Friday Five Interview: Jennifer Kennedy Dean
When my first book was published, I remember attending my very first ICRS (then it was call CBA Convention). It was in Indianapolis and I had a radio interview scheduled. I was as nervous as a cat. I had just driven 5 hours from Chicago area, got a speeding ticket, and was a bit overwhelmed by all the publishers and books and agents and media.
I was met at CBA by a fellow New Hope author named, Jennifer Kennedy Dean. We waited together outside the recording room where the interview was to be held. She leaned over and said, “Hey, you’ll do just fine. Just relax, take a deep breath, and talk about your book.” I never forgot that. I’m thinking the interview was less than memorable, but that experience gave me insight into Jennifer’s life and ministry. Since then, she’s become a great friend.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean is a multi-published author, most famous for her book, Live a Praying Life. She is the executive director of The Praying Life Foundation. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book, Heart’s Cry, has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. Her book, Live a Praying Life, has been called a flagship work on prayer.
Jennifer is in demand as a speaker and has spoken in such venues as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove and Focus on the Family.
She is a board member for Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, a member of America’s National Prayer Committee, a board member and broadcaster with WebTV4Women and a member of National Professional Women Association.
1) How did you get your start in writing, publishing, and a speaking ministry?
I started teaching a Sunday School class when I was student at Baylor From that, I had invitations to speak at different college events, and things grew from there. After I had been speaking a few years, I had honed my message to topics related to prayer. In today’s vocabulary, I guess you would say that prayer became my brand. At some point, a publisher approached me about writing what I was speaking. Writing and speaking grew hand-in-hand from then on.
2) You travel around the country speaking to big and small groups on a variety of Bible subjects, but you’re main focus is prayer. What led you to dive so deeply into prayer?
I consider my Bible study, Live a Praying Life, to be my life’s purpose. That’s how important it is to me. It is the culmination of almost 40 years of searching. I’m trying to think back and trace the beginnings of that consuming passion, and I find it interesting to remember that, even as a child, I was always experimenting with prayer. By experimenting, I mean putting it to the test. Trying it out. Trying to figure out its intricacies and what made it work. So maybe it is the culmination of more than forty years of searching. Maybe 57 years of searching. Decades ago, the Lord introduced me to a praying life. When that phrase came to my mind, it changed the way I thought about prayer and opened the door to a whole new concept.
My mother had a great interest in prayer, and always had prayer groups and prayer partners. We had front-row seats for all her prayer adventures, I’m sure I was infected by her. When I started defining my own relationship with Christ, prayer was its center.
God created me to be a left-brain thinker. I need logic. Part A has to fit into Part B. An argument has to hold together from beginning to end. I can’t take things at face value, no matter how hard I try. I need to know how things work. Isn’t it funny that such a person would be called to a passion for prayer? On the surface, prayer seems to be the most illogical proposition ever tendered.
I’m delighted to be in relationship with a God whose invitation is, “Come, let us reason together.” As I probed and questioned and searched, I found that God welcomed my questions and could teach me prayer in a way that satisfied both my heart and my mind. To my relief, I found that faith does not cancel out understanding. In fact, faith produces understanding.
Live a Praying Life is the record of my search. Of course, the search continues. I will never understand everything about prayer, but every day I can understand more. The more I understand, the more I am compelled to put it in practice. Prayer is the conduit through which the power of God is released into the circumstances of earth. That’s what motivates me.
3) You talk about the difference between a “prayer life” and a “praying life.” What do you mean by that?
A praying life is a life lived in an open and receptive attitude toward God. An undercurrent of prayer is always flowing in the life of a believer… sometime articulated in sentences, sometimes not. When you begin to live a praying life, you leave behind the idea that prayer is a group of words sandwiched between “Dear God” and “Amen.” You are always walking in the flow of God’s power and provision; always engaged in an interchange between heaven and earth.
4) You’re latest project is Life Unhindered. You write about walking in freedom. Do you think many Christians live unnecessarily shackled?
Because the Scripture has so much exhortation and instruction on living in freedom, it seems that this is a topic that requires continual growth and reinforcement. We are so accustomed to the things that hold us captive that we often consider them irreversible. We might not even see them as holding us back. But the Scripture strips away the pretense and exposes shackles for what they are. And gives us the keys to throw off every hindrance.
5) What advice would you give to an aspiring Christian writer or speaker?
Everything starts small. Do faithfully what the Lord has put in front of you to do. Live the message you speak from the platform. Trust that God will place you where He wants you, obedience by obedience.