Learning about spiritual warfare from James Fraser

In his book,Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization? (Mentor/OMF, 199),Chuck Lowe concludes that the strategic-level spiritual warfare advocated by the likes of C. Peter Wagner is unbiblical and the claims associated with it are unfounded. He points the way forward by exploring the experience of James Fraser, a pioneer missionary among the Lisu people in the far-western Chinese province of Yunnan in the early twentieth century.

Fraser perceived spiritual warfare taking place through:

—  Attacks on new converts. The Lisu were bound to demon worship through fear of physical illness. When the family members of new converts fell ill there was strong pressure to return to demonic worship.

—  Public demonstrations of occult power in rituals.

—  Human opposition to the message,

—  Attacks on the missionaries (illness, fatigue, doubt, depression).

He wrote:

It is all if and when. I believer the devil is fond of those conjunctions … The Lord bids us work, watch and pray: but Satan suggests, wait until a good opportunity for working, watching and praying presents itself – and needless to say, this opportunity is always in the future. (Cited 134)

Lowe himself comments: ‘A small temptation, perhaps, but laziness leads progressively to life-long failure and was to be opposed earnestly in disciplined prayer.’ (134)

Fraser employed a variety of actions in his warfare …

Sustained Prayer

The opposition will not be overcome by reasoning or by pleading, but by (chiefly) steady, persistent prayer. The men need not be dealt with (it is a heart-breaking job, trying to deal with a Lisu possessed by a spirit of fear) but the powers of darkness need to be fought. I am now setting my face like flint: if the work seems to fail, then pray; if services, etc., fall flat, then pray still more; if months slip by with little or no result, then pray still more and get others to help you. (Cited, 135)

Fraser found then when he approached people who had received much prayer ‘half the work seemed already to be done’ (135).

Resisting the Devil

Fraser was helped by James 4:7: ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ ‘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.’ (Cited, 137). ‘In times of conflict, I still find deliverance through repeating Scripture out loud, appropriate Scripture, brought to mind through the Holy spirit.’ (Cited 137).

Prayer for healing

The only thing many of the people are waiting for is to know whether it is really safe to throw the evil spirit overboard and turn to Christ. It is important to pray for those who have already turned Christian, that their faith and constancy may be equal to all tests, and that the Spirit’s power for the healing of sickness may be with them. For a man to turn Christ and then be smitten down with sickness, at once discredits the Gospel in the eyes of the Lisu. (Cited, 137)

In other words, when things turn hard people may be tempted to return to their previous idols and their previous religious practices. So it may be today. They may not return to shamans, but they may return to other demonic manifestations or idolatries. They may, for example, seek refuge once again in or alcohol or .


Fraser learnt that God does his work sovereignly in his own time. Eventually more than 400 families in one sixteen month period in an area that had rejected the gospel five year before. Fraser was involved in ministry in another area so sent a new missionary and two Lisu evangelists. The new missionary himself had to leave for language study so the dramatic growth took place through the Lisu evangelists.

Thinking back over the long years of sowing and the sudden, bounteous harvest Fraser reflected, ‘I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third place, and teaching the fourth.’ (140-141)

A younger colleague of Fraser commented:

In a day when new and exciting cutting edges are being recommended, the tendency is to be carried away with new ideas and relegate the traditional trust weapons to a place of lesser significance or to throw them away altogether … It is easy and less troublesome to go along with the contemporary mood and give priority to outward means and methods that promises to increase the effectiveness of our service and our praying, but which often do it at the expense of inner reality. (Arthur R. Mathews, Born for Battle: 31 Studies on Spiritual Warfare, OMF,  1972, 41; cited, Lowe, 141)

Fraser himself comments: ‘Here then we see God’s way of success in our work, whatever it may be – a trinity of prayer, faith and patience.’ (141)


One thought on “Learning about spiritual warfare from James Fraser

  1. thanks for pointing out this resource, brother! earlier in the year i taught an adult bible study class on spiritual warfare and was amazed at lack of good material. i will definitely check this out.

    also – off topic – thanks for your book on the message of prayer. i found it to be both instructive of the biblical teaching on prayer and edifying to soul. well done!

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