Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Praying Through Football Season

Special prayer request for Joni: Last month Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer. She successfully underwent surgery on June 28. Pray for her recuperation from surgery and in the next months as she will be undergoing chemotherapy. You can read her complete updates on JoniAndFriends.org.

 

Leslie Basham: Here’s Joni Eareckson Tada.

Joni Eareckson Tada: I think it’s the most powerful thing a woman can do for her husband is pray for him. Pray committedly. Pray specifically. Pray faithfully. And watch God change not just your husband, but first He’ll probably change you. And that’s a good place to start.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, July 8. 

This fall, the True Woman Conference is coming to Indianapolis and Fort Worth. Speakers are preparing and praying about what God wants them to share at these important conferences. This includes Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s coming to Indianapolis. I hope you’ll be there, too. Get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com. Joni’s our guest today, talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s been such a joy this week to be talking with Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a long-time friend. Joni, I have to tell you, I have virtually no living heroes. I kind of wait until they’re gone and then make them heroes. But if I have one living hero, you would be that for me. I know you don’t think of yourself that way, and that’s one of the things I love about you.

God has used your life and your life message in so many ways in my life over the years—in ways that you won’t know about this side of heaven. Thank you so much for taking time this week to share with me and the Revive Our Hearts' listeners. I love you and I just thank you for being a part of this ministry.

Joni: Well, Nancy, I feel your love. I embrace your love, and I am truly honored and humbled that anything I might say from this wheelchair might encourage you in Christ. Of course, our listeners, too. I know that your heart’s desire and my heart’s desire is to uplift the spirits and encourage the hearts of the women who are tuning in.

Nancy: I know they have been this week. Let me say, if you’ve missed any of the previous conversations we’ve had with Joni, you need to go to our web site, ReviveOurHearts.com. You can get the programs from these last few days. Or you can call our 800 number and order the CDs from the conversation we’re having this week. It has been so rich, and I know that you’ll want to hear the entire conversation.

Joni, you’re a speaker, world-renown, much sought after conference speaker. I assume you have to turn down a lot of speaking invitations. You’ve written more than 35 books. You’re an artist. I love your paintings. You’re a singer. You’re a fellow broadcaster. You founded a major international ministry, Joni and Friends.

Joni: I’m getting tired just listening to you, Nancy.

Nancy: One day you were asked, “What’s the most important thing you do?” You didn’t list any of those things.

Joni: That’s right.

Nancy: What did you say?

Joni: Taking care of my husband. He is the most important person in my life. God puts people in the sphere of our influence all around us: our neighbors, our friends, people in our community. If we are invited to go speak somewhere, sure those are individuals in the audience. But that individual behind closed doors that you’re at home with, whether it’s—well, my husband, of course, but the children, perhaps that’s some of our listeners, mothers, their husbands, the family circle. The people in that sphere of influence—they are the most important individuals. And for me certainly that is my husband, Ken.

We’re coming up on 25 years of marriage. He indeed is the most important person in my life. If it doesn’t work with him, if my testimony is not living out with him, if I cannot be clear and transparent with him behind closed doors, then I better not be going out and speaking anywhere, saying anything that doesn’t first work at home.

Nancy: I’m so glad you said that because being in women’s ministry now over some 25 years, I’ve met a lot of women who are going out in their churches, in their communities, some of them even nationally, and doing a lot of ministry. But when you get in a conversation with them about how it is on the homefront, it’s not good. They’re stepping over, in some cases, the most important calling and ministry that God has given them and that’s to their husband and their children.

Joni: Well, actually, I look at Ken as my barometer. He is my gauge of how and to what extent I ought to be traveling, I ought to be writing, if I am to take this ministry opportunity. Because if I sense in my spirit that something’s not right at home, then I've got to get that corrected first. He’s the most important person in my life, and I can say that I am my husband’s best friend as well.

Nancy: I wish he could be here with us in the studio today because I would love our listeners to hear from him as well. He’s a dear. He’s got a servant’s heart. He has been such a gift to you. I thank the Lord for Ken Tada.

Joni: I do too. You know, Nancy, because of my disability, I want to make certain that I give my husband lots of breaks. I remember on my wedding day to my husband, his best man said to me, “Joni, I don’t know what God's got in store for you with you in that wheelchair, but let Ken keep his dreams, okay?”

So you know what, if he wants to go fly fishing in Montana with a couple of his Bible study buddies, I’m right there pushing him out the door and buying his ticket for the airplane. I think it’s important that my husband have good, rich, deep, meaningful relationships with other men.

Nancy: That’s good counsel for any married woman.

Joni: Oh, sure, and I’m not jealous. If I hear Ken pick up the phone—and this has happened—it’s Pete Lubisich calling from Oregon. That’s his best friend. They do this Bible study over the phone. Sometimes when I hear the lilt in Ken’s voice and his excitement and enthusiasm to talk to his best buddy, there have been moments where I’ve gotten a little jealous.

