Prayer, “Don’t Look Up,” and the End of the World

Graeme Isbister


Prayer, “Don’t Look Up,” and the End of the World

The topic of prayer seems to come up a lot lately. There are obvious reasons: covid, the crazy weather, the larger issue of climate change, the opioid crisis, covid, housing challenges (and assessments!) the dark days of January, covid, climate change, etc.

All of these and more suggest why those belonging to a particular faith tradition or no faith at all or somewhere in between would invoke their God/Higher Power/?.

The recent Netflix offering “Don’t Look Up” is a good example.

This dark satire presents a doomsday scenario where scientists, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo Dicaprio, discover a huge comet on a trajectory that in a matter of months will destroy all life on earth.

The title of the movie refers to a head-in-the-sand response to scientific realities that might just strike a chord with some of us.

Political leaders such as U.S. President Janie Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, and media celebrities initially treat this news with indifference until they figure out ways to spin the story to their own advantage.

Yes, you heard that right: for some, the end of the world really isn’t if you can use it in the short term to boost polls and ratings.

Prayer comes into this as a means to further personal agendas: President Orleans prays from the deck of a U.S. battleship: ”May Jesus Christ bless every single one of you, especially the members of my own party…” President Orlean’s son, Jason, her Chief of Staff, offers a similarly howlingly self-serving but strangely familiar sounding prayer: “There is …material stuff, like watches and cars and clothes and I don’t want to see that go away so I’m going to say a prayer for that stuff.”

As the end draws near the scientists and a few others gather for their own Last Supper. The non-religious Leonardo Dicaprio character wonders if someone should offer a prayer before they eat. Yule, played by Timothee Chalamet, despite his rejection of his evangelical upbringing, volunteers this prayer:

“Dearest Father and Almighty Creator, We ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride; Your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all, Lord, we ask for your love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance. Amen.”

As one commentator observed, this prayer is not “weaponized” as prayers can often be. It is not forced on anyone who hasn’t expressed a desire to receive it. It is not used to manipulate others or push an agenda.

It simply but wonderfully expresses the longing of a humble, open heart for the character and above all, love, that will allow us to face and deal with whatever is to come.

Not a bad place to start as we deal with whatever “comets” are heading our way…

Submitted by Graeme Isbister