Ryan Williams: Accessing His Glory Through Prayer
Meet Ryan Williams. She is a 60 year old wife, mother of three, and grandmother of two (soon to be three!).
Though I previously knew Ryan through my husband, it was not until I began working at our local pregnancy center several years ago that I really got to know her. She was a Friday morning volunteer. So for four years I had the gift of spending time with her on a weekly basis.
If you meet her as a fellow volunteer, the introduction goes something like this: You’re introduced, notice her kind presence and smile – she seems nice enough – and because of her unassuming nature, you move on to the next thing.
Soon the group gathers in a circle of couches and chairs for morning prayer. Having little expectation in your heart, you close your eyes. You have no idea that Heaven is about to touch earth.
Then the woman opens her mouth to pray.
A veil lifts. Light bursts forth. The joy and authority flowing from her mouth awaken you. What is happening here?
She keeps going. Her words carry a deep knowing. And they conjure images in your mind. Through closed eyes, you can see the glory, the Great Throne, the angels of which she speaks. What’s coming out of her mouth seems more real to you than anything known by the five senses.
But why is this so? you wonder. I’ve never felt this way in prayer before. No time to figure that out right now. The words are still rolling off her tongue, piercing the atmosphere and drawing you closer all at the same time… You don’t want to miss one moment.
On she goes. And with every phrase she offers to God, you feel your heart shifting from a place of despair to victory. Indifference to passion. Cynicism to childlike faith.
Her words cease. Prayer time ends. Your eyes open. You snap back into “reality.” It’s time to get on with the morning. But things are different now. This unassuming woman has stirred something awake in you. Moving on with the ordinary morning you were expecting seems dull now, in light of what you’ve just felt.
Your heart just encountered Heaven – a taste of what you used to long for. A sweet, piercing, beckoning Presence. But why? you wonder. What’s different about her? Whatever it is, it’s clear that something very real has been cultivated between she and God. She has tapped into something – something deep… that’s bursting at the seams with radiance and life.
I want that. How do I get it? How did she get it? you ask yourself.
Here Ryan shares part of her journey – a journey that has led her into the trenches with God… and that has produced in her this fruit that others find so winsome.
Although I was very blessed in my teenage years to have been part of a wonderful church and had many Christian friends, it was not until I arrived at college and took a Religion course that I realized how very little I actually knew about the Bible. In fact, I did not even know the difference between the Old and New Testaments! I also met some friends during this time to whom God seemed very real, and it intrigued me.
As I spent time with them and attended Bible Study, I began to discover the principle of Lordship. I had been saved for many years but now was beginning to understand that Jesus was not only to be my Savior but also my Lord. So on an ordinary Tuesday in the spring of 1975, I turned my life over to Him lock, stock and barrel – no holes barred. There were no fireworks, but I knew in my spirit that a transaction had taken place. He was now the boss of my life, not me.
The Lord often speaks to me in pictures and shortly after this transaction, in my mind’s eye, He showed me a picture of an orange highway cone. He said in my spirit, “Ryan, your life with Me is like this highway cone – it looks like there is a lot there, but it is hollow inside. I am going to have to flatten you and build up something real.” “Okay, Lord” I said, unsure of what this meant.
A short time later a season of warfare began in my life. It is very difficult to explain even now, but it was as if I was being plagued by an oppressive, heavy, fearful spirit. Sometimes, when necessary, the Lord pulls back the hedges and allows the enemy to move in close. He allows this in order to purify, refine, and remove the dross from the silver. One who belongs to Christ cannot be possessed by the enemy, but she sure can be oppressed by the enemy. Like Paul, I was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet…” (II Corinthians 12).
Sometime later, I was teaching a Sunday School lesson on the Israelites in the wilderness, and the Lord said in my spirit, “We are going through the wilderness.” I responded, “Lord! The Israelites went through the wilderness because of disobedience!” And He responded, “Joshua and Caleb were not disobedient, but still had to go through the wilderness; when they entered the Promised Land, they went in as leaders.” So the warfare intensified.
The Lord was faithfully present during this time, but there were also times when I was trusted with His silence. Silence and waiting are powerful tools in the Master’s toolbox. This time drew me into God’s Word as nothing else could. I committed much Scripture to memory during those years, and I would agree with David in Psalm 119:71 “It was good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn Your statutes.” I learned to abide in His Word and it became my sustenance. I learned much from the lives of Old Testament figures like Joseph, Job, Joshua, Caleb, and David.
The good news about a refining time is that “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). When God initiates something, there is already a completion date on His calendar. In the early stages of this journey, He told me clearly that this would last “a little while.” What I would not realize until much later was that the “little while” He was referring to was the one in 1 Peter 1:6 and 1 Peter 5:10.
I have learned many things on this journey. I have learned that the God we serve is absolutely faithful, absolutely trustworthy and that when we are yielded to Him, the enemy can only be used as a tool to mold us and shape us into a vessel He can use. I have also learned that no matter what the enemy attempts in our lives, he can never steal our praise. Praise depends solely on the character of God – so there are always reasons to praise!!
When difficult times come, we can shrink back or we can cultivate intimacy with God in the midst of them. If we choose the latter, we will find as Isaiah found:
“I will give you the treasures of darkness; hidden riches in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”
It is important to always be moving forward in our relationship with God. One area that the Lord has been growing me in over the last few years is in believing Him. Knowing God’s Word and abiding in it are only the beginning – we also have to BELIEVE it! Beth Moore’s Bible Study, “Believing God” changed my life and took my prayer life to another level. I felt I had permission to take God at His Word, expect Him to do as He says, and see His power become manifest. I began to pray His Word over loved ones and situations and began to see His activity. There is nothing more fun in life than taking God at His Word and seeing His activity!
