February 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Prayers from the air

By Jim Spellman, CNN

Colorado Springs, Colorado (CNN) — They call Colorado Springs “Little Jerusalem” for good reason.

Christian churches from mega to micro dot this city nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and prayer is an integral part of the lives of many of the worshipers who fill those pews.

Most prayers start on the ground and are sent heavenward. But helicopter pilot Will Sanders is taking prayer to the air by flying pastors up to the skies to pray down on the people below.

“I believe prayer works, and I want to take prayer warriors up to pray for their community. Inspire them to see it from a different angle, from a different view,” he said.

Sanders earns a living running Colorado Vertical, giving tours of the area in his Raven II four-seat helicopter. About once a month he opens his chopper up to local pastors, who fly over their churches and areas of the city they think are experiencing hardship and pray for them.

“Pastors know their areas, they know where people are hurting, where people need prayer, where people need help, and I can take them over those areas,” Sanders says.

He says that flying is a profoundly spiritual experience.

Helicopter pilot Will Sanders takes local pastors up in the air to pray over Colorado Springs.

“I see God’s creation. I do believe God created this world, and I see that in nature. When I fly I see the fingerprints of God.”

On a sunny winter day, he meets two pastors from Vanguard Church, Alan Briggs and Jonathan Madrid. It’s Briggs’ third trip and Madrid’s first. As evangelical Christians, they said prayer is an essential part of their faith.

“I care so much for our city that I’ll do anything, and so just starting with prayer is what I think we need to do,” Briggs said.

“I think the first thing we need to be doing as a city, as a body of believers, is to get down on our knees and pray,” Madrid said.

Sanders with pastors Jonathan Madrid, left, and Alan Briggs of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs.

The tower clears the helicopter for takeoff, and a few minutes later we are cruising over the city. The prayers fly over the tinny audio of the headset microphones, with Briggs and Madrid taking turns.

“We pray that you bring the needs of the city to these churches that they may be able to help.”

“We pray that you bring this city together.”

“We pray for the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson.”

“We pray over this land that it would be dedicated to you.”

“Lord I pray for the high schools in our city, that your light may shine in those schools.”

We bank to the left and pass over the offices of The Independent, an alternative free weekly newspaper that has been critical of the evangelical community.

“We pray for The Independent and particularly publisher John Weiss. We pray for a partnership between such a sometimes hateful organization,” Briggs says.

A minute later, after a bit of quiet, he adds, “That we would be marked by our love and not by our judgment.”

Sanders heads west towards Garden of the Gods - a stunning orange rock formation popular with hikers. Pikes Peak is clearly visible to the south.

“Lord, when people see Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, I pray we would see you.”

We head back toward downtown, and Briggs turns to me to ask if it would be OK if he prays for me. I give him the thumbs up.

“Lord, we pray for Jim and getting to meet him today. I pray that you give him protection, that you keep the hand of safety on him,” he said.

As the airport comes back into sight, the pastors get in as many prayers as possible before we land.

“I pray you would drive out the spirit of consumerism in our city.”

“Lord I pray for more Spanish speaking churches.”

“We pray for military families to be taken care of.”

The voice of an air traffic controller interrupts the flow of prayers and clears us to land.

The cockpit is quiet as we gently touch down.

Back on the ground, Madrid is smiling widely.

“It was great. A different perspective for sure. As I saw the city, so many things came to me,” he said.

“It just gives you a whole new perspective on people, I think. You see these different areas of the city that you never would have thought to even pray for before, so I think praying from a different view is huge. I think it’s awesome and we’re blessed to be able to do that sort of thing.”

The pastors head back to their church as Sanders shuts down the helicopter.

“I was given a gift. I’ve been so blessed. How many people have a helicopter?” Sanders said. “I do believe in the power of prayer, and I want to cover this whole community with it”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Colorado • Pastors • United States

soundoff (558 Responses)
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  5. Art


    February 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. nik g

    what a great article. God is good

    February 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  7. laura

    Alot of the posts on this blog talk about how this man is wasting his time. I think its more of a waste of time to sit and argue senseless about whether or not you believe in God. Seems like some of the posters have to much time on their hands and should be out doing the things you are curseing this man for not using the money for. Whether you believe in God or not. Your day will come when you will really see if there is a God or not because some of the posters won't make it to Heaven. That to bad because God loves all of you whether you curse him or not.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Candy

      I truly adore your Post. The Matter of Man, has written Himself out of The Laws of God, By Making Laws to Control. God is the Author, and FINISHER OF FAITH.


      March 8, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  8. Michele

    Thank you for your prayers!!! They do make a difference! Please keep up the wonderful job you are doing!

    February 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  9. PeterVN

    There's a lot of banjo music in Colorado Springs too, if you know what I mean...

    February 23, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Me Thinks

      Mary In case you missed it...


      Actually, Mary, I did prove that a god with the absurd characteristics described by Christian claptrap such as your own does not exist. You are merely too stupid to understand that

      My COMMENT PeterVN Peter, I am disappointed in you. I thought we could agree to disagree, without labeling one another as "stupid" etc.

      It makes me lose respect for all else you have to say. Therefore, I guess the conversation ends here. I love debate, but when it stoops to this level, it is better to walk away. Peace to you just as well.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse | Reply



      Actually, Mary, I did prove that a god with the absurd characteristics described by Christian claptrap such as your own does not exist. You are merely too fu-cking stupid to understand what was presented to you.

      February 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |

      Mary, I hope you don't have kids. The world will be better off if your genes don't propagate.

      Nice...very nice.

      February 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      Gordon Beall

      Man, I can understand disagreements, but the personal shots taken by some are really below the belt. I guess what comes out the mouth says alot about a person. A real man you are, PeterVN..ever get your mouth washed out with soap?

      February 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      Gordon, eat sh-it, you spineless wimp.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |

      Me Thinks Mary isn't answering...so why all the posts dated the February 23, 2011 ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS OVER AGAIN?

      February 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Me Thinks


      Mary, the inconsistencies that you present are clear demonstrations that your god is neither perfect, nor omnipresent, nor omnipotent.

      The requirements for a god such as the Christians advertise are that stringent, and are not met in this case. Therefore, your god does not exist. Your beliefs might make you feel better, but they are not well-founded, and they are plainly absurd.

      You are also exhibiting behavior that falls within what is known as "confirmation bias"; you are selecting those parts of what you observe that you think support your belief, while ignoring the many obvious facts that contradict it.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse | Reply


      Many essentially good people pray to god but still suffer horrible misery from diseases and disasters anyway. Is your god deaf to them, does he play favorites, or does he just have limited bandwidth?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse | Reply

      February 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.