“Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”
— James 5:16 (NRSV)
There we are, called to stand,
With one’s forgiveness now at hand,
All’s required is our honest confession,
Then healing is ours; that’s the lesson.
Whilst it looks like James may have been linking the presence of sickness with the predisposition of sin, per the rabbinic tradition (when sick: pray for the forgiveness of sins to then expect healing), I am preferring, in this article, the Western approach to this verse. There is great power in confession before friends, for where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, there the Lord is with us also.
Rather than taking the physical approach, per the rabbinic tradition (above), I am preferring, in this article, the spiritual approach, where our sicknesses are sicknesses of the soul. This is where confession of our sins will alleviate the direct burden on our minds and hearts. When we confess our sins, and are neither judged nor condemned, but are understood, God’s path for healing is opened up.
Confession before a small group of trusted, wise friends in the Lord is powerful for healing, and mighty for the saving.
The Manifestation of God’s Forgiveness In Fellowship
Where we trust a small group fellowship of up to 4-8 well-respected individuals in the faith, we are blessed by God’s forgiveness through them. We may not, up until that point, have experienced God’s forgiveness. But God will confirm his light touch of favour on us through the honest and bold confession of our sins before those we can trust.
The emphasis is on their character of trustworthiness and exemplification of grace.
If they are people of God who hear our confessions they will not judge or condemn, but they will give quiet affirming voice, upon hearing remorse and a desire to repent, to us as we are spiritually afflicted in guilt and shame. Encouragement will replace discouragement.
Confession ought not to occur without due consequences for our sin, but we should experience freedom from guilt and shame, whilst facing our consequences with diligence.
When we have been courageous enough to be honest, having confessed our sin, we receive God’s grace through those who listen, and through communal prayers for forgiveness to the Spirit of God as we pray for each other, presuming others have also confessed their sin.
In our confessions and prayers our hearts are healed of the ongoing spiritual burden of our sins. Such prayerful honesty doesn’t alleviate the consequences, but it does alleviate the burden of guilt and shame.
We are strengthened when we share our burdens, because we understand, so far as sin is concerned, there’s nothing new under the sun.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.