by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
“On a wing and a prayer” is a phrase that originated in 1943 with the World War II patriotic song “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer.” The song tells of a damaged warplane that is barely able to limp back to its base. Apparently, this popular phrase sometimes has been mistakenly stated as “on a whim and a prayer” or “on a wink and a prayer.”
Perhaps these misuses have occurred because some people tend to think that “on a wing,” “on a whim” or “on a wink” have similar connotations — such as an uncertain hope or perhaps a shaky faith or unlikely possibility. But to me, the song inspires anything but uncertainty or unlikelihood in its words: “Though there’s one motor gone, we can still carry on, comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.” No, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt in the minds of those on the crippled plane that they will most certainly make it home.
I suspect that most soldiers know the words to Psalm 91 all too well. In fact, to many soldiers I know, this psalm is their daily prayer: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler … ”
The imagery in this powerful psalm became the basis for “On Eagle’s Wings,” a song that has been sung at many Air Force weddings, like that of my daughter and son-in-law, who is a bombardier on a B-52. The chorus of this song vows, “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings … ”
The words in this song and psalm compelled my purchase of a painting that shows an American eagle with wings spread, soaring across a roaring river and treetops, with mountain peaks in the background. When I gaze upon this eagle’s wings, I feel its mastery and majesty, and I have no doubt she will reach her journey’s end. This image inspires a sense of security and calm which affirms that the omnipotence and omnipresence of God can be leaned upon and trusted.
Doubts can confuse and confound us and cause us to forget that God is indeed present and powerful. Remember what happened to Peter when he doubted.
Jesus had told his disciples to get into a ship. After he had concluded his meeting with the multitudes and had gone up into a mountain to pray, he came down to join his disciples. He saw that the ship was in the midst of the sea being tossed by wind and waves. Jesus walked on the sea and approached the ship. After he assured the disciples that it was he and not a ghost who was approaching, Peter asked that he walk on the sea to meet the Master. And indeed, for a short time, Peter walked on the sea toward Jesus. But since the wind and waves continued to be strong, he became afraid and started to sink in the water and cried for Jesus to save him. After Jesus caught Peter, he said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
Do you feel the need for some protection from life’s stresses and problems? Perhaps you are longing to escape from a difficult situation? Or maybe your dad, husband, brother or son is not at home with you this Father’s Day and you’re struggling to find the peace of mind that assures you he will return home safely. Perhaps your heart is filled with doubts that there can be certainty, protection, solutions, help, healing.
My daughter had times when she struggled with doubts when her husband was on his first deployment overseas. She took her doubts to God in prayer and told me: “I affirm that he can never for one millisecond be separated from God. He’s always encompassed in God’s love. I know that whatever he is faced with, he’s protected. In my prayers, I affirm there’s nothing my husband can’t handle, because God is always there to guide him. He’ll have the clarity he needs and will be receptive to the ideas he needs to make the right decisions — and not only my husband, but also the entire crew on his plane. They will all make the right decisions to stay safe.”
She said further: “Relying on God’s power and control has helped me overcome illnesses and other challenges in my life. Remembering these experiences and reading about others’ healing and life-transforming experiences increases my faith now and supports my peace. They give me reason to pray for my husband and trust in my prayers. So I don’t dwell on doubts and fears anymore. I’ve found a peace. As a military wife, you have to find your peace — whatever that means to you.”
“On a wing and a prayer” is not based upon the uncertainty of human muster and willpower but is a pronouncement of promise. It speaks of God’s divine sheltering and mighty wing, which is unwavering, unfaltering and forever protecting us and taking us on a sure and certain flight to confidently reach our destination.