It seems there was always a revival in one of the churches in our community where I grew up. Half my life was spent sitting in a church pew listening to some Baptist preacher rant and rave about how America was going to hell in a handbasket… whatever that meant. They all had their list of ‘do’s and don’ts.’ It was always ‘do this and don’t do that.’ And they always cautioned about the Catholics, as they were on their way to hell. So, naturally, as a teen, I never dated a Catholic because I was afraid she might take me along with her if I ever married one! Thank God for maturity. Now some of my best friends are Catholic.
It was easy for me to portray two different types of people…. one was when I went to church, and I would put on my piety pose and pull my sanctimonious shade. The rest of the week was like most other kids, mischievous, fun-loving, competitive, and above all, hungry.
Lord knows I was ALWAYS hungry, a bottomless pit; a skinny 6’4” bottomless pit. I could outeat anyone, except maybe my best friend, E. Jay. We soon discovered that if we worked in the high school cafeteria, we got to eat for free and as much as we wanted. But despite that, neither of us could put on any weight.
E. Jay lived in the little community of Kingsmill, Texas, located six miles west of Pampa. It had a population of about fifty people, and all of them and their friends would meet quarterly for a revival at their little community church. So, naturally, it was expected by his mom and dad that he be there.
Well, one hot summer evening, we decided to take our dates to the revival out at Kingsmill. E. Jay’s date was a Presbyterian, and my date was a Methodist. Neither had ever been to a rip-roaring, hallelujah shouting and spirit-filled meeting. Needless to say, they were in total shock from the time we arrived until we left.
These services started early in the evening and lasted about two to three hours. First, there was singing. Then came the quartets, a few solos, and of course, the choir had a special to do. Next were the announcements, prayers, and offerings. Finally, the guest preacher starts with his Hell Fire and Damnation Sermon. As the message went along and he got the participation of the members (the amen corner), he would progress from a normal voice to one that got louder and louder. By the time he finished, he was shouting at the top of his lungs and had the locals in a ‘tizzy.’ On this particular night, it appeared that everyone was having a good time… the way it should be.
Well, as I mentioned, it was a hot evening, and this little church didn’t have air-conditioning (as many places in the ‘50s didn’t) or ceiling fans. But the church did have cross ventilation with windows running down both sides of the building. The windows were all opened. Need I say more? Open windows, evening, and lights. The moths and June bugs were everywhere, and the mosquitoes were having a feast.
E. Jay and his date Anita and I and my date, Johnnie, sat in the back row with the other teens. The service was in its second hour, and I glanced down the row and observed Jon and Anita in a trance, totally amazed, not believing what they were witnessing. Then I looked over at E. Jay and … OH MY GOSH… he had gone to sleep! How in the world can anyone go to sleep with all this activity around us? Of course, I’m talking about all the shouting from the preacher, and the amen’s from the audience. I’m telling you, this was a lively bunch of folks!
It was just too tempting. I couldn’t let E. Jay continue his escape from reality. So I decided to wait until there was a break in the action from the pulpit… my timing had to be perfect. The preacher must stop long enough for a point to sink into the minds of his captured audience. So I wait… wait …the pause… NOW! I tapped him on the shoulder hard and whispered, “E. Jay, they have called on you to pray!” =
E. Jay blinked a couple of times, his eyes glazed. Finally, he tried to focus, opening his eyes really big. Then he popped up and started praying! Everyone was in awe. I’m talking total silence as old P.J. (as I called him) began his prayer. After his first few sentences, an “Amen” came from the middle of the church, then an “Amen” there and over there. Someone even threw in a “Y-e-s-s Lord,” and E. Jay was on a roll. “Lord, we thank Thee for this, and we thank Thee for that, and bless the preacher and ol’ so and so, and heal the sick world, and we praise Thee for everything.” He must have prayed for five minutes, an absolute record for any teenager!
P.J. completely dumbfounded me. He was spectacular. “Hey, that’s my best friend standing there praying and even using the Old English King James version,” I was thinking. This could be the start of something big!
As he completed his prayer, he opened his eyes, and voila…he realized what I had done to him. Before he could get his hands on me and around my throat, the preacher blurted out, “Well when ya gotta pray, ya gotta pray!” At this point, P.J. sat down, and the preacher picked up where he had left off, never missing a beat!
As soon as the service was over, all the people crowded around P.J., patting him on the back, shaking his hand, and telling him how great it was to see this young man so enthusiastic about the Lord. How spiritual, how uplifting, a real prayer warrior! They kept telling him he needed to become a preacher or evangelist. Well, would you believe our friendship grew after that night because I had created this spiritual giant in the eyes of his elders! About once a year, E Jay still calls me up and thanks me for ‘awakening’ him to this new spiritual level.
When Jimmy Bond, another friend, and Pampa High basketball star, heard about P.J.’s ability to pray in public, he invited us, yes, even me, to become a team and do youth revivals. So we did three or four. We even went to some little town in Colorado. I led the singing, E Jay did the praying, and Jimmy did the preaching. Which reminds me of another funny story, but I’ll save it for another time…
Well, neither of us ended up a preacher, but we are very active in the Christian faith and still the best of friends. Thanks, E Jay, for all the good times and great memories.