J.O. Fraser on Prayer
J.O. Fraser, sometimes called ‘Fraser of Lisuland’ is one of my great heroes. He was a China Inland Missionary at the beginning of the 20th century, penetrating the Lisu people who lived in tribal settlements in mountainous regions of the Upper Salween.
I first read his story in the book Behind the Ranges, more recently updated by his daughter Eileen Crossman, who rewrote it as Mountain Rain.
There is something phenomenally authentic about the man’s zeal to serve God and he wrote many letters home to his prayer partners which communicated extraordinary insight into how prayer works. He was a real warrior who drew on God’s grace with great fortitude. I want to share some of his quotes in this particular post.
- ‘I do not intend to be one of those who bemoan little results, while “resting in the faithfulness of God”. My cue is to take hold of the faithfulness of God and use the means necessary to secure big results.’
His diary of January 16th 1916 read:
- ‘Not a single person at service in the morning … the walls of Jericho fell down “by faith”. Of all the instances of faith in Hebrews 11, this corresponds most nearly to my case but not faith only was necessary; the wall fell down after it had been compassed about for seven days. Seven days patience was required, and diligent compassing of the city every day – which seems to typify encompassing the situation by regular, systematic prayer. Here then we see God’s way of success in our work whatever it may be – a trinity of prayer, faith and patience.’
Another comment of his:
- ‘Praying without faith is like trying to cut with a blunt knife – much labour extended to little purpose. For the work accomplished by labour in prayer depends on our faith; “according to your faith (not labour) be it unto you”.’
A couple more quotes for your interest and, I hope, stimulation:
- ‘After much pressure, even agony, in prayer for Lisu souls, enabled to break through into liberty, and to pray the definite prayer of faith for Signal blessing among the Lisu during the next few months … real, prevailing prayer for the first time for a week or more and well worth the travail that led up to it … Much peace and rest of soul after making that definite prayer, and almost ecstatic joy to think of the Lisu Christian families I am going to get.’
- ‘Anything must be done rather than let this prayer-service be dropped or even allowed to stagnate. We often speak of intercessory work being of vital importance. I want to prove that. I believe this in actual fact by giving my first and best energies to it, as God may lead. I feel like a businessman who perceives that a certain line of goods pays better than any other in his store, and who purposes making it his chief investment.’
- ‘Faith is like muscle which grows stronger and stronger with use, rather than rubber which weakens when it is stretched. Over-strained faith is not pure faith; there is a mixture of the carnal element in it. There is no strain in the ‘rest of faith’. It asks for definite blessings as God may lead. It does not hold back through carnal timidity, nor press ahead too far through carnal eagerness.’
Some ten years later, J O Fraser saw a remarkable breakthrough in his evangelistic work. Some 3,000 tribes people were saved in a very short space of time. People congratulated him on the success and wrote warm letters of appreciation, to which he responded:
- ‘Some may say, “your prayer has at last been answered.” No! I believe it was January 12th 1915, that I was definitely led to ask God for “several hundreds of families” from the Lisu. I took the answer then, I believed then that I had it.’
I have read many helpful books on prayer but there is something about Fraser who not only prayed but learned about prayer, not at his desk but in the mountains of Lisuland, often alone and battling, learning lessons that few of us learn and experiencing God’s breathtaking faithfulness.
This is not really a book review but I would commend to you Mountain Rain. I personally have a little booklet which CIM once produced called The Prayer of Faith by J O Fraser. I know God told me to buy it in March 1964 and remember arriving at the bookshop where they told me they only had one copy. I was not surprised to hear that and have always felt that God wanted me to learn from this great man.
May God teach us to pray with faith and patience.