“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 NIV
Not being Catholic, and therefore never having set foot in an actual confessional, the only picture that I have of it in my mind is what I’ve seen on TV. A box in the corner of the cathedral, the priest on one side of the mostly translucent partition, the confessor on the other. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.” Etc., etc. If you’re looking for a direct line to God, and therefore forgiveness, I must imagine it’s a pretty efficient method. In and out in just a few minutes.
These two sentences from James present a much richer, deeper and more human version of confession than the one in my imagination. In them, we don’t just confess our sins through one intermediary, we confess them to “each other.” The way I imagine it we speak our sins into the world, and they are then filtered through the lives and works of the people we are closest to, and we are cleansed through those connections. Doing so binds us together and aids in the healing process as we minister to one another. Not surprisingly, this is the same way that Jesus chose to live his life. It was messy with relationships, connections and communication of brokenness. Thought of another way, Jesus could have chosen to show up in our world, waved his healing hand, and instantly delivered us from sin. Instead, he chose to join in that sin with us, take it onto himself, filter it through his own purity, and thereby cleanse us with his death and resurrection.
As an added benefit, confessing to one another and praying for one another allows for the prayer itself to be an act of healing for the confessor, not just the person that we’re praying for. I’m thankful for this. I’ve been praying for a lot of people recently, and I am as far from a “righteous person” as one gets. But I take comfort in the belief that my prayer is still “powerful and effective” because it is filtered through the people in my life and, more importantly, the greatest Purifier of all.
Thanks for this post. We heal in community in God’s presence which is everywhere, all the time and for all of us. Thanks be to God.