Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. (James 5:16)
Make this your COMMON practice. I called that out because I didn't want us to miss it this morning - it is to be our 'common' practice to confess our sins and pray for each other. Why? Not because we need a human to confess our sins to - like a priest in a confessional - but because there is power in declaring we need others to pray with us (agree with us). Confession is coupled with prayer for each other - it doesn't stand alone. We are to share with those who will be able to help us by both praying for us, but also who are placed in our lives so that we 'do life' together. In other words, they help to not only lift us up before the throne of God, but they help us stay on course moving forward - some call this accountability.
The most important part of this passage is not that we confess our sins out loud. If that is what you get from it, then you are missing the point. It is the power of two agreeing together and storming the gates of hell as a 'team'. Praying for each other in a purposeful manner - with intent, knowing the problem at hand. It isn't one of those "I have an unspoken prayer request" moments pictured here - it is an outright "here's the issue I am dealing with right now" kind of moment. There is power in acknowledging our sin (short-comings, failures, missteps - whatever you want to call it here). There is tremendous power in two agreeing on a matter in the spiritual realm. That is why scripture declares: “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:20)
Partnering together to overcome sin is not easy sometimes - because we have to be honest about our sin with each other. It is like we get 'naked' - we feel vulnerable and that position of vulnerability brings a great deal of angst on our part. What will the other person 'do' with what we tell them? How will this make them feel about our relationship? Will this make them judge me in a different light? Is this too much for them to know about me? Some of the problem is our pride - we don't want to be seen poorly in anyone's eyes. Other parts of the problem is what is really based in trust - do we trust the other person enough for them see us as we really are. The issue is really not that our sin isn't 'discoverable' - because God can tell someone what we are dealing with even when we think we have it really well disguised or covered up!
When someone gets 'naked' with us, what do we do with that confession? This is the most important part of this passage because if we do what God asks, we will bring that need to his throne and nowhere else. We will agree with the other person in prayer - making his/her need known to no one else other than God himself. If we want to have these types of accountability relationships - the ones that really help us to grow up in Jesus - then we need to be trustworthy with another's confessions. We also need to be good stewards of the knowledge or insight we have been given into that individual's life. As stewards of God's grace, we bring their need before the throne, not judging them for their short-comings, but ensuring that God's grace is ministered where it is most needed. Just sayin!