"Have you heard of J.O. Frasier? He left England many years ago to bring the message of Christ's love to the Lisus, an unreached tribal group who lived in the high mountain ranges of western China. The entry to the ranges was at their midpoint, a valley containing a small outpost village. Frasier remained there until he found a Lisu who tutored him in the dialect. After weeks of study, he discovered this Lisu was from the northern range and the dialect he was learning would best prepare him for working in that area.
Frasier realized he would probably be the only missionary to this tribe for years to come. He prayed, "Lord, which way should I go? North, or South?" His Master said, "Both. Pray for the Southern Lisus from sunup to noon and evangelize the Northern Lisus from noon to sundown."
This became the pattern of his life. For years and years, he used half of each day to intercede for Lisus in the south and used half of each day to evangelize the Lisus around him. The work grew slowly. A few hundred Christians were the harvest of a decade of ministry.
After many years, he left the field for the first time to rest and get supplies in the outpost village. Now very familiar with the tribal tongue, he heard a Lisu speaking with a different dialect in the marketplace. He had met his first Southern Lisu! Lovingly Frasier invited the man to come and stay with him in his rented quarters. As he heard the message of Jesus, the Lisu was quick to respond and accept Him as his Lord and Savior.
For several weeks, Frasier tutored the illiterate man, helping him to memorize passages of scripture. He told him story after story from the Bible, always praying that the Spirit would sharpen his ability to remember what he was hearing.
As the men parted, Frasier urged him to tell all the Southern Lisus about Jesus. He then returned to the site of his own ministry, praying as usual for half of each day for those to the south. Years passed...and then a delegation of Southern Lisus arrived at this village. They reported the news that thousands of Southern Lisus had followed Christ and were in desperate need of someone to come and teach them more!
As tears of joy welled up in his eyes, the missionary realized his time invested in prayer from sunup to noon had caused a harvest hundreds of times greater than all his labors from noon to sundown. It was though God was saying, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, shall the Lisus be reached."
-from The Shepherds Guidebook, by Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.,
This people group was the Chinese version of the Harijans in India's caste system--peasant poor, plagued by alcoholism & demon worship. But the Lisu conversion & commitment to Christ was so widespread and powerful that the Chinese communist government tried to eradicate them in the the 1930's & 40's. Today they continue to be one of the most potent evangelical forces in Chinese culture!
In an account related by friend Matthew ponder the power of perseverance:
"When they arrived at the foot of the mountain, a huge crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him."
Jesus replied, "You stubborn, faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."
Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.
Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?"
"You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."
But this kind of demon won't leave unless you have prayed and fasted." Matthew 17:14-21
What is the connection between faith and prayer; between prayer and healing? Who was Jesus annoyed at: the father, the crowd, the disciples? Why was he dismayed, angry, indignant in this situation?
All that Jesus holds dear is His Father: His love, His Heart, His thoughts, His will, His business. Jesus' passion was to teach all of humanity how wonderful is His Father. Faith in his father was the result among people he constantly worked to achieve.
The attitude that most consistently offended him was unbelief, and in this case, insufficient faith.
If we are to be "about the Father's business" it is crucial to understand the connection between prayer and accomplishing his work. Most of us, especially in today's world, are easily distracted, impatient, unfocused, often indifferent to the difficulties folks around us are struggling with. Someone may ask us to pray for a certain situation and we gladly agree to "say a prayer" for them. Then, like our facebook wall page, quickly move on to the next distraction.
As followers of Jesus we may be the critical link between a friend's suffering and God's healing balm. If at the first sign of resistance, antagonism, or ineffectiveness we falter, fake or fall down we fail to communicate the truth of God: that He is perfectly devoted to each of us; perfectly capable of healing; perfectly commited to helping & saving everyone who comes to Him looking for relief from the difficulties, struggles, or insanity of this life!
Here are two of my favorite quotes on persevering prayer:
"I don't think that time has much to do with whether God hears you or not; but I do believe that time has something to do with whether or not your faith is built up as you pray and ask." -- Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators.
"He [God] must have sons and daughters-- children of his soul, of his spirit, of his love--not merely in the sense that he loves them, or even that they love him, but in the sense that they love like him, love as he loves. For this he does not adopt them; he dies to give them himself, thereby to raise his own to his heart; he gives them a birth from above; they are born again out of himself and into himself--for he is the one and the all. His children are not his real, true sons and daughters until they think like him, feel with him, judge as he judges, are at home with him, and without fear before him because he and they mean the same thing, love the same things, seek the same ends. For this are we created; it is the one end of our being, and includes all other ends whatever." -- George MacDonald
The goal of fasting & prayer, then, is to demonstrate our desire to love like our Father by laying down our lives for others; spending ourselves to "make more lovely" and to lift them from the gulf into which they've fallen.