It's like “When you put down the phone, why don’t you talk like that to me?” I used to say that to him when we first married. But I have seen the evidences of their phone call and Bible study they do every week. It has matured my husband’s character so powerfully, so wonderfully, so richly.

Nancy: It makes him a better husband.

Joni: Oh, my goodness. Hey, sometimes when I hear that it’s Pete on the phone, I’ll ask if I can please have a word with him before he puts down the phone. I’ll get on the phone and say, “Oh, Pete, I’m just so glad that you’re such a good friend to my husband. Bless you. Just keep it up. I’m just letting you know I’m praying for you.” No longer do I envy their intimate relationship over the phone when they do their Bible studies. I support it ,and I’m excited about it!

Nancy: For those of our listeners that may not have heard, how did you and Ken first meet?

Joni: Well, Nancy, I was very happy being single, in my mid-30s. I was enjoying the luxury of my own schedule, traveling, eating Lean Cuisines if I wanted to at night. I was sitting in church one Sunday morning. We attend John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. John was off on a ministry trip. There was some special speaker, and I just couldn’t get into the sermon. Yet this was the Lord’s Day. I didn’t want to sit there and day dream, so I decided to pray.

"Let’s see, I’m going to pray. Okay, I’ll pray for that man over there. I don’t know who he is. I can’t see his face, but I’m going to pray for him." So I started. For about 20 to 30 minutes, I just had all sorts of things to pray about for this guy. The Lord just kept giving me ideas and insights that I should pray for his work situation, for his family, for his salvation, perhaps if he didn’t know Jesus, or if he did, for the enrichment of his interest in God’s Word—all sorts of stuff.

At the end of the benediction, I almost wheeled up to this man and introduced myself to let him know, “I prayed for you, sir.” But I let it drop. Then we were introduced by mutual friends about a month or two later. The first thing I said when I met this guy, Ken Tada, was, “Turn around and let me see the back of your head.” It was him.

Nancy: I recognize you!

Joni: Right. I recognize your head. Well, that sparked an interesting conversation. I’ll never forget our first date. I was so nervous. I told Ken that he was going to have to lift me out of my wheelchair and put me in the front seat of his car. Gee, when we went to the restaurant, "You have to cut up my food and lift the drink to my mouth—the glass of water."

I was so nervous, Nancy. I kept drinking so many glasses of water. My mouth was so dry. This was my first date. Well, after a little while I realized that was the wrong thing to do because I looked down and my leg bag is getting bigger and bigger. I realized, “Oh, my goodness, I’m going to spring a leak on the carpet of this restaurant.”

You see, I empty into a bag which is attached to the side of my leg. There’s a little clamp at the bottom that you release and that’s how the bag empties. I was drinking so much water. I said, “Ken, you’re going to have to help me in the restroom.” To which he replied, “Well, I’m happy to do that, but I’m not going to go into the ladies’ room.” I said, “Well, I’m not going to go into the men’s room.” So we went outside and watered a tree.

Nancy: On your first date.

Joni: On my first date. It was so embarrassing. I was so humiliated. But you know what, it ended up being so funny. We laughed and laughed all the way home. It’s interesting looking back how God used what could have been a very embarrassing situation—this first-date guy unclamping that little clamp by my ankle to release the urine and water the tree. How ridiculous. But yet, it just helped us be so open and vulnerable in front of one another.

Nancy: This is real life.

Joni: Real life. Our friendship quickly deepened. When he asked me to marry him, I thought, "Here’s a guy who can handle it. Like he handled it on my first date, he can handle this disability. Plus, he loves Jesus Christ," and that was the best part.

Nancy: Did you have any expectations about marriage that you found out after marriage weren’t all that realistic?

Joni: Well, I was very much into God’s Word and still am. Back then I was doing a lot of Kay Arthur Precept Bible studies. So when we married, I said to Ken, “Would you mind being my hands? I need help in preparation.”

Nancy: All those colored pencils you’re talking about in the Precept study method?

Joni: That’s when the honeymoon ended. I’ll never forget it. We married in July. The honeymoon ended on a Monday night in September when I had all my Kay Arthur stuff with the pink pens and the green pens and the yellow pens and the purple pens all out on the kitchen table.

Ken had said he was going to be my hands and assist me with my Bible study preparation, but there he is rummaging through the refrigerator looking for Cokes and salsa and chips. He passes right by me on the way to the television set in the living room to watch Dan Dierdorf and Al Michaels on Monday Night Football.

I was crushed. "Oh, God, I have not married a man of Your Word. I am so sick. What have I done? I’ve made an awful mistake." Well, I began nagging. I began cajoling. I began manipulating, pushing.

Nancy: Of course, he loved that.

