Best Prayers Ever

May 21, 2010

It’s time for a fun Friday countdown post.

Today, I’m counting down my personal favorite instances of prayer on TV and movies.  We don’t get a whole lot of the God talk from Hollywood.  And I’m not counting things like Touched by and Angel, or any explicitly Christian shows, only because I don’t watch them.  I’m talking about five great, flawed, funny, and outright wrong ways God has been invoked on the silver screen.

Bart Simpson

When the show started, The Simpsons was pretty questionable for most parents.  They were confused by a cartoon that did not seem to be appropriate for children.  Bart’s regular use of the phrase, “Eat my shorts,” was rude and inflammatory to middle class families of the late 80s.  But if children weren’t supposed to watch the show, who was?  Adults?

Then, early in the second season, the Simpsons are at the dinner table and Bart is asked to say grace.  He responds with hands folded, saying:

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves.  So thanks for nothing.”

Well that sealed the deal.  Somehow, the fact that Homer and Marge also didn’t approve of the prayer was lost on my parents.  The Simpsons was off limits to my brother and I forever, or at least until junior high school.  By then, we were all desensitized and watching the show was a family activity. 

Could it be that Bart was just saying the prayer that a lot of people are living?  Worst. Prayer. Ever.

Frank Abignale Jr.

I love Catch Me if You Can.  Frank Abignale can literally fake being anything – a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot.  The only thing he has a hard time faking is being a Lutheran.  His cover is almost blown while having dinner with his fiance’s parents, and they ask him to say grace.  After a moment he bows his head and recites a parable his father always said about two mice struggling to stay afloat in a bucket of cream.  Dad is bewildered, Mom is moved almost to tears.  Well played.

Jenny

 My brother literally watched Forrest Gump 127 times while we were in high school.  I don’t know why.  It’s a good movie, I guess.  It’s kind of irritating after watching it 99 times.  But I do like Jenny’s childhood prayer that God would turn her into a bird so she can “fly far far away from here” and escape her alcoholic abusive Dad.  What’s great is God actually pulls through, not by turning Jenny into a bird (thankfully) but moving Jenny to her Grandma’s.

Bart Simpson…again.

Times sure change quickly.  When Bart prayed the first time on television, all of evangelical America, plus the President, hated him and his whole family.  By the time Bart is praying in season seven, there are literally theology books being written, centered on The Simpsons. 

Season seven is home to the classic episode where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five bucks.  Milhouse then trades Bart’s soul (in the form of a piece of paper that says “Bart’s soul”) to comic book guy for Alf pogs. 

After a lot of pain and suffering trying to get his soul back, Bart gives a real, heartfelt prayer on his knees and everything.  He admits that he doesn’t pay attention in church, but he could sure use God’s help now.  And God actually answers Bart through his sister’s actions. 

What’s amazing about The Simpsons is that religion is actually more prominent in Springfield than virtually any other TV universe.    Everyone in town goes to church (the one church in town.  How’s that for Christian unity?)  God actually intervenes in their lives, answers prayers and generally reveals himself on a regular basis.  Plus, Springfield is the home of America’s most famous evangelical, Ned Flanders.  It turns out God apparently loves The Simpsons a whole lot more than The Waltons.

Greg Focker

Ben Stiller’s table grace in Meet the Parents is by far the best awkward prayer ever acted.  It begins with a simple, desperate invocation of “Oh…dear…God,” and then moves into a prayer that sounds a lot he’s praying to the indimidating Robert DeNiro, and ends…eventually, by quoting Godspell.  Classically bad praying.

What’s your favorite TV / movie prayer?  How long did it take for The Simpsons to be acceptable in your home, if ever?

23 responses to Best Prayers Ever

  1. I’m not sure The Simpsons ever was acceptable in our house; but I was the only one who watched it, so…

  2. BTW. I assume by “this movie” you were referring to Forrest Gump? I didn’t see it anywhere.

  3. I think you would have been better off quoting from Touched by an Angel. Maybe from the old Christy series too. But the stuff you used today was worthless junk.

  4. Sultan (Jasmine’s father)in Aladdin was pretty good. “Praise Allah!” I guess it’s is good to be thankful regardless of the god you pray to. I like simple heartfelt prayers.

    Maybe Ralph Macchio is Lightning Boy in Crossroads.

    There were some amazing prayers in “The Apostle” – but the singing at the end was profound.

    Hollywood’s distorted views of Christianity – well of marriage, prostitution, families, love etc. is pretty pathetic.

    But the Stiller clip makes me smile, and it’s a classic! Maybe they will use it in a public school where they teach atheists to pray.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m actually unfamiliar with Crossroads and The Apostle. But Aladdin rules. Do you think they would release that movie today?

      • Hmmm… Aladdin – I am not sure. Everything is so PC. He’d probably have to be a middle class white kid with an addiction to video games. But the street rats would probably protest.