A recent example of seeing God’s activity in a huge way occurred just this year. I have been challenged in the past few years to begin the New Year with a fresh time of consecration and prayer which also includes a 21 day fast. Don’t be impressed – it isn’t a REAL fast – just giving up chocolate and sweets (although giving up chocolate could be impressive!). I was led to pray for 3 things during this year’s 21 days. One was that the Lord would bless my daughter, Candace, and her husband, Myers, with the privilege of conceiving, carrying, and bringing forth children to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
In Sunday School, we were studying the life of Samuel and as I prepared the lesson one week, the story of Hannah just leapt off the page for me. I began asking the Lord to do for Candace what He had done for Hannah. In April, I felt in my spirit that He had answered this prayer. Then on Mother’s Day, Candace and Myers gave us an ultrasound picture of Baby Myers who is due this December. What I did not know until recently was that at her yearly appointment in January (around the time of the fast), Candace’s physician had told her that conception might be difficult, and that they might want to look into fertility treatments. It was soon after this that she conceived. No treatments were necessary!
As I look back over the years since the spring of 1975, I can see that the Lord has done exactly what He said: He has built up something real. He has developed in me a love for Him and His word and a strong conviction in the power of prayer. His ways are not always easy, but they are always good and they are always fruitful. So let’s press on in “reckless abandon,” as Oswald Chambers says, and in full cooperation with the Lover of our Souls.
“She senses that her gain is good,
and her lamp does not go out at night.”
Beloved, there’s a Kingdom story Ryan’s life is telling.
*Surrendering to the Lord means that we fully submit ourselves to His work in our lives. It’s His story, not ours. It’s one thing to say this. It’s another thing altogether to live it. Though we want to surrender, too many of us still cling to the idea of having a “happy, little life,” as John Eldredge calls it. You know, the life we’re taught to pine after. The one that revolves around big salaries, social clout, materialism, appearances, making a name for yourself, personal achievement, people-pleasing, and easy circumstances. The life that fills itself with an abundance of the inferior in order to dull its appetite for the real thing. Friends, we can’t have both. This nice little life we’ve been fooled into wanting stands in direct opposition to the genuine life for which we hunger.
This genuine life is only to be discovered in the lock, stock, and barrel surrender of which Ryan speaks. The word “surrender” carries a negative connotation for most of us. We think of missing out on things and giving up things we enjoy. But with the tiniest step toward Him, we see this myth dispelled. What He offers is so much better than the things we fear losing.
A C.S. Lewis quote comes to mind: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory)
Surrender is our access point to life for which we’re searching. And anything we “give up” is disproportionately returned to us. Not only does He bestow upon us more than we “sacrificed,” but what He bestows in return is richer, fuller, and truer than anything we used to cling to.
*Speaking of surrender…Ryan’s story confronts us with an uncomfortable Kingdom truth: Surrendering to God, walking with Him, entails warfare. If we have taken God up on his invitation to life, we can rest assured that we are on the enemy’s radar. Darkness fears those who are totally surrendered to the Father of Lights.
Battles cannot be escaped. That’s the reality of walking with Him on this side of Heaven. We live in a world at war. And while our flesh hates this, which would we rather: A happy little life that’s free from warfare, yet never reaches its potential in God… never pushes back darkness… never knows the joys for which it was destined? Or a life that faces the battles head-on, steps into the supernatural life of God, and experiences the unspeakable treasures that only come after victory? “There’s a peace that’s to be had only on the other side of war.” There is life that can only be attained through the death of our own agenda…
This is not the stuff of Hallmark movies. If you are to know Him – really know Him – you’ll find yourself inflamed with greater passion, wrung by deeper pain, faced with bigger mountains, confronted with crueler warfare, but also overtaken by sweeter joy and drenched in fuller satisfaction – than you ever knew existed.
Each time another veil is lifted and you encounter Him in greater fullness, His heart within you grows. You share His sadness, His delight. His rejection, His radiance. To know Him as He intends to be known will be costly, indeed. But we are not to shy away from the weightiness. Beloved, this weighty, uncertain, exhilarating journey of being molded into His image is the reason for which we were born.
*And when we say ‘yes’ to the journey, fully submitting ourselves to the Potter’s hands, He deposits His brilliance onto our lives. Ryan’s life powerfully illustrates this. There is an abiding sweetness upon her that points us to the Lord Himself. It is no ordinary sweetness. It is the supernatural glow of which the Psalmist speaks when he says, “Those who looks to Him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5). This radiance is especially evident when Ryan prays. And what’s central to appreciating it is recognizing that it is God’s own radiance we are beholding. When we yield, and keep on yielding even when it’s hard, His glory comes to rest upon us.
So when we encounter an unusual glow on a person, we know that there is a rich story behind it. Depth and radiance don’t appear out of thin air. They are the markings of a long-term, sometimes dangerous, wildly fulfilling journey with God.
Thank you, Ryan, for demonstrating total surrender –
and for carrying His glory in a way that makes us want to know Him more!
This is “Desert Song,” a song that has been stirred in my heart as I’ve meditated on Ryan’s story: