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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 are certain.
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 Mooks 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.
This trope is not about telling someone to say their prayers: That one is Prepare to Die.
Anime and Manga
- In the Ranma ½ manga's Koi Rod arc, when Ranma believes that Ryouga wants her dead she simply clasps her hands and prays as she will accept him killing her if it makes him happy. Of course since it is played for laughs Ryouga finds he can't do it after all.
- In both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist, Scar customarily gives his enemies a chance to pray before he kills them.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Quattro manages to get off an "Oh dear mother of God...!" before Nanoha blasts through an anti-magic field, and an entire armoured warship with one spell.
- The Preacher (Comic Book) 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, 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.
- Humorous subversion in The Mummy 1999. 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 of The Crucible, John Proctor and company recite the Lord's Prayer at the gallows.
- 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.
- 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.
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, 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.
- The core book for Vampire: The Masquerade has a vignette wherein a vampire gangbanger punches through the stomach of a punk kid who shot him. He then tells the boy that the wound's going to kill him, "but because I used to be a good Catholic boy, I'll give you a few seconds to say a prayer or something" before he'll give him a Mercy Kill.
"He nods, and starts playing. Me, I start counting."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 do not 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 Top 10 Video Game Composers Cedric takes his vengeance on Paw. When cornered...
Cedric: Time to start saying your prayers!
- Aversion: Yosemite Sam would often tell Bugs Bunny "Say your prayers, varmint!", but Bugs generally opted for a different response to Sam's threats.
- In the Futurama episode "The Farnsworth Parabox", Prof. Farnsworth is heard pleading to whatever deity will have him as something in his lab is wreaking havoc.
God! Buddha! Zeus! One of you guys help me! Satan, you owe me!
- On the Looney Tunes short "Homeless Hare," a foreman falls through several floors of the skyscraper he's building, leaving silhouettes of himself on the way down, one of which is clearly kneeling with hands clasped.