James O. Fraser

Many of us will never have heard of the pioneer missionary, James O. Fraser. However, his life has many powerful lessons for us all.

Fraser was a gifted engineer and concert piano player, yet at 22 years old he left England to become one of the first to go to the Lisu people in Southern China with OMF. He was the first to put the Lisu language into script (now officially called the Fraser Script) and translate the scriptures into Lisu.

The first 6 years in China were marked by struggle, with no fruit in his ministry. He battled intensely with depression, even to the point of considering suicide. The Lisu were bound by ancestor worship and engaged in many demonic practises. Fraser found himself in the middle of a spiritual battle that he was not prepared for. 

‘I know enough about Satan to realize that he will have all his weapons ready for determined opposition. He would be a missionary simpleton who expected plain sailing in any work of God.’

‘The aim of Satanic power is to cut off communication with God. To accomplish this aim he deludes the soul with a sense of defeat, covers him with a thick cloud of darkness, depresses and oppresses the spirit, which in turn hinders prayer and leads to unbelief – thus destroying all power.’

However, he learnt the secret to breakthrough … prayer. 

‘I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third place, and teaching the fourth.’

‘Solid, lasting missionary work is done on our knees.’

Fraser also learnt perseverance.

‘My mistake has too often been that of too much haste. But it is not the people’s way to hurry, nor is it God’s way either. Hurry means worry, and worry effectually drives the peace of God from the heart.’

‘Here then we see God’s way of success in our work, whatever it may be – a trinity of prayer, faith and patience.’

Importantly we can learn from Fraser the place that spiritual warfare and faith play in our prayers. 

‘… deliverance from the power of the evil one comes through definite resistance on the grounds of the cross. I am an engineer and believe in things working. I want to see them work. I had found that much of the spiritual teaching one hears does not seem to work. We need different truth at different times. ‘’Look to the Lord,’ some will say. ‘Resist the devil’ is also Scripture (James 4:7). And I found it worked. That cloud of depression dispersed. I found that I could have victory in the spiritual realm whenever I wanted it. The Lord Himself resisted the devil vocally: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’ I, in humble dependence on Him, did the same. I talked to Satan at that time, using the promises of Scripture as weapons. And they worked. Right then, the terrible oppression began to pass away.’

Fraser learned the importance of the prayer of faith and realised much time had been wasted through ineffective praying. Believing God would answer instead of knowing He had answered already and receiving this answer when the prayer was offered. With this revelation, Fraser asked in faith for hundreds of Lisu families to give their lives to Christ

‘Praying without faith is like trying to cut with a blunt knife – much labour expended to little purpose.’

‘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.’

He raised prayer support through his sending body – a prayer group that was established through his praying Mother (never underestimate the power of a mothers prayer!).

‘I believe it will only be known on the last day how much has been accomplished in overseas missions by the prayers of earnest believers at home.’

He wrote to this group:

‘I am not asking you just to give ‘help’ in prayer as a sort of sideline, but I am trying to roll the main responsibility of this prayer-warfare on you. I want you to take the burden of these people upon your shoulders. I want you to wrestle with God for them.’

This group took up the challenge … and breakthrough happened. Within months of this earnest prayer, the floodgates opened and 129 families, representing about 600 Lisu, came to Christ. 

Today there are about 730 000 Lisu in Southern China and over 300 000 are Christians.

It’s great to have historical mentors. Grab the book ‘Mountain Rain’ written by Fraser’s daughter and be strengthened in your call.