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In the episode, Homer discovers that praying can solve problems, and uses this to his advantage. After breaking his leg near the church, Homer sues the church and ends up receiving the deed to own it when the church was unable to pay him $1,000,000 as granted, where he would have used the money to repair the house's pipes and drywall. Under his ownership, the church becomes a hangout for townspeople, where the Ten Commandments are all broken, much to Reverend Lovejoy's dismay when he decides to leave Springfield after losing his church.
The show has delved into religious themes many times in its history. In this episode, the theme of prayer is given centre stage.
The episode had a freelance pitch. O'Neal and Boushell wanted to ensure they came up with a unique idea that had never been done before, as they knew the episode was near the show's 300th anniversary. The original pitch was based off an NPR story about the “gospel of prosperity”. This episode opens with a WNBA game because many NBA players had turned them down for a guest spot a couple of years before in the episode Children of a Lesser Clod. The lenticular card of a "vengeful god" and "loving god" was animated by creating two images which cross dissolved with white lines interspersed. Al Jean explained that a valid point made in the episode was why God should care about the average man's first world problems when there are natural and man-made disasters that could use his help. Castellaneta did a longer falling noise at the table read than the one that appeared in the final cut of the episode; it was really funny. Al Jean explained that due to the loss of Phil Hartman - and therefore Lionel Hutz - it was tough to introduce new lawyers to the show. This episode includes one such attempt. The staff had a fight with the broadcast standards over Homer dancing around the church in his underwear, and using the cross etc. In regard to the sunset shot, up until this point in the show's history, there was not much graduated shading used because it had to be painstakingly drawn. In contrast, it is very quick and easy using the computer, which is why Polcino prefers digital over the hand painted - many more color and shading options are made available.
The episode starts with The Simpsons visiting The Springfield Square Garden to watch a WNBA game. The announcer offers a $50,000 prize for shooting a half-court basket. Homer presumes he is the winner, since he is sitting in Section A, Row 12, Seat 16. His ticket however turns out to be for the following day's "WNFL" match and, to his dismay, the real winner is Ned Flanders. Ned kneels and prays before shooting the basket, and he makes it. He declares he will donate his money to "Bibles for Belgians." The Rich Texan then gives Ned an extra $100,000 for his generous attitude. Adding to Homer's fury, Ned gets to drive home in the Wienermobile.
The following day, Homer asks Ned what his secret is, and Ned replies it is hard work, clean living and a little prayer does not hurt, Homer ignores the first two which require effort in favour of prayer. Later, Homer cannot find the remote control and prays to God to help him find it. He finds it under the couch and is able to switch away from a Ken Burns documentary to the "Monkey Olympics." Homer sees that his prayers are working, and sets up a prayer station in his workstation at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
After Homer prays for a new snack treat (resulting in Bacon Fudge after two trucks collide), prays to help Bart with his homework, and asks God to help him unblock the sink, Marge then tells Homer that he cannot ask God to do every little thing for him, which he bluntly refuses to consider. A plumber who comes to examine the sink finds the pipes full of roots and points out that the moisture is ruining the drywall, which crumbles at his touch.
On Sunday, Homer is walking towards the church and looking up, talking to God. Not looking where he is going, he falls down into a shallow hole, reserved for the Nativity Scene. A shady lawyer is walking by, and convinces Homer to sue the church. Homer goes through with this because he needs the money to fix the pipes and drywall. While in court, the Blue-Haired Lawyer shows a video of Homer's stupidity to prove he is accident prone, but the jury (led by Cletus) still finds in Homer's favor. Homer is granted $1,000,000, but the church cannot pay this. Instead, Homer receives the deed to the church and, despite Marge's objections, moves the family there, displacing Reverend Lovejoy, who relectantly accepts an invitation to stay with Ned Flanders and his family.
Homer immediately commences watching TV in his underwear, drinking beer out of a Communion chalice, and using a crucifix as an air-guitar when he sings the Kiss song I Was Made for Lovin' You. He kicks out an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, telling them that the room now belongs to the dog. Marge tells Homer that he is not being a good Christian, and Homer decides to repay them by throwing a big party.
Meanwhile, Reverend Lovejoy has set up a temporary church in Barney's Bowl-A-Rama. Only a very few faithful, including Marge and the Flanders family, still attend. Constant interruptions of his sermon cause Lovejoy to give up hope and leave town.
The church becomes a bar and hangout for the townspeople, complete with drinking, poker, violence, fires, and worship of idols. Ned observes that they have broken all Ten Commandments. As Marge worries that Homer is incurring God's wrath, a rainstorm begins and Homer is struck by lightning. The town begins to flood, and the townspeople flee to the roof of the church. Homer tries praying again but the flood keeps rising. Just as the townspeople are about to enact revenge on Homer, Reverend Lovejoy returns in a helicopter and leads everyone in prayer, asking God to forgive them for letting themselves be led by a "demon in blue pants."
The flood subsides, and Lisa explains that the rain is actually the result of soot in the air from the earlier bonfire, and the lack of trees in Springfield caused the flood. Bart asks what made the rain stop, and Lisa shrugs and says "I don't know, Buddha?" The final scene shows God, Buddha and Colonel Sanders in heaven eating popcorn chicken.
The episode's title is a reference to the 1989 film Say Anything.... When the plumber taps at the wall, the cracks form the painting "Washington crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1851). When Santa's Little Helper comes out of the church wearing a prist outfit, Homer says "Aww! He thinks he's papal", parodying Mrs Krabapple's line in Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song: "He thinks he's people".
The Orlando Sentinel's Gregory Hardy named it the thirteenth best episode of the show with a sports theme. Bringing in the Sheaves is hummed by Homer Simpson, and I Was Made for Lovin' You by Kiss is played in the background.
Polcino said Pray Anything was a "well-written show", and "one of his favourite scripts" as he loves addressing religious themes.
- Mazur, Eric; McCarthy, Kate (2010-09-27). "God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture". ISBN 9780203854808.
- The Simpsons staff. (2003). Commentary for "Pray Anything", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al. (2003). Commentary for "Pray Anything", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Polcino, Michael. (2003). Commentary for "Pray Anything", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Hardy, Gregory (February 16, 2003). "Hitting 300 - For Sporting Comedy, 'The Simpsons' Always Score". Orlando Sentinel. p. C17.
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