When I was 5, I remember asking Jesus into my heart with my Dad kneeling next to me leading me in the “Sinner’s Prayer”. When I was 8, my dad baptized me and prayed over me inviting the Holy Spirit to transform my life. When I was 16, I received a supernatural healing as my Dad prayed for me, healing to my back miraculously. When I was married at 24, my dad prayed a marriage blessing while fighting off tears as he facilitated the ceremony as Dad and pastor. Through my child-labors, surgeries, accidents, and life incidents, I always knew my Dad was praying for me. I am quite certain I was spared many tragedies through the prayers of my Dad. He prayed prayers for blessings, protection, insight, and would often say to me, “I pray for you by name every day.”
He taught me to dialogue with God in journaling, to keep prayer lists, to call on the mighty name of Jesus when I was in danger or afraid, to pray and ask for complete healing of mind, body, and spirit, and to listen to my dreams. He taught me Greek and Hebrew words, how to use a Strong’s concordance and to pray scripture. He taught me Kataphatic prayer, meaning ” to affirm positively” where “It shifts the attention from the external to the internal.” He taught me Apophatic prayer where one “rejects the human to find the divine,”  and to look beyond my circumstances to the heart of God. But most of all, he taught me what Teresa Avila called “…’mental prayer”: nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary intercourse, with Him.” To talk to a relational God who listens, talks, cries and laughs with us (he would tell me jokes God told him) and relates to us in our thoughts, dreams, events, and prophesies, and to trust my life to a God who dearly loves me.
Living in Southern California, I remember my dad coming home spiritually enthused, talking about this new church movement, called the Vineyard, and meeting a down-to-earth pastor, John Wimber who inspired him to develop a more relational connection with God. Wimber seemed to be giving the words to prayer and spiritual relationship my father craved and was intuitively developing. Meeting Wimber and attending his trainings changed his ministry, his life, and our family’s spiritual life. Reading the words of anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann as she described the infrastructure of Vineyard was fascinating, as I was more familiar with the experience of the Vineyard church versus the roots of its’ strategic formation. It reminded me of Dad and his real relationship with God, and his emphasis on prayer which sounded more like a fun and profound relationship with his dear Friend.
A year before I entered the DMin program, my cherished father suffered a death I wouldn’t wish on anyone. He suffered from a rare lung disease, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The lungs crystalized and hardened, as he painfully and slowly suffocated to death. Towards his last days, the anxiety became intense and I saw my God-fearing father who had prayed over and healed many, cry out and shake in terror over the physical and emotional suffering. Although we prayed for healing many times, that was not to be. As I watched my father’s body deteriorate, his brain and spirit stayed securely intact, and we both knew this was to be his fate. This man who taught me to love God as a close friend was dying a gruesome death, which highlighted the obvious issue: “When God is very close and very powerful and always very loving, there is no easy explanation when he does not deliver.”
I’ll probably never know why God allowed this death for him on this side of heaven, but I don’t really care. All I know is I depended on God’s strength to get me through and to grieve the greatest loss I’ve ever known. Like the Vineyard teaching “When prayer fails, people at the Vineyard simply shift the focus and say that this is when you need God.” My prayers shifted from those of healing to those of dependency as I relied on God’s friendship to help me through this dark valley of death as “His friendship becomes its own reward.” Although I was distraught over the suffering of my dad, we both leaned heavily on the friendship of God to guide us through what should have been very dark days. Instead, my time with him was often punctuated with silliness as I wheeled him on walks in his wheelchair over bumpy roads, with him pretending to be Darth Vader’s voice as we rolled along. Or blasting praise music as we strolled, oblivious to the stares of neighbors as we sang and enjoyed the presence of God. It was a sacred time, and God was with us through the tears, the smiles, and the terrors.
When dad passed, my greatest loss was my father’s prayers. Who would pray diligently for me and stand in the gap for me? All who knew him loved him and heralded him to be a prayer warrior. We had bracelets printed up that said, “Stand in the Gap” as a reminder for all of us to pray and stand in the gap in prayer for others. We all missed his humor, his love, but most of all, his prayers as he taught many to love a very real, loving, and powerful God who talks back. Vineyard, prayers, spiritual relationships, a relational God who dialogues…this book had my Dad’s name all over it. Thank you, Dr. Rev. Rodney Jay Dean for your prayers, teaching me to pray relationally, and to hear God’s voice talk back to me through whatever I may encounter.
 Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, New York: 2012) 3396, Kindle.
 Ibid., 3401, Kindle.
 Ibid., 3396, Kindle.
 Ibid., 166.
 Ibid., 268.