[Bass] Now let us… [All] have a little talk with Jesus,
[Bass] Let us… [All] tell him all about our troubles.
[Bass] He will… [All] hear our faintest cry,
[Bass] and he will…[All] answer by and by.
[Bass] Now when you…[All] feel a little prayer wheel turning,
[Bass] And you… [All] know a little fire is burning,
[Bass] You will … [All] find a little talk with Jesus makes it right,
[Alto] It makes it right…1
That smooth bass voice boomed out the first phrase of each line in the chorus of “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.” This was the third and last song we sang on this night of revival. The bass voice went silent, and then the rest of the congregation’s voices did, too, as the last note rang out. Daddy, our song leader, looked to the preachers sitting up in the pulpit, and quietly said, “Preachers, I think that’s probably about enough singing.”
In addition to our three pastors, several pastors from nearby sister churches sat on the bay window shaped bench in the pulpit behind the altar. Each looked at the others. Fearful that he might stand to speak when God had put a more pressing message on the heart of another, the ritual of each preacher asking for volunteers to open the service was a normal occurrence for most meetings, not just during revival. As the tension mounted, you actually felt the desire of the one led to stand and bring God’s word. Everyone relaxed a little as he rose from the bench to stand at the lectern.
“We’re mighty thankful that the Lord has gave us another day to come to be with all you good folks here, and we pray that the words we bring will be the words He sends…We pray that some lost soul out there might feel convicted and come to this altar tonight to be washed of their sins.” The preacher continued to speak with a gentle humbleness as he opened his well-worn Bible and turned in it to the passage that God had laid on his heart. “Pray for this humble servant as I read from God’s word..”, and with that, the preacher read, stopping only when he felt the peace that comes with knowing he had completed his task.
He looked up from his Bible and spoke for a few minutes, interpreting the meaning of what he had just read. He knew this was not the time to get carried away and take up a lot of time. His job tonight was to prime the congregation, preparing them for the main message to come. When he finished, he spoke softly, “Thank you, God, for bringing these words to this poor soul, and may someone who needed to hear them be touched by your hand tonight. Let’s have a prayer. Anyone who feels led, come on up and kneel at the altar as the good Brother over there leads us in prayer.”
Many of the men, and some of the women, made their way to the front of the church where they kneeled at the altar, waiting patiently for the chosen Brother to start the prayer. Once all was completely quiet, except maybe for the coo of a baby or the chatter of a small child, the Brother started…
“Oh, dear God, we come to you tonight, thanking you for the opportunity to be in your house again, and thanking you for the redeeming blood of Jesus, our Savior. We pray, Lord Father, for this old world and all the evil in it, that you would have your way in all we say and do, and that you’d use us as an instrument of your grace as we reach out to the sinners of this world. Father God, forgive our own sins, and fit us with your armor so that we can do your work as best we can, and Lord Almighty, we just pray that you would lay it upon anybody’s heart here tonight who doesn’t know you in a full pardon of sin to come forward to this altar and ask for your forgiveness and give their soul and life to you and raise up born again into your kingdom…”
As the Brother prayed, many others joined in, all speaking his or her prayer aloud. You could often catch bits and pieces of what each prayed, but if you didn’t make a solid attempt to do so, the prayers could meld together with the beauty of a babbling brook. You might not understand what was being said, but you could hear and feel the beauty
and strength of it all together. The prayer continued until, one by one, the voices quieted, and finally the Brother who had started the prayer ended it with “We ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus who died for our sins. Amen.”
An air of calm and peaceful fellowship enveloped the whole church as those at the altar rose and slowly made their way back to their seats. A couple of the men took out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from their brows, and a few of the women gently dabbed their eyes with tissues. As our clerk used to say in his minutes of the business meetings, “All was found in peace and love one with the other among those that was present.”
The time had come for the main message. One of our preachers was a quiet spoken man whose face just beamed with the love of God. He never rushed his words, he never raised his voice, and he never felt the need to leave the pulpit. Yet he never needed more than 20 minutes to deliver his message and make his point. Tonight, though, the preacher’s style was on the other end of the spectrum. He started out much the same way as our more restrained pastor, but got more and more “in the spirit” as he preached. Soon, a loud “WHOOOOO!” raised the rafters, and his hand slammed down on his bible. As he grew louder, he also became more rhythmic in sort of a sing-song delivery. Occasionally, he leaped from the pulpit landing hard on the floor below and striding up and down the aisle, shaking hands as he went, and continuing to preach the whole time. Tonight, a message that could have lasted as little as 20 minutes soon lasted a full hour.
On occasion, another preacher felt the need to speak following after the one who had just finished, but not tonight. After the preacher finished with the main message, the end of the service was in sight. “Brother Dickie, if you have a song to close us out with us, go ahead.” And Daddy always had a hymn ready; in fact, he had several ready during revival.
Closing hymns were of a considerably slower tempo than those at the beginning of meeting for a number of reasons. First, it was a time when the congregation left their seats on the benches and circulated among one another to shake hands and maybe say a few words of encouragement. It became a way to close out the meeting with everyone circled around the altar in fellowship with one another. And during revival, it also gave any sinner(s) present the time to consider the condition of his or her immortal soul. It was a time to listen to the words of the hymn and follow your convictions to lay your sins at the feet of Jesus Christ, shed the old self, and rise reborn in a full pardon of sin.
As the preachers circulated through the church, shaking hands and extolling the promise of eternal life, a young man edged out shakily, then walked slowly up to the altar where he knelt and began to pray. Soon, two of the preachers joined him, each placing a hand on his shoulders as they prayed prayers of intercession for him. Eventually, he rose and turned to face the congregation. His whole demeanor had changed, and he looked like a new man–he was a new man. The whole church rejoiced with him. Some folks cried quiet tears of joy, others waved their hands in the air in communion with Christ’s spirit, and some “got happy,” whooping out shouts of praise and joy. All the while, Daddy kept the singing going until everyone had welcomed him into the fold, and had then settled down. As Daddy led the last words of the last hymn, you literally tingled with the feeling of God’s presence, peace, and love…
I heard an old, old story
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me.
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins,
And won the victory.
Oh, victory in Jesus!
My Savior forever!
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood.
I loved Him ere I knew Him,
And all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood…2
With tonight’s mission accomplished, a short prayer of dismissal followed, and within a few minutes the little church emptied and would remain hollow until the next night when we would all gather there again to be revived in our own walk and to reach out to the lost souls who joined us.
1 “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” published 1937
Written and composed by Cleavant Derricks http://sghistory.com/index.php?n=C.Cleavant_Derricks
2 “Victory in Jesus” published 1939
Written and composed by Eugene Bartlett.