Joni: Oh, he hated it. I tell you the first year of our marriage was pretty rocky. Halfway through football season I read a verse in Philippians, chapter 2, the fourth verse, where it says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but the interest of others. Esteem others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3-4, paraphrased). That was so convicting. So I purposed that every Monday night during football . . . What’s that—about three hours it usually lasts?

Nancy: Oh, I think it’s 12 or 15 hours. It goes on and on.

Joni: Well, I went into the bedroom during Monday Night Football. I decided I was going to pray for my husband. So every Monday night for the entire course of football season, I prayed for God to encourage him, strengthen him, make him a man of God’s Word, strengthen our marriage, all sorts of things.

Nancy: Did you tell him what you were doing?

Joni: He knew what was going on, but he just thought that was a lot better than him having to help me with Kay Arthur’s Bible study stuff. So he was very happy for me to lock myself away in the bedroom and pray for him.

I tell you what, a miracle happened come January around Super Bowl—this incredible miracle. I became a football fan. God changed me through all those prayers I offered the Lord. Nancy, I will tell you something. My husband has far surpassed me in memorizing Scripture. This friend I told you about, Pete Lubisich, up in Oregon. The two of them challenge each other to memorize Scripture.

Ken can quote the whole Sermon on the Mount. He can quote Psalm 103, Psalm 51. I don’t know what he’s memorizing now. He has left me in the dust. It is incredible how he is the leader in our marriage now as it concerns the handling of God’s Word. It’s remarkable that God has answered that prayer, not only by changing my heart toward my husband, but also deepening his love for the Savior as well. All because I put away the cajoling, the nagging, the coaxing, the manipulating, and just started interceding for my guy.

Nancy: I know we have many, many listeners who relate to this story. The details may be different, but there’s some area of their husband’s character or walk with God or lack thereof that is a great burden and a heaviness to them. You’re saying that going after your husband proved to be ineffective, but going to the Lord and lifting this man up to the Lord gave God the freedom to work in your life and in Ken’s life and ultimately to fulfill the greatest desires of your heart.

Joni: I think it’s the most powerful thing a woman can do for her husband is pray for him.

  • Pray committedly.
  • Pray specifically.
  • Pray faithfully.
  • Pray perseveringly.

Watch God change not just your husband, but first He’ll probably change you. That’s a good place to start.

Nancy: How do you keep the love fresh? How do you keep the relationship fresh? Twenty-five years—you and Ken are like newlyweds.

Joni: Well, it seems that the longer we’re married, the deeper and sweeter and more fun it is. I think that’s partly because we are so honest with one another. There are times, especially most recently, when it’s been very difficult for Ken—my disability. I’ve been experiencing more pain, which meant earlier this year I was in bed for a couple of months. It meant he had to get up at night and turn me more frequently. That was very, very hard. I saw the weariness in Ken’s eyes, and those trapped feelings. Husbands get these trapped feelings.

The best thing I could do for him was to watch him sit slump-shouldered on the edge of the mattress and simply say, “Sweetheart, I understand. If I were in your position, I would feel the same way. I’d feel weary. I’d feel resentful. I’d feel angry at this disability, and I just want you to know I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you one bit. I just support you, and just know I’m praying for you.”

What a healing thing to say. What chokes me up is to think of all the times when we were first married when he would get that same trapped look, those same weary expressions on his face, that not-looking-at-you—it’s where your husband’s just there but he’s not there. You can see the sour look on his face, that he’s somewhere else.

I remember when I was first married, I’d bite back at him and say, “Well, didn’t you know it was going to be like this? I mean when we married, didn’t you see the wheelchair? Didn’t you put two and two together? Didn’t you realize it was going to be tough? Why are you blaming me?” It was so accusatory.

Nancy: Those words don’t bring healing.

Joni: Not at all.

Nancy: They wound.

Joni: In fact, it drove us apart that first year of marriage. That was a rough year. Now after so many years, I understand. I support my husband and I empathize with him. My goodness, my disability’s hard for me. If it’s hard for me, it must be doubly hard for him. So when he has these trapped feelings, first I will tell him that I understand, and I don’t blame him. Secondly, I will commit to him that I will pray for him.

Thirdly, I will say, “You know what, Ken, you need to go see your best friend, Pete Lubisich. You need to go fly fishing with a couple of your friends. Let’s get you out of this house. Let’s just get you a change of scenery. How about it?” I think that does more for him than anything else.

At that point, he doesn’t even have to go fishing, he tells me. He turns to me with tears in his eyes and says, “Thank you.” Suddenly the trapped feelings, the chains fall off. There’s a breath of fresh air and there’s a sweeter intimacy between us because we both know—we can see that we’re looking out for each other’s interests. That makes for a very happy marriage.

