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. 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.
James reminds us that integrity, honesty, humility and openness should be the hallmarks of any follower of Jesus. And that these traits are required for the mutual support and sharing among any group of believers. Therefore, we are to be accountable to one another, confessing our sins as needed to a brother or sister in the faith as is appropriate. However, James does not mean confessing all of our sins to a priest for absolution. What James is talking about is accountability between fellow believers. The purpose of this is to bring about true confession and openness between us and the Lord. We know true confession brings with it true repentance for the trespasses committed. Openness, humility and accountability help us to maintain fellowship with Jesus and with each other. By doing so it helps us to come before the Lord in true repentance and not hinder our relationship with God or the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It’s important for us to understand that unconfessed sin can affect our prayer life. Sin will hinder the effectiveness of our prayers. In addition, unconfessed sin can also affect our walk with God and the work God has called us to do. This happens because it brings separation between us and God. James emphasizes this point by using Elijah as an example. The stories of the prophet Elijah were well known among the Jewish community. So much so that Elijah was considered representative of all the prophets. Many people used the term “Moses and Elijah” to mean the “Law and the Prophets” when referring to God’s word. Elijah trusted in the Lord and displayed integrity and honesty. In faith and prayer Elijah stood against one of the most evil kings in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Elijah prayed faithfully to God and it did not rain for three and half years as a punishment against the kingdom of Ahab and Jezebel. After three and a half years the rain only came when Elijah prayed to the Lord asking for the rain to return. The Lord honored Elijah’s request because of His faithfulness and integrity.