        Crossroads ia a cool film with Ralph and Steve Vai. It is about the blues, the love of music and the spiritual battle. There are some great scenes with the devil.

        I think the apostle (Robert Duval) is a great movie for any Christian that has ever had bad thoughts and wanted to act upon them.

        I was trying to think if there were any prayers in the Steve Martin movie in Leap of Faith, Jim Carey in Bruce Almighty or Life of Brian.

        • As a child, I watched most of the ABC soap operas at one point in time. Soap operas have the best prayers. The format is generally like this: “God, I know I haven’t really acknowledged your existence before this point and I have been doing basically whatever pleases me. But now I am desperate. My husband/lover/child/pet is dying and I can’t live without him/her/it. Please have mercy on them so that I can continue being happy.” They only pray when death is involved.

  5. HAHAHAH! I love this post. I remember Homer’s prayer. “I’m not normally a praying man, but if you’re up there Superman, please help me.”

    I liked the prayer by Ashley Banks on Fresh Prince gave. “Hey there, Lord, my name is Ashley Banks. My family and friends want to give you some thanks. So before this dinner’s all swallowed and chewed, thank you, God, for this stupid food.”

    My mom seriously didn’t care what I watched as a kid since she was a single mom raising 2 boys and was always working. She didn’t have time to know what we were watching.

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  6. What about the Baby Jesus prayer from Talladega Nights?

    “Well, look, I like the Christmas Jesus best when I’m sayin’ grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grown-up Jesus, or Teenage Jesus, or Bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.”

    Prayer in Hollywood is always interesting.

    There is a really good book called “The Gospel According To The Simpsons”. It is fascinating how much of a role religion plays in Springfield. Did you know that God is the only character with 5 fingers on The Simpsons? Every other character has 4 because it is easier to draw 4 fingered cartoon characters.

    • This is the prayer I thought of as (Talladega Nights). All these are great ones though…

    • Like two weeks after I saw Talladega Nights for the first time, we had a guest preacher. It was the middle of the summer, but he started talking (in all seriousness) about how Jesus isn’t that baby in the manger anymore. It was all I could do to keep from busting out with laughter in church. What was even funnier though was that after the service I happened to be standing next to our music minister when he mentioned to his wife that all he could think about after that was Ricky Bobby! Ha! Love it!

      Simpsons were never allowed at our house (they started when I was in late elementary or middle school, I think). I watched a couple of times in college and I think I saw the same episode (where Homer gets a stop sign put in and ends up going against the nuclear reactor for safety issues) like five times. I think there for a while it became part of our (late college) Sunday evening “must see” line-up, but only because it was on right before X-files or something.

  7. My favorite Bart Simpson prayer is, “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.”

  8. The prayer in Meet the Parents is hysterical, but the Talladega Nights prayer debate over which Jesus to pray to is awfully funny, too. It’s a toss-up.

  9. I like the one on Meet the Parents.

    I think we were allowed to watch the Simpsons when we were 10 or so, sometimes. However, my parents were definitely a part of the “confused crowd” of parents. My comforter as a toddler was the Simpson’s. I’m not sure they’d seen the show though. I think they might have just thought “Oh, look, a cartoon character!”. LOL I have no idea. I should ask them whey they thought a 2-4 year old should have The Simpsons as the theme to their bedding.

  10. I was in college when The Simpson debuted. And it was made for college students, let me tell ya. We dropped everything on Sunday nights to watch it. My sister was still living at home and wasn’t allowed to watch that heathen show.

    My oldest daughter doesn’t appreciate it. She likes South Park instead, and that makes me sad since Bart is waaaaay cooler that Cartman. My youngest is made I won’t let her watch either one (as it is, her dad and I can only watch Family Guy when she’s asleep!).

    I love the Talledega Nights prayers too. “Dear Lord baby Jesus, we thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I just want to take time to say thank you for my family. My two beautiful, striking sons, Walker, and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him. And of course my red hot smokin’ wife Carley, who is a stone cold fox.”

  11. sweet…my baby was 8 lb 6oz….just like Baby Jesus!

  12. Tom Hanks prayer in A League of Their Own was pretty funny: “Uh, Lord, hallowed be Thy name. May our feet be swift; may our bats be mighty; may our balls… be plentiful. Lord, I’d just like to thank You for that waitress in South Bend. You know who she is – she kept calling Your name. And God, these are good girls, and they work hard. Just help them see it all the way through. Okay, that’s it.”

  13. Is it prayer week or something? After reading this post Friday, I got an e-mail from my church saying we were starting a three-week series on prayer. Guess what they opened up with today… The Baby Jesus prayer from Talladega Nights. I was pretty surprised they showed this. And it just kept going, it must have been almost 10 minutes long. It seemed like everyone was enjoying it and laughing though so good for us!

  14. Get a life people, and by that I mean a Christian Life. Prayer is no joke, and people who think it is are the people I pray for. Their is One God and that is Jesus Christ who we must hold to the upmost respect and Honor. How about that Prayer???