Nancy: God made a woman to be a helper to her husband. Your husband has to help you in a lot of ways because of your disability. Besides prayer and those words of encouragement are there some other ways you’ve found that you can be a helper to him?

Joni: I jot him little notes. If he’s going on a fishing trip, I’ll tuck a little note into his waders, or I’ll send  a letter ahead to the lodge where I know he’s going to be fishing with his Bible study buddies. I’ll send a letter ahead. I will buy him what’s called an omiagi. My husband’s a Japanese-American—a handsome guy.

An omiagi is a Japanese word which means “little gift that means nothing.” It’s not your birthday. It’s not your anniversary. It’s not Christmas. It’s just a little gift that means nothing.

Nancy: But it probably means a lot.

Joni: Yes, it does. I know my husband likes to fly fish so if I’m out and I know that there’s a fly fishing store or an outdoor shop somewhere, I’ll pick up a fly. He’ll just be so touched that I thought of him. Or I’ll just ask him about his friends. Tell me how I can pray for your friends. Right now we’re praying for a couple of good friends of his—two of them who have cancer. I’ve written them notes. That blesses Ken to know that I care about him in that way.

Then, of course, always making sure that he’s got some time carved out for himself either during the week or during the summertime. It’s just important that my husband not be my caretaker. He’s not my nurse. He’s not my personal care attendant. He’s my husband. So I want to make certain that I order my own medical supplies. When I drove my van, I took it in for it’s own oil change. I rotate the tires. Doing whatever I can . . .

Nancy: You’re way ahead of me.

Joni: Doing whatever I can just to let my husband know that, hey, I want to hold up my end of this marriage even though my hands don’t work and my feet don’t walk.

Nancy: What do you do for fun, you and Ken?

Joni: Well, Ken and I like to play chess. He’s a good chess player. I can barely beat him, but we love playing chess. We love watching NCAA football on television. We’re just big football fans.

Nancy: It’s a little different than the first year of marriage.

Joni: Right. Oh, much different. We love the Tour de France. We loves sports. I’m a big sports fan, so Ken and I enjoy going down to Staples Center when the Lakers are playing. We just love that. Frankly, we enjoy hanging out in our backyard and just sipping a cool drink and looking out over the San Fernando Valley and just relaxing. We enjoy those times together.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Joni Eareckson Tada will be right back. Joni’s words will challenge every wife. Think about it. Are you putting the interests of your husband above your own?

The True Woman Conference will show you why loving your husband is so important in building God’s kingdom. It will also show you how to live you your femininity for God’s glory, whether you’re married or single, in any season of life.

Joni Eareckson Tada will be speaking at the True Woman Conference in Indianapolis this September. I hope you’ll take this advantage to hear from the woman Nancy called “One of my few living heroes.”

A powerful lineup of speakers will also be on hand at True Woman in Ft. Worth in October. Get the details on both these conferences at ReviveOurHearts.com.

ReviveOurHearts.com is also where you can order Joni’s new book, 31 Days Toward Passionate Faith. If you’ve enjoyed hearing the insight from this incredible woman of God on the radio this week, you’ll get so much out of this book.

It's our way of saying thanks when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Joni Eareckson Tada has a unique perspective on certain controversial issues of our day concerning ethics and medicine. Hear what she has to say about those tomorrow. Now, let’s get back to Nancy and Joni.

Nancy: Joni, I’m confident there are a lot of people who’ve been listening to us have this conversation over the last few moments who are in a marriage that perhaps is where you were in your first year of marriage. But they’ve been at it for years and years and the picking at each other and pecking away and the negative, critical, hurtful words have become the pattern of their marriage.

Some of the women listening have given up hope. Some of the men who listen to Revive Our Hearts have given up hope. I wonder if you’d just take a moment to pray for those who may be in that situation.

Joni: Lord Jesus, I’m so grateful that You loved us while we were yet sinners. In the same way, for the women who are listening, or perhaps even some men, I pray that they might take the initiative. Father, I pray for that woman who is looking at her husband thinking, “I wish he’d shape up. Sure, I would love him if only he would get his act together, if only he would apologize.”

Lord Jesus, I pray that that woman might take the initiative, and that her love might be showered on her spouse because while he is not yet the person she wants him to be, she can lay down her life for him through service, through words of encouragement, in prayer, for asking forgiveness for spiteful attitudes and manipulative tone, whatever.

Father, help that spouse to humble herself so that her husband might be healed. Thank You that love always takes the initiative. Thank You that it never waits around for an apology. Thank You that marriages can be healed through the power—the life-transforming power—of prayer.

Plant that seed in the heart of each woman who is listening and revive their heart, Lord God, as they pray for their husbands and as husbands pray for their wives. We ask it, Lord Jesus, in Your powerful name because we know the Enemy is attacking Christian marriages like never before. So we say "no" to the Enemy and "yes" to Your grace. We ask it in Your wonderful name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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