Have you ever heard the expression, “on a wing and a prayer?” Cambridge dictionary says, “if you do something on a wing and a prayer, you do it hoping that you will succeed, although you are not prepared for it.” Another definition says it means, “relying solely on luck to get out of a difficult situation.”
The expression, however, may have originated during World War 2, appearing in a film called the Flying Tigers in 1942. A military pilot lost one of the wings of his plane and he was desperately trying to land. In essence, he was trying to land “using only one wing and a prayer.”
On a wing and a prayer can also mean “doing something difficult or dangerous that one cannot accomplish alone.” Thus, one needs to rely on divine intervention to be successful.
An incident that gave the expression a real lift happened on February 26, 1943. A B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, piloted by Hugh G. Ashcraft Jr. of Charlotte, North Carolina was on its way back from a bombing mission during World War 2. The severely damaged plane had “a hole four feet square in the rudder, the nose shattered and the Number 3 engine spewing oil and flames.” Sparks flew off the wing of the plane as it sputtered near the shores of Britain. Ashcraft pleaded with his men over the radio saying, “Those who want to, please pray.”
Though the odds were against Ashcraft and his mangled plane, he made it back safely, though not without injuries. When he arrived in England, the crippled plane had been flying all alone and out of formation. The weapons systems were damaged and no other allied planes had been around to protect them on their perilous flight back. If you watch this interview, you’ll hear Ashcraft speak about his experience.
The news quickly spread that Ashcraft and his crew had prayed their plane back. Interestingly enough, Ashcraft later became the first president of the Harris Teeter supermarket chain.
Stories like this inspired a song called, Comin in on a Wing and a Prayer. The chorus is below:
Comin in on a wing and a prayer
Comin in on a wing and a prayer
Though there’s one motor gone, we can still carry on,
Comin in on a wing and a prayer.
Here is a recording of the song by the D-Day Darlings, as well as the full lyrics.
So why am I bringing up this expression? Well, if you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s all about Psalm 91 and taking refuge under Jesus’ wings! There’s so much we can learn from these stories and we can certainly apply the lessons to our lives.
I got to thinking about the expression “on a wing and a prayer” during the Thanksgiving break because my son, who is a C-17 pilot, gave me the opportunity to tour the plane he flies. See pictures below…
As I looked at all the planes on the flight line, I couldn’t help but notice their impressive size and design. A C-17’s length measures up to 174 feet and has a maximum payload capacity of over 170,000 pounds. Designed to carry everything from armored tanks to hundreds of paratroopers, these planes, aptly named Globemasters, are crucial to the supply chain, defense and infrastructure of the military.
After several minutes of walking, I made it to my son’s plane, sitting majestically on the flight line. Immediately I was drawn to the wings. With a wingspan of over 51 meters, they were hard to miss. Standing underneath one wing, I felt overshadowed by the sheer breadth and length. My thoughts went to Psalm 91:4 where it says, “He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge.” The span of the wing easily covered me and, in that moment, I truly understood the verse.
The next thing I noticed were the engines located on the wings. The aircraft is powered by four F117-PW-100 turbofan engines. Each one can create 40,440 pounds of thrust, which will allow this gigantic plane to soar above the clouds. See pictures below
The wings and engines got the wheels in my head spinning, and soon I was able to see many connections to how we must live our life under the wings of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
A plane will not fly without the engines and these engines are attached to the wings. In essence, without the engines, the plane stays grounded. It isn’t going anywhere. If we apply this to our spiritual life, one could liken the engines to our relationship with Jesus and our prayer life. Like Psalm 91 says, we are covered under Jesus’ wings, but this only happens when we are in connection with him. Our prayers are the engines on those wings and they give life to them, creating the power to be lifted up.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says,
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It doesn’t say, “pray only when you feel like it.” It says, “pray without ceasing.” An airplane’s engines don’t turn on and off during flight. They keep going until the plane lands safely. For you and I, we haven’t landed in our safe destination yet, which is heaven. Therefore, we have to keep those engines going. I don’t mean you have to pray non-stop all day long until you’re exhausted. What I’m saying is that you should never give up! No matter what, never stop praying.
When it comes to praying, some of us might skip a day here and there–that happens. Sometimes we get in moods where we feel like we are prayed out, or perhaps we feel like, “I’m tired of praying.” But remember that God is always working even when we are tired. His wings are always over us. When a plane is sitting on the runway those beautiful, large wings are always extended. But the engines are needed to lift it up. Your praises and prayers are the wind beneath those wings and God perceives them as a sweet aroma.
