DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Tribute to My Prayer Warrior

Written by: on February 15, 2018

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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 [1]” to affirm positively” where “It shifts the attention from the external to the internal.”[2] He taught me Apophatic prayer where one “rejects the human to find the divine,” [3] 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.”[4] 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.”[5]

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.”[6] 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.”[7] 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.

mind the gap

 

[1] Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, New York: 2012) 3396, Kindle.

[2] Ibid., 3401, Kindle.

[3] Ibid., 3396, Kindle.

[4] Ibid., 166.

[5] Ibid., 268.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

 

About the Author

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Jennifer Dean-Hill

10 responses to “A Tribute to My Prayer Warrior”

  1. Jim Sabella says:

    Jenn, thank you for sharing your story. I have nothing to add and no questions to ask only silence and thankfulness to God for such a fine man as your father. I never knew him, but we all know him through you!

  2. Lynda Gittens says:

    Wonderful writing honoring your earthly and heavenly fathers. The loss of parental prayer coverage is paralyzing to the mind. I remember when my father died wondering who was going to be my spiritual sounding board. Later I realized that I was now that I was the person to provide the covering prayer.
    Jen, your father poured into you his praying spirit and now you are the one providing prayer coverage. I love your spirit and now that I know your father had a major influence, I have a love for him too.

  3. Mary says:

    Jen, you bring an important piece to the whole discussion – how have we benefitted when others have prayed for us? Your beautiful post caused me to shift the focus from myself to others.
    I am sorry to hear about your Dad. But he passed on his legacy to you.
    The book did seem to focus on individuals seeking a word from God, but how much more important that prayer should be about others.
    God bless you as you stand in the gap.

  4. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Wow Jen! My eyes welled up with tears as I read your post. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  5. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    Wow, Jen, you had me in tears as I read your testimony. I’m thankful to hear what a personal connection you’ve had with what Luhrmann observes and writes about. What I see here is a father who loved you and the Lord deeply, and modeled a life of prayer that he passed on to you. I suppose one of the greatest legacies he’s left are you who knew him and now “stand in the gap” for others as well. Darth Vader taught you well. 😉

  6. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Oh Jen, thank you for sharing this amazing story of your dad! I’m so sorry for your loss but so glad that you had this amazing man in your life. I can see him in you.

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