“ON A WING AND A PRAYER”

Pam and I left Austin Sunday afternoon after the Longhorn baseball game.  It was not a good day for the Longhorns.  They had just lost to West Virginia in the 10th inning.  We had just taken the ramp on the  toll road when the warning bell and light came on and we discovered the engine was heating up.  The message on the dash told us we were low on coolant.  That’s not the most welcome message to receive when we are 260 mines from home.  So, we exited the toll road and traveled back to a convenient store I remembered from a few years back.  We purchased some coolant, and with a full tank, began our journey home.  After passing through Elgin, the temperature gauge indicated the engine was beginning to overheat again.  We stopped at the  next gas station  and purchased more coolant.  I remember at the time saying a prayer and asking God to just get us to College Station where we could stay overnight and get the car repaired on Monday.

As we traveled on to College Station, watching the temperature gauge, I remembered an old saying from World War II…“On a Wing and a Prayer.”  This morning I searched for the origin of this saying:

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

Meaning

In poor condition, but just managing to get the job done.

Origin

This phrase originated during WWII. The earliest reference that I can find to it is in the 1942 film The Flying Tigers. The screenplay, which was written by Kenneth Gamet and Barry Trivers, has John Wayne’s character Captain Jim Gordon saying this in a reference to the flight of replacement pilots:

Gordon:  Any word on that flight yet?

Rangoon hotel clerk: Yes sir, it was attacked and fired on by Japanese aircraft. She’s coming in on one wing and a prayer.

The phrase was taken up by songwriters Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh and their  WWII patriotic song Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer, 1943  tells of a damaged warplane, barely able to limp back to base:

One of our planes was missing

Two hours overdue

One of our planes was missing

With all its gallant crew

The radio sets were humming

We waited for a word

Then a noise broke

Through the humming and this is what we heard

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

 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 just one motor gone

We can still carry on

Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer

Adamson and McHugh wrote several patriotic songs in World War II and were awarded the Presidential Certificate of Merit by President Harry Truman.

The phrase hit a chord with the public and there are many references to it in US newspapers from 1943 onwards. It was taken up by Hollywood and a film – Wing and a Prayer – was released in 1944.

The allusion to a stricken aircraft limping home may have been influenced by the earlier term ‘winging it‘, which refers to actors struggling through parts that they have recently learned in the wings of a theatre.

The phrase is sometimes given mistakenly as “on a whim and a prayer”, or “on a wink and a prayer”.

We arrived in  College Station without overheating the engine.  After after eating our early evening meal, we added more coolant and decided to travel homeward.  We were traveling “On a Wing and a Prayer” as we traveled on carefully watching the temperature.  All went well until we were about 30 miles from home.  It was time for more coolant.  So, we added coolant and arrived home safe and sound.

*****

After we arrived home, I remembered the Scripture:  Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

My prayer in Elgin was for God to just get us to College Station.  We could either stay with a friend or get a room and get the car repaired today.  We really needed to get home last night.  I had an appointment in the afternoon and Pam was scheduled to leave for an appointment with her doctor in Houston.  I was only asking for College Station and thinking we could adjust our schedule for the inconvenience.  God was able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we asked or thought. 

This morning I was able to schedule car repair with someone I know and trust.  Pam is on her way to Houston to see her doctor.  This is truly more than we had hoped for on Sunday afternoon.  It is really comforting to know that in a time of crisis, we can truly go forward “ON A WING AND A PRAYER.”  Was the decision to travel on from College Station tempting fate, dumb luck, or depending on God?  I believe it was having faith in God.  He is ever faithful!!!

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