“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
— James 5:16
PRAYER: Holy Father, I have sinned. I now confess my own personal sin of ____________. I ask for your forgiveness and for your Spirit to strengthen me in overcoming temptation. I want to live for you and not let my sin, any sin, entangle me and draw me away from you. Through Jesus I pray. AMEN.
THOUGHTS: James continues encouraging his readers to express their dependence on God. This is done by participating in prayer.
In previous verses, he has asked them to respond to trouble by praying to God, to respond to cheerfulness by singing songs of praise, and to respond to illness or spiritual weakness by calling for elders of the church pray for them. Here in verse 16, James writes that it should be common practice for Christians to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other, so that we may be healed.
As in the previous verses, some Bible scholars read the word "healed" here as a reference to healing from physical illness. Others understand it to mean healing from discouragement and spiritual weakness. In either case, this healing requires two things from Christians. We are both to confess our sins to each other, and to pray for each other. James offers no details about what this should look like in practice. Are we to stand before the church congregation and announce all our sins from the prior week? That seems unlikely. More likely, James has in mind the idea of Christians being in close relationship with several other Christians.
We need fellow believers with whom we can be vulnerable. In that setting, each could acknowledge to the other what sins are most difficult for them, and all could pray for each other to overcome those sins. It seems likely, in the modern world, that very few Christians are practicing this in any specific way. We're just too afraid to be that vulnerable. James's command is for us, as much as it's for his original readers.
The church would be far healthier if more of us prayed for each other, in family love, to overcome our specific sins. After all, James writes, prayer works. God listens and responds. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective because God hears and takes action.
SUMMARY: To confess is to do two things with our sin: 1) to recognize sin for what it is in God's eyes and 2) to get rid of our secrets and be honest with another Christian. James' language is powerful. He mentions that this confession doesn't just bring forgiveness. It also brings healing.
GOD BLESS YOU.