toast your flock.Don't put us on the barbecueOr simmer us in stock.Don't braise or bake or boil us,Or stir-fry us in a wok.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail featured the blessing of the Holy Hand Grenade:
And St. Attiler raised the grenade up on high and said "O Lord, bless this thy Holy Hand Grenade for with it thou may blow thine enemies to tiny bits in thy mercy"; and the Lord did grin, and the people feasted upon the lambs, and sloths, and carps, and anchovies, and breakfast cereals, and orangutans, and fruitbats and lar—
Bro. Maynard: Skip a bit, brother.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: Aunt Bethany, Clark's aunt who is senile, instead of doing the usual Christmas dinner prayer, instead does the Pledge of Allegiance.
- In School of Rock, Dewey and the kids have a group prayer before their Battle of the Bands performance.
Dewey: God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people's minds with our high-voltage rock. In your name we pray. Amen.Kids: Amen.
- In Serenity, Mal stealthily announces his presence to Inara by coming to the convent she's in, slipping up next to her as she kneels in front of a Buddha, and asking it for things, ala a child's letter to Santa Claus:
Mal: Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocketship...
- In Spaceballs, Barf begins to recite The Lord's Prayer as fast as he can when the Winnebago crashes on Vega's moon, much to Lone Starr's annoyance. See, Lone Starr had asked for a "reading," meaning from the ships instruments.
- Ricky Bobby prays to "Lord Baby Jesus" in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, thanking him for a "red-hot smokin' wife" and for all the fast food brands he's contractually obligated to sell.
- In one The Berenstain Bears book, Brother and Sister try to stall going to bed by saying a very long prayer asking to bless a whole lot of people.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
- When Greg's grandmother can't find something, she prays to find it, and apparently it works every time.
- When Greg owes his friend's dad money, he prays for him to be hit on the head so he forgets about the money, and also to be able to beat a video game. He then ends his prayer with "Amen, and thank you in advance."
- Defied in Flanders' Book of Faith, a licensed book from The Simpsons. Ned Flanders considers starting a prayer with "Howdy-doo, lord", but then decides against it.
- In a Hetty Feather book, Hetty is asked to say grace, but she's never heard of it, so she literally says the word "grace".
- In The Four Gospels, Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector features a religious leader at the temple who absurdly spends his entire prayer bragging to God about how much more righteous he is than other people. The Aesop is that this prayer actually reveals he is less right with God than the tax collector who humbly prays for mercy for his own sins.
- In Going Postal, Moist delivers a prayer in the form of a letter to several temples, asking for enough money to repair the Post Office. This is actually just a prelude to collecting the stash from his con tricks, which he claims to have found thanks to "divine guidance". Since this results in a lot of interest in the religions he picked, and not only do Gods Need Prayer Badly, but churches need collection money badly, nobody involved seems particularly inclined to say the gods don't do that.
- The Honor Harrington short story "A Ship Named Francis" overlaps this with Black Comedy. Morning prayers on the Francis S. Mueller consist of the Chaplain imploring God to not let all the various things that theoretically can go wrong on a spaceship and kill the entire crew actually happen. In excruciating detail, for fifteen minutes.
- The Mill on the Floss: Tom Tulliver, unhappy at Mr Stelling's school, adds to his prayer the following: "And please to make me always remember my Latin." He pauses a little to consider how he should pray about Euclid and geometry, and then adds: "And make Mr Stelling say I sha'n't do Euclid any more. Amen."
- "Vespers" by A. A. Milne is about Christopher Robin supposedly saying his prayers but actually getting distracted and clearly only saying them by rote when he remembers again. At one point he asks God to make Nanny good.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get!"
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Rhinitis Revelation", Sheldon's mom Mary takes the gang to church, where they attempt to pray. Mary's prayer starts off as you'd expect, but ends with "...not to coldcock [Sheldon] with my Bible." Penny's prayer goes "Hey God, wazzup? I'm good, but it would be a big help to my family if you could get my brother to stop cooking meth. But no cops, be cool." Leonard asks God to make him taller and for help with his long-distance relationship. Howard skips praying, and Raj needs to drop those last five pounds.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "Show Me Going", Gina prays like this when she and Amy are trying to fix the broken toilet while Rosa is in an active shooter situation.
