Prayer is an essential part of any healthy church community. Yet, we must have a healthy church community for a healthy, vulnerable, and wonder-working prayer life. The prayer life in a Church community speaks volumes about our relationship with God and others. Now, why would I say healthy prayer and community are deeply intertwined? James said, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) We all love the last part of the verse and often quote it alone as we seek something from God or teach about prayer. I will confess I have done this. But, this verse has a context—one of confession.

The Greek word for confess is ἐξομολογέω [exomologeō] meaning to make an admission of wrongdoing. We are sinners, after all, and have all missed the mark of God’s holy standard (See Romans 3:23). We have offended the Holy God and then come to Him like a vending machine. That is not right. James says we must admit to and acknowledge our shortcomings and pray for one another for healing first. Then James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Our lack of confession and openness with our community and God hinders our prayers.

We do not stand before God in our righteousness in prayer but that of Jesus. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) A community of love that trusts one another with the truth of their lives, even the ugly ones, may have a richer and more effective prayer life. This seems to me, from what James is writing, to start with a personal and corporate confession. Then move into prayer for one another and the church for healing the effects of sin. Remember, “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 land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (See James 5:17-18) It appears that God manifests His great power though the earnest prayers of the humble person. More on this next time.