Jude 20, 21 says,
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”
The wings of a bird are not very useful on the ground. Yet in the air those wings will make the bird soar through the sky. It is the same with us as believers. Jesus uses our prayers to lift us up and make miracles happen. Of course, our prayers should be offered up in faith and not consist of a series of mumblings that are a mere routine.
In my own life, I see prayer as a constant conversation with Jesus. I could be doing the laundry, but in my mind I may be praying “Lord Jesus, I don’t know what to do about….” , or I might be at the grocery store, but silently I’m praying, “Lord Jesus, can you help me with….” This is how I pray without ceasing and keep my engines constantly going.
Each day we are truly flying on a wing and a prayer. There are several things happening in my life that have caused my plane to sputter. Some days the entire plane is on fire! Often, I feel like I cannot keep going and I am just like Hugh Ashcroft’s plane. I have to make myself get under Jesus’ wings and pray. Like the song says, “Though there’s one motor gone, I can still carry on” –though some days it’s more like all the engines are gone. Like Sully Sullenberger, who lost all the engines on his plane during the Miracle on the Hudson, I am gliding on a wing and a prayer. Yet every time, Jesus gets me through it.
When it comes to events happening in our nation and world, there is no shortage when it comes to disturbing news and agendas. These things affect our lives in many ways, from basic healthcare to free speech. Globalism/communism, as well as transhumanism, is infiltrating every part of our lives. There are things coming down the pipeline that most people do not want to see, but they are happening and getting worse. In this way, it seems like we are flying on half a wing.
The same day I toured my son’s plane, I read a chapter in a book by evangelist and Pastor David Wilkerson titled, God’s Plan to Protect His People in the Coming Depression. This is probably not a book most people would read during the Thanksgiving holidays. I just happened to have it in my laptop bag and started reading before bedtime. One particular paragraph struck me…
“On the day the U.S. stock market crashed in 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, Elliot Bell of the New York Times described the atmosphere on Wall Street: ‘It was the most terrifying and unreal day I have ever seen on Wall Street…at eleven o’clock, the storm broke. It was a deluge. It came with a ferocity that left men dazed. The bottom simply fell out of the market. Wall Street became a nightmarish spectacle. Traders who a few short days before had visions of wealth saw all their hopes smashed in a collapse so devastating, so far beyond their wildest fears, as to seem unreal. The storm created a sense of danger like that which grips men on a sinking ship.’”
When I read the paragraph above, the reality hit that many people have their hopes tied to money. Instead of finding shelter under Jesus’ wings, they are taking refuge under the wings of prosperity. But what happens when the money that “powers their engine” runs out? For many, their lives will crash to the ground and it will be hard to pick up the pieces. Truthfully, most people would be affected negatively if they lost a large amount of wealth. But those who have a secure connection to Jesus would fare much better as their hope stems from an endless spring of hope that never runs out.
That endless spring can be likened to the fuel that powers the engines of a plane. Consider the Boeing 747, which burns over a gallon of fuel every second. This means over 3,600 gallons of fuel is burned per hour. And where is all this fuel stored? You guessed it– an airplane’s wings often contain the majority of the fuel the aircraft will use. That fuel carries a lot of weight–roughly six pounds per gallon.
Let’s apply this to what we know about Jesus’ wings. His fuel does not come from this world, but rather an eternal source. Instead of being earthly, it’s supernatural because it comes from Jesus himself–through the Holy Spirit. Unlike regular jet fuel which powers man-made machines and can run out, this never-ending supernatural source of fuel can power miracles that are created through prayers. In times of need, Jesus can do amazing things to provide for and protect us–essentially, to keep the airplane flying.
In his book, God’s Plan to Protect His People in the Coming Depression, David Wilkerson emphasizes the idea that we all need a secret place with Jesus, especially during troubling times. He calls this “the craving place.” He stresses that we all should crave this special place where we can be alone with Jesus–to pour out our heart–to ask for his help–to worship and give thanksgiving. He warns that there is a time coming when all our things and luxuries will be stripped away. Like the Israelites in the desert, we will enter a wilderness– in this place, we will see what our faith really means. In essence, we will realize how close we are to Jesus. In this difficult time we will need a craving place. Those who fully trust Jesus will prosper spiritually and be able to cope better than those who have put their craving or hopes in the world.