Gina: First, let's say a prayer. Dear Beyonce, Solange, Rihanna, someone cool that's white, Cardi B, please bless this flush. A-women.
- An episode of Doctor Who begins with Amelia "Amy" Pond as a child, praying to Santa to fix a crack in her bedroom wall.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In one episode, when Ashley is asked to say grace at dinnertime, she raps it instead:
''Hey there, Lord my name is Ashley Banks,My family and friends wanted to give you some thanks,So before this dinner is all swallowed and chewed,Thank you Lord for this stupid food!''
- In a Thanksgiving Episode of Happy Days, Fonzie does the comically small prayer of "Hey God, thanks!".
- In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, when Barney goes to church after hearing he may have gotten one of his one-night stands pregnant:
Hey God, it's me, Barney. What up? I know we don't talk much, though a lot of girls call out your name because of me. Awesome. But God...If you can get me out of this...I swear I will never, ever, ever, ever- [phone rings] Ooh, hang on, bro.
- Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H does a twist on the children's bedtime prayer in the episode where the personnel are bunking with each other during a cold snap:
Father Mulcahy: Now I lay me down to sleep,
A bag of peanuts at my feet.
If I should die before I wake,
Give them to my brother Jake.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: Detective Parson of the Church Police conducts a prayer to uncover the murderer of the Bishop of Leicester:
Everyone: O Lord, we beseech thee...tell us who croaked Leicester?
(God's hand descends and points to Kraus)
Kraus: It's a fair cop but society is to blame.
Padre Bruce: (rapidly) O Lord we beseech thee, have mercy on our faculty, amen.
- The prayer the Bruces conduct cuts to the chase:
Bruce #3: Amen! Crack the tubes!
- Never Have I Ever has this in the very first scene. Among other things, she greets the gods with: "Hey gods, it's Devi Vishwakumar, your favorite Hindu girl in the San Fernando valley. What's popping?" She also asks for the opportunity to turn down drugs (but not actually take any, just turn them down); a mega hot boyfriend (brains not required, she's happy with a Brainless Beauty); and thinner arm hair.
- In one episode Van jokingly slips in a request for a convertible when praying for something. He later finds a toy convertible in a box of cereal, which he takes as a good omen.
- During the episode "Issues", Brock and Barbra Jean videotape themselves in bed, per the suggestion of a doctor, to find out why Brock has been sleep-deprived lately. The footage starts with a long prayer session from Barbra Jean. Brock fast-forwards through the prayer session, during which he loses patience, gets up, and practices on his golf swing briefly.
- One sketch of Saturday Night Live involves a very religious woman (played by Rachel Dratch) who constantly prays to God to help her with things through the day — and that is pray for her husband's safety when he's driving, giving God a step-by-step breakdown of the man's route, and pray for her rice to not get stuck, among other similar persnickety requests. It's become so annoying to to the people upstairs that Jesus arrives to the woman's house to ask her to stop, but his angry ranting leaves the woman in hysterics and Jesus has to calm her down and take it back before erasing her memory and leaving. The sketch ends with her praying for her favorite talk show to start on time.
- True Blood: In Season 5, when religious extremists take over the Authority and start up a human trafficking ring, there's a scene where the Chancellors in the Authority have a human man tied up and naked before them. Before they feed on him, Russell sarcastically asks if they should say grace, and Steve mockingly recites this prayer:
Steve Newlin: There once was a cock and a hen who gave lunch to a goose in a pen. "Good Lord," said the goose, "bless this food for our use, and us to Thy service." Amen.Russell Edgington: Charming.
- Bo Burnham gives a very satirical example in "Rant". The entire song being a criticism of organized religion, the second verse is a long prayer, in which the churchgoers refer to God by several different and increasingly critical names, thank him for making them "Rich and White", and end up asking for him to fix their dog's leg surgery before tackling things like rape, war, and Soulja Boy.
- The Janis Joplin song "Mercedes Benz" consists of the singer praying to God for a number of expensive items, starting with the titular luxury car.
