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Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. Nothing in the verse suggests that the spiritually weak one must confess his sin to the entire congregation to have them pray for him. “Confess your sins to one another” is speaking of person to person. If one has committed a wrong against another in the congregation, they may be moved to confess that wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, and they may pray together. Then, again, it might be the one who was wronged, who goes to the one who wronged him, and the sin is confessed, followed by prayer. On the other hand, the wronged one may take a spiritually mature person along with him, maybe a pastor. There is the possibility that a person who has sinned or is practicing sin may simply seek a spiritually mature one to talk with about his sin, which ends in prayer. The Christian congregation should be a family-like atmosphere, where we can feel comfortable sharing our difficulties with others, knowing we will get comforting, even corrective advice and prayer.
If this sinner thought that the result is that they would be exposed to the whole congregation for something they are ashamed of and have not had any control over, this would be a deterrent from coming forward. On the other hand, knowing that the pastors would keep one’s transgressions in confidence while helping him overcome his weaknesses would encourage him to contact the pastors. Again, in looking at the expression “one another,” this is not suggesting that we air out our sins before the whole congregation, but rather that we all are sinners, and none are exempt from having to seek help from others. Even the spiritually mature one, who has been sought out by someone who has sinned, they too, one day, may need to go to another. The beauty is in the fact that if we confess our sins to one another, it will serve as a protection from our continuing to sin because someone is now aware of our secret.
Lastly, when we think of “confessing” our sin, it should not be thought of as though it were some confessional (like the Catholic Church), where congregation members regularly come in and confess their sins, attaining some kind of absolution. Again, the pastors are not the only ones where a person can go to confess their sins. Nevertheless, the one being sought out to hear the sins should be a spiritually mature one because along with the confession comes prayer and counsel from God’s Word. For example, a younger sister may seek the help of an older sister in the congregation. (Titus 2:3-5) Therefore, the one being sought for help is not limited but should be qualified to offer the level of help being sought. That person needs to be able to offer the healing help of prayer because the one seeking help has such a troubled conscience; he is unable to go to God in prayer. Just as the continued distress and anxiety of his sin could have caused physical sickness, the words and prayer of the one sought for help can just as easily remove the physical sickness once the tension is gone.
The supplication of a righteous man can accomplish much. James strongly advocates intercessory prayers for others, i.e., praying for one another. The apostle Paul encourages supplicatory prayers for others. He says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” (1 Tim. 2:1) Paul exhorted the Thessalonica congregation, “brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” Paul urged the Colossian congregation, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Col. 4:2-4) Here James speaks of “a righteous man,” meaning anyone whom God counted as righteous because he has trusted in Jesus Christ and is living a life reflective of the Word of God.
Prayer is part of our worship. Prayer is very powerful because we have access to the Almighty at any time of the day. If a person has a righteous standing before God, his prayers will be heard. The apostle Peter wrote, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Pet. 3:12) The apostle John helps to understand the effectiveness of our prayers. He wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Regarding praying on behalf of others, John continued, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life, to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (1 John 5:15-16) In other words, we would not pray for one that has committed sin(s) that leads to death. Jesus also spoke of sin that “will not be forgiven,” that is, “blasphemy against the Spirit.” – Matthew 12:31-32
Only Jesus can judge if one has committed the unforgivable sin, so we should show loving concern for all erring ones, going to God in prayer on their behalf. A good example is King Manasseh of Judah, who sacrificed to false gods, even sacrificing his son to the god Molech. He also practiced spiritism and put a carved image in God’s temple. He literally caused thousands to die and was punished by being taken captive to Babylon. Did King Manasseh commit the unforgivable sin, i.e., sin that leads to death? No, because he eventually humbled himself, repented, and went to God in prayer, and God restored him as king over Judah. – 2 Kings 21:1-9; 2 Chronicles 33:1-13.
 Therefore, it would be fine if a sister in the congregation, who was struggling spiritually or with problems, chose to go to a mature female sister in the congregation.