16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
Confession. That’s a scary word, isn’t it? It doesn’t necessarily always have a negative connotation, as it does in criminal justice circles, but it causes one to pause. Clearly it’s not something to be taken lightly.
I believe this is always a big topic of debate between Catholics, former Catholics, and non Catholics. I certainly do not intend to participate in this debate because it really doesn’t matter. The point James is making has a few connotations.
Firstly, we can see here the obvious point. If we share our struggles with one another, we can gain friendly support through prayer and otherwise so can we help each other with them. This, of course, doesn’t mean that someone else can help forgive us of our sins, but rather to be thoughtful of our fellow man (or woman) in petition to God over healing. Just knowing that someone is in it with you helps in the healing process. That brings up another point: friendship.
Second, as anyone who has served in the military can tell you: sharing in suffering creates a special bond. Whether it is in war time, financial hardship, or whatever, if we share our deepest hurts, hang-ups, and habits with one another, our relationships form deeper bonds. This gives us strength in community, which increases morale, which helps the healing process. This leads into my third point: strength.
When we are suffering, our strength is dwindling. Lately I’ve witnessed someone I know literally tell his friends that he has run out of strength to pray. Almost immediately many responded with a united, “don’t worry bro, we will pray for you.” In that community rising up to support and pray for a struggling brother, stepping in to pray when he could not, the healing began immediately. Not only to restore his strength, but in the area of what he was praying for as well.
In the same breath, James tells us that effective prayer…can accomplish much. My last post was about exactly that. The prayer of a righteous man and parts of what that entails. He goes on to use the example of Elijah and his powerful prayer as witnessed in the Old Testament: that it resulted in the opening and closing of heaven’s gates with rain. Granted, we must realize that Elijah himself did not necessarily do the work, but his will aligned with God’s and the resulting prayer and action is what happened. It is through Elijah that God worked His wonders, not the other way around. So then, if effective and powerful prayer can open and close the sky, or even keep the sun from setting (as seen in Joshua’s military exploits in the OT), then why can’t it result in physical or spiritual healing? We can’t get help in the form of powerful prayer from our comrades if we don’t share our problems in the first place.
Who can you share with that can pray for you effectively? Is there someone you can pray for?