- Spoken: Victor Buono's "The Fat Man's Prayer" begins thusly:
Lord, my soul is ripped with riot
Incited by my wicked diet,
"We are what we eat," said a wise old man
And Lord if that's true I'm a garbage can.
- On the Dad and Dave from Snake Gully radio show, there is an episode where the eponymous duo are about to be hit by a meteor, leading to this exchange:
Dad: If you know any prayers, better say 'em.Dave: (reciting) A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon. The...Dad: That's not a prayer!Dave: Oh. No wonder I never got an answer.
- Fire Emblem Fates: Izana has a tendency to start his divinations with "Oh, ancient gods... What's up?"
- Left 4 Dead 2: has Coach's prayer in the campaign "Dead Center".
Coach: Everybody, gather around...lets pray. Dear lord, see us safely through our time of trial in this mall...and please lord, let the food court be okay. Keep an eye out for the evac center...also the food court, I am starving! Amen.Rochelle: Lord have mercy on Coach, and spare the food court!
- Star Control: The Spathi, Lovable Cowards that they are, have the following daily prayer according to one you find early in the second game: "Oh, God, please don't let me die today? Tomorrow would be so much better!"
- In El Goonish Shive, when Ellen prays before copying Nanase's guardian form (because the characters aren't sure whether it's a gift from God), she starts "God? It's me El— wait, you're God. You know who the hell this is. Sorry for thinking 'hell'."
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir, who is not the most assertive person, tries praying for good luck and protection. His initial prayer is clumsy, but to the point, but things go downhill after he adds "bless you" at the end:
Reynir: Oh, I'm not insinuating that I have the power to bless you. You blessing me is what I was getting at. Wait, that sounded way too demanding! I didn't mean to, I just —! Forget I said anything, I'm sorry I bothered you! Please don't smite me because of this, I'm so sorry!
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: In page 27, "got to church", Sweet Bro notices that Hella Jeff is "PRAYING WRONG", because he's holding his hands too far apart. For the rest of the comic, Sweet Bro struggles to force his friend's hands into the correct position, with no success.
- John Scalzi wrote a science-fiction Thanksgiving grace (the prayer before you dive into all that food). If the link ever goes dead, it's also in the short-story collection A Very Scalzi Christmas.
- In Ursula Vernon's Twitter story "Nameless Sheep", the Sheep prays for guidance:
Err... hello, gods!
Snowfleece Maiden and Thunderer and Bird-Talker and ... um ... everybody...
Honored ancestors, you too.
It's me! I don't have a name any more! I'm working on that, though. You probably know who this is anyway. Being gods and all. Or ancestors. Well, I assume you know.
So it's been a couple of days and I'm not dead! I think that's pretty awesome! Thank you! I did a lot of the work, obviously, but I imagine you kept anything horrible from happening.
I appreciate that. So, uh ... I'll keep doing what I'm doing, and if you could keep on doing what you're doing, that'd be great! Thanks again!
- The Cleveland Show: Most of the prayers Reverend Jenkins says are these. An example from "American Prankster":
Reverend Jenkins: But no sinner is more doomed than the wicked child! Who is an affront to the mighty Harlemites who trotted the globe to smack the generals! As Saint Louis said to the Ferrignos: "Don't make me angry!"Attendants: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."Reverend Jenkins: Amen!
- In the Family Guy episode "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven", as the family prays over their breakfast, Peter asks God for cheat codes to advance further in the game Punch-Out!!, citing how he has been stuck on Bald Bull for the past four years.
- In the The Loud House episode "Fool's Paradise", Lana prays for her pets, including her ant farm.
- A secular version occurs in the first Madeline special. As their grace before meals, the twelve little girls normally say "We love our bread, we love our butter/But most of all, we love each other." But when Madeline is in the hospital, the other girls are so distracted by missing and worrying about her that they make silly mistakes in their daily routine, and at dinner, they say "But most of all, we love our butter."
- Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension: When she runs out of ideas on how to bring Candace back home, Stacy resorts to building a shrine and praying to the "Mysterious Force":
Stacy: (while building a shrine with fruit bowls, flowers, Mr. Miggins, and pictures of Candace, Phineas, and Ferb) Look, Mysterious Force, I feel a little awkward talking to you since I didn't believe in you at first cause, you know, it's crazy. But then I saw you... eat my friend, so I made a little shrine here. It's uh, It's nice, there's a banana and uh- oh, oh, oh! Mr. Miggins! So um, I hope this makes up for the whole disbelief thing. Are we uh... Are we good?
Stacy: (on her knees) Oh, Mysterious Force! You can see I'm really trying here! Please bring back Candace!Candace: (appears behind her) Hi, Stacy.Stacy: (Beat) ...And... I also want a car!
- Later, when Candace returns to Earth:
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: The episode "Robin Hoek" opens with Ren and Stimpy saying their prayers before going to bed.
Stimpy: And please bless Grandma and Grandpa...Ren: And please give me a million dollars, and a fridge with a padlock, and... Oh yeah, huge pectoral muscles...
- The Simpsons:
- In "Bart Gets an F", Bart prays for one more day to study and calls himself God's pal.
Bart: This is the end of the road. I haven't always been a good kid. But if I go to school tomorrow, I'll fail and be held back. I need one more day to study, Lord. I need your help.
Lisa: Prayer, the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Bart: A teacher strike, a power failure, a blizzard. Anything that'll cancel school. I know it's asking a lot, but if anyone can do it, you can. Thanking you in advance, your pal, Bart Simpson.
- Discussed in the episode "Black-Eyed Please" where Ned Flanders wants to pray for Homer Simpson in the hospital but Homer wants Ned to pray to Superman. Ned refuses.
I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!
- This one is a Call-Back to "Lost Our Lisa", where Homer makes his famous prayer:
- In "Bart vs. Thanksgiving", after Bart gets sent to his room for ruining Lisa's Thanksgiving centerpiece, a sore Homer leads the rest of family in saying grace at the dinner table.
Homer: And Lord, we're especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is... except for solar, which is just a pipe dream. Anyway, we'd like to thank you for the occasional moments of peace and love our family's experienced. Well, not today. You saw what happened! Oh, Lord, be honest. Are we the most pathetic family in the universe or what?!All: Amen.Selma: Worst prayer yet.
- In "The Wife Aquatic", when Homer and Bart go overboard after the fishing boat they were on capsizes in a ferocious storm.
Homer: Oh, Mother Sea, giver of fish, taker of boats, toilet to the world. The Greeks call you Poseidon, the Romans... Aquaman. Look into thy starfish heart and protect our souls so we might live to go tubing on thee again. (beat) Do you think your mother will ever remarry?Bart: In about two seconds.Homer: Why you little—?! (strangles Bart)
- One episode features Bart giving this little gem in place of grace before dinner:
Bart: Rubba-Dub-Dub, thanks for the grub.
- Exaggerated in "Pray Anything" as Homer starts praying for every little thing like getting a new kind of food to helping Bart with his homework instead of him. When Marge tells him he can't just expect God to fix every problem he has, Homer bluntly tells her he can and will. Praying works all the time. As more of Homer's prayers are answered he stops asking for help from God and expecting it. Even finishing one prayer with "I command you". His good fortune spins out of control.
- "Fatzcarraldo": When Homer can't find any restaurant to his liking (as the majority is switching to health-based foods):
Homer: Heavenly Father, I know you're a friend of the eating man. You created Sunday so we can have brunch. Please, O Lard, shower me with your divine grease and deliver me some egg rolls, or pizza, or hot dogs — whatever I can eat while driving. For thine is the flower and the gravy forever. Amen-u would be great. [Homer sees a sign advertising chili dogs at the next left] Thank you!
- In "Bart Gets an F", Bart prays for one more day to study and calls himself God's pal.
- Squidbillies: Early's prayer to Squid Jesus in one episode in an attempt to get the Devil out of Rusty:
Early: Dear Jesus I beseech thee, please give me the magic power to shred faces and explode the brains out the neck with a panty-tearing solo power. Amen.Squid Jesus: (appears) No. (disappears)Early: (Beat) ...Dammit.