Written by Stephanie Munger
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
You can Google or research the best practices of living a Christian life and find thousands of perspectives. At SCC, we have small groups, we have Sunday morning worship, we have a large intentional community who thrive on supporting one another, but sometimes that is not enough. Going to the Bible as a resource in the book of James, James explores the “how-to” disciplines of a Christian life. James wrote his letter originally to the persecuted Christians of the first-century in hopes to expose hypocritical practices and encourage healthy and genuine Christian faith. The setting and experiences of being a 21st century Christian may seem day and night compared to the lives of James’ original audience, but that is not to say his letter is outdated or unusable.
Looking specifically at this verse in James, we are drawn to the practice of prayer in relation to those around us. Anytime a verse begins with therefore we must backtrack to understand the cause for this verse. In v. 15, James wrote, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” Our faith must produce action. Active and fervent prayer is the life source of a healthy Christian life. It is our bridge to our Heavenly Father. We are not only called to pray for ourselves, but also for our Christian brothers and sisters—that is when authentic healing occurs in the Church.
In my own life, those who I feel closest and at times the most vulnerable with are those who intercede on my behalf through prayer. The second part of v. 16 speaks on the fervent or earnest prayer that “produces wonderful results”. This is to say James is not speaking on five second prayers that quickly cross our minds and just as quick leave. The prayer James refers to is the type that occurs often, that goes deeper than a quick request, that is directed to the heart of God and avoids empty intentions. To be a disciple is to bring others to Christ, and what better way than to speak directly to God himself?
The scary nature of vulnerability is not immune to even the most mature Christian. In this sense, we must respond appropriately to those who come to us with their confessions. Confession of sin should not imitate gossip nor be in the boundaries of unwholesome talk. “Those who hear the confession should have the proper response: loving, intercessory prayer, and not human wisdom, gossiping, or “sharing” the need with others.” (Enduring Word Commentary) The easiest yet subtle way interceding prayer becomes gossip is when the focus of the request is solely on the action or sin instead of bringing healing and reconciliation to the person in need.
Prayer: “Lord, I am not meant to do this life alone. You bring people into my life to encourage, to walk alongside, and to challenge me. Allow me to see when the need arises to confess my sins, whether personal or directed toward another, in hopes that healing may be achieved and my relationship to You preserved. Additionally, work in me to be a person who my brothers and sisters may come to in need and know I will fervently pray on their behalf.”