Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ESV James 5:16
Unfortunately, American individualism leads too many of us to attempt spiritual formation on our own. After all, aren’t we pursuing a “personal” relationship with Jesus Christ? So many people feel the church is optional, that they can grow by listening to a podcast and praying. To be certain, some growth can take place this way, and this post isn’t arguing that you be in a church (though I think you should be). The real challenge of spiritual formation is often missed even in church….because we often still wear our masks there.
James commands us to confess our sins to one another…not to God. Obviously, 1 John 1:9 indicates we should confess our sins to God, but James adds another aspect. The rest of the New Testament is clear: Christ died for our sins and we are forgiven, regardless of our confession, to God or others. We don’t have to confess to others for forgiveness, but apparently we do have to confess for healing. In other words, we can keep unconfessed sin in our lives and still go to heaven. We can confess the sin to God and find forgiveness. However, even with the forgiveness from God, we will often continue to struggle with that particular sin. Our flesh and adversary may have a stronghold on our life. One of the best steps to eradicating that stronghold and finding healing (and thus a more vibrant spiritual life) involves confessing our sins to others.
Again, other people cannot absolve our sins, and in no way should we expect them to. However, God didn’t design us to do spiritual formation on our own. When we confess a struggle to a friend, we double our prayer support (I’m assuming we were already praying for ourselves). Not only that, but if our friend has found victory in this area, we have a strong, righteous person interceding for our weakness (similar to what Jesus does for us). This gives us even greater victory. I pray you have a friend you can confess your struggles to. Allow his or her prayer to wash over you and be powerful in your life. That brings healing and deeper spiritual formation.