What Wilkerson is saying reminds me of Psalm 91 because he is relaying the idea that we must stay covered under Jesus’ wings. When calamities strike, we cannot fear the “terror of the night” or any “arrows that fly by day.” When we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we are not dwelling in earthly riches, but instead, even “if a thousand fall at our side,” we will not lose hope. Harm will not overtake us because we know that Jesus will give his angels charge over us. We firmly believe that, one way or another, we will be delivered because “with long life Jesus will satisfy us.”
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS? BECAUSE WHEN WE ARE UNDER THE WINGS OF OUR SAVIOR, THE AIRPLANE IS FLYING AND THE WORLD IS BELOW US. OUR ULTIMATE DESTINATION IS HEAVEN, NOT EARTH. OUR PLANE IS NOT FLYING TOWARD ANY MANMADE “UTOPIA” (or in this case, dystopia) BUT RATHER, IT IS HEADED FOR ETERNITY AND A PERFECT, JUST KINGDOM RULED BY JESUS CHRIST.
For now, we have headed into some dark clouds on our plane, but our pilot is not of this world, and he will get us through it.
In God’s Plan for the Coming Depression David Wilkerson said:
“Our faith is not meant to get us out of a hard place, or change our painful condition. Rather it’s meant to reveal God’s faithfulness to us in the midst of a dire situation. God does occasionally change our trying circumstances. But more often he doesn’t–because he wants to change us. We simply can’t trust God’s power fully until we experience it in the midst of a crisis.”
This is so true! I can remember very hard years when my son’s medical condition was just awful. Some days the only thing I could do was go to my secret place with Jesus and cry. I know Jesus was right there with me and at times he literally carried me under his wings.
As I see what’s on the radar for our nation and world, I am reminded that Jesus will still be with me as events unfold. During the Covid-19 PLAN-demic I am so thankful that I stayed under his wings and did not listen to the lies of the globalists. Being under his wings protected me from the fear and propaganda that saturated all aspects of life. Even now, as I see the purposeful demolition of our economy, food supply, healthcare system, schools, energy grid, Constitution and way of life, I am not going to park my plane at the local hangar. No way–I am keeping my plane under Jesus’ careful watch. I know that at some point he is going to fly this plane out of here!
It’s interesting to note that when I toured my son’s C-17 plane, I realized that while it was quite large, it wasn’t fancy at all. In fact, the upholstery, gadgets and inner workings of the plane looked like they were transported back in time to the 1950’s. For some reason, I was expecting lots of fancy “bells, whistles and upgrades” but what I saw instead was a bare bones structure with only the necessities. Lots of metal and wires were exposed and even duct tape could be seen in unsuspecting corners. My son laughed and said, “We don’t need fancy gadgets to fly.”
Isn’t that the truth? Oftentimes, we think we need the bells and whistles of the world to live a good life. I am speaking for myself when I think about my daily coffee, make-up, jewelry, chocolate, air conditioning and soft bed sheets. But what would I do if I lost all of these things and more? I am not going to lie– at first, I know I would freak out. Once my neighbors saw my face without make-up they would freak out! Without my coffee, I might sleep for twelve years! But at some point, Jesus will say, “Angela, you need to get under my wings. I will help you see that these are all just things. You will be ok without them.” It may take a while. I might have to stay under those wings for a long time. And then I will emerge stronger than ever because Jesus has changed my perspective. Over time, I’ll see those little miracles of provision arise. The supernatural will become normal and I will perceive the hand of God everywhere. That’s what I call the good life!
So, in the end, whether it’s the struggles in our life, or the fact that we are facing the rise of technocracy and the One World Government…. we will always have a place to take refuge. Yes, we are living on a wing and a prayer. But someday, the wings of our Savior will take us to the ultimate paradise. Until then, we must keep praying. Yes, Bon Jovi wrote a song called, Livin on a Prayer back in 1986. There’s truth in that title. We are Livin’ on a prayer each and every day.
Here’s more of the lyrics to Comin in on a Wing and a Prayer– the song inspired by Hugh Ashcraft’s miracle landing during WW2…
What a show, what a fight
Boys, we really hit our target for tonight
How we sing as we limp through the air
Look below, there’s our field over there
With our one motor gone
We can still carry on
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
With our full crew on board
And our trust in the Lord
We’re comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.
As the Bride of Christ, we are flying in on a wing and a prayer. We are limping through the air, but yes– oh yes, our field (heaven) is over there…
Until Jesus comes to get us, or we go to him first, we will carry on….
Our trust in the Lord will get us there…
We are coming in on a wing and a prayer…
Maranatha Come Lord Jesus Come. Until then, we will keep our engines running and full of fuel.