Top 10 Movie Prayers


Here are 10 of my favorite film prayers and what they’ve taught me. Sometimes touching, sometimes irreverent, prayer in movies reflects the gamut of our attitudes toward God and what we expect from him. The 7 Deadly Sins can even come into play when we are trying to pray.

1. Shenandoah The dad in this old movie returns one of the most prideful prayers of thanks I’ve ever heard. This attitude represents the hubris of “self-sufficiency.” Introducing God into the equation changes the impact of words like “deserve” and “earn.”  God really is the source of provision for everything I have and deserves my thanks.

2. Meet the Parents Greg, who is Jewish, fumbles, repeats himself, and ends up quoting “Day by Day” from Godspell in a hilariously awkward attempt to deliver a successful Christian table blessing. It’s never a good idea to pretend to be someone I am not. God just wants me to talk to him as myself.

3. Cool Hand Luke Luke offers up a cynical, angry, frustrated prayer telling God “you got things fixed so I can’t never win out…you made me like I am.” At times I’ve gotten pretty mad at God and blamed him for the messes I’ve made for myself. He’s big enough to take it and still offers to help. Sometimes God changes the circumstances, sometimes he just changes me.

4. The Bruces sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus takes a shot at the rote, generic, obligatory prayer we often hear at meetings and events. Sometimes when the occasion calls for prayer it’s easy to stammer out a generic, churchy-sounding prayer like “O, Lord we beseech thee, Amen.” If I’m going to talk to God in public I try to actually have something to say to him and mean it.

5. Talladega Nights Ricky Bobby only prays to “little baby Jesus” because he likes the “Christmas Jesus” best. Lucy Bobby objects because she wants to pray correctly so that God keeps the money rolling in. Prayer is not some sort of incantation involving the right words in the right order that obliges God to give me what I want. And I don’t get to define God, he gets to define me.

6. Hook The irreverent mealtime grace expresses the “Let’s just get to the food” mentality. “Grace” sounds like a pretty good one-word prayer, especially if we’ve been subjected to long prayers in which God is thanked for every individual molecule in existence and the prayer is further lengthened by the interjection of the words “Lord” “God” or “Father” between every phrase. Mealtime prayers should be short and sincere.

7. The End of the Affair Sarah bargains with God to protect her lover: “Dear God, Please don’t take him…I’ll give him up, only please let him be alive…I promise, I’ll never see him again.” She struggles with her desire to keep her promise, with her infidelity, and with her lack of faith. She later tells a priest, “Tell him I’m sorry. I’m too human. Too weak. Tell him I can’t keep my promises.” Bargaining with God just creates the opportunity for more failure. Redemption isn’t about making deals. Admitting that we’re too weak and too human is an approach that gives God something to work with.

8. Magnolia Jim Kurring stammers out a prayer as old as Job, “Oh, Lord, why is this happening to me? God, please help me figure this out. I’m lost out here! I don’t understand why it’s happening. God, please, God! … Whatever it is I did, I’m going to fix it. I’m going to do the right thing.” Been there, prayed that. Sometimes “why?” isn’t the question to ask. Sometimes I have to discard my own agendas and roll with God’s even when I don’t have a clue where he’s taking me.

9. Forrest Gump “Pray with me Forrest.” Hiding in a cornfield from her abusive father, young Jenny kneels and prays, “Lord make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.” It’s that same sad, desperate cry to God that comes when I feel helpless and overwhelmed. Later Jenny tries to answer her own prayer and heal her own pain by making a series of poor relationship choices in search of love instead of recognizing that the love that she could always fly to was kneeling next to her in that cornfield. Sometimes God’s miraculous help comes from the really ordinary, and sometimes goofy-looking people He sends my way.

10. Glory. Facing battle during the Civil War a regiment of black Union soldiers yield their fate to the hands of God in Glory. God is their hope and refuge. In life’s most intense moments I hope to react like these guys: to tell my loved ones how much they matter, to consider the legacy I leave, and to recognize that God is bigger and more real than the situation I’m facing.

If interested, Arts and Faith posted a thread in 2003 with more movie prayer references:

2 Responses to “Top 10 Movie Prayers”

  • Kevin Herrin Says:

    I looked through the four pages of comments and didn’t see anyone mention Clark Griswald’s (Chevy Chase) prayer over the great aunt who died before they drove off and left her under a tarp in the rain! Here it is!

    “Oh God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great despair. Yay, admit this good and decent woman into thine arms in the flock in thine heavenly area up there. And Moab, he laidest down by the band of the Canaanites. And yay, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you, give her a break. Baru kataaaallelujah. (sing)”

  • Craig Says:

    The one I remember best was from Meet The Parents. Is that wrong?… 🙂