Confess Your Sins To God


James 5:16 (New Living Translation)

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Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Admit and confess your wrongs to each other and open up in prayer for each other so that you may find peace and be healed the prayer of the righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results

What is the prayer of a righteous man?

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.

What Does James 5:16 Mean? ►

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

James 5:16(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

As James draws his epistle to a close, we are called to confess our trespasses to one another and to pray for each other, knowing that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

This call to confession is not a summons to the confessional box where a ‘priest’ becomes a middleman between us and God – for there is one God, and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. and He alone is the one to Whom we confess our sins. Nor is this a call to expose our secret sins to the whole wide world – we are to confess our sins to God – and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Rather.. when we have wronged another person we are called to go to them quickly and admit our sin and seek their forgiveness – for this is the will of God for us.

We are also called to willingly, graciously and fervently pray for each other, for as we lift up those who may have wronged us.. to the Lord in prayer, the fellowship of His love will stream into our hearts and minds, removing any nagging bitterness or residue of unforgiveness.

We are called to be holy for God is holy, but it is only as we confess our sins to one another and to our Father in heaven, that fellowship is renewed and our prayers become effective.

It is only as we abide in Him and walk godly in Christ Jesus that we are enabled to pray in spirit and truth – and the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much



What does James 5:16 mean?

James continues encouraging his readers to express their dependence on God. This is done by participating in prayer. In previous verses, he has asked them to respond to trouble by praying to God, to respond to cheerfulness by singing songs of praise, and to respond to illness or spiritual weakness by calling for elders of the church pray for them.

Here in verse 16, James writes that it should be common practice for Christians to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other, so that we may be healed. As in the previous verses, some Bible scholars read the word “healed” here as a reference to healing from physical illness. Others understand it to mean healing from discouragement and spiritual weakness. In either case, this healing requires two things from Christians.

We are both to confess our sins to each other, and to pray for each other. James offers no details about what this should look like in practice. Are we to stand before the church congregation and announce all our sins from the prior week? That seems unlikely. More likely, James has in mind the idea of Christians being in close relationship with several other Christians. We need fellow believers with whom we can be vulnerable. In that setting, each could acknowledge to the other what sins are most difficult for them, and all could pray for each other to overcome those sins.

It seems likely, in the modern world, that very few Christians are practicing this in any specific way. We’re just too afraid to be that vulnerable. James’s command is for us, as much as it’s for his original readers. The church would be far healthier if more of us prayed for each other, in family love, to overcome our specific sins. After all, James writes, prayer works. God listens and responds. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective because God hears and takes action.

Context Summary

James 5:13–20 closes out the letter by encouraging those who believe in God to show it. This is most readily shown by praying in response to every circumstance. We should pray for ourselves, praise God, and invite the spiritual leaders of our churches to pray for us when we are sick, or spiritually weak. Healing will follow; sins will be forgiven. We should confess sins to each other so we can pray for strength for each other to overcome sin. Prayer works; God hears and responds. If we really believe this is true, our behavior will reflect it.

Chapter Summary

What was causing fights and quarrels among the Christians to whom James was writing? They were living by the world’s wisdom. This false perspective says human beings should do whatever it takes to get what they want in this life, even if it hurts other people. James says that to live that way is adultery, but God gives grace. Christians should repent and move close to God again. We should trust Him to provide, to be the Judge, and to lift us up in His time. In humility, we must acknowledge that all of our plans are dependent on Him, and He can change them at any moment


What is fervent prayer (James 5:16)?


The term fervent prayer comes from James 5:16 in the King James Version: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The English word fervent simply means “impassioned, forceful, passionate, heartfelt, powerful, or wholehearted.” The verse, as translated in the King James Version, seems to indicate that a passionate, wholehearted prayer will accomplish much, implying that a half-hearted prayer will not be as effective.

Most modern versions translate James 5:16 differently, so that the fervency or forcefulness applies to the outcome of the prayer, not the earnestness of the prayer: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV); “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV); “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (NASB). These translations simply say that prayer is powerful, without differentiating between “fervent” prayer and some other kind.

This expanded paraphrase may illustrate the difference: “The forceful, earnest, heartfelt prayer of a righteous man will accomplish much” vs. “The prayer of a righteous man will yield forceful, powerful results.”

The difference in translation seems to center on the proper placement of the term translated “fervent” or “powerful” or “effective.” The KJV and NKJV translate the verse so that the term applies to the kind of prayer—a fervent, forceful, or powerful prayer can accomplish much. The other versions apply the modifier not to the prayer but to the outcome of the prayer—it will have a forceful or powerful result. So the KJV and NKJV encourage one to pray fervently so that the prayer will be answered, and the other versions simply encourage one to pray because the results can be powerful.

The context helps to shed light on the intended meaning. The immediate context speaks of praying for healing and says that the “prayer of faith” (prayer offered in faith) will be answered. The first part of James 5:16 says that we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other to be healed. The second part of the verse seems to summarize the thought. Then verses 17–18 give an example of the kind of prayer that is encouraged. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

James refers to 1 Kings 17:1, where Elijah told Ahab that it would not rain “for the next few years.” This drought was punishment for Israel’s worship of Baal. After three and a half years of drought, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a showdown on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:16–40), and then Elijah told King Ahab that it was going to rain (verse 41).

“So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

“‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“‘There is nothing there,’ he said.

“Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’

“The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’

“So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”’

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:42–45).

On Mt. Carmel, Elijah made a pronouncement that it would rain and then prayed that it would. He prayed for rain seven times. After each prayer, he sent his servant to see if the sky looked like rain. When it did not, he would pray again. Finally, after the seventh time, a small cloud was visible, which Elijah interpreted to be the answer to his prayer—and it was. He had prayed bent down to the ground with his face between his knees. This could be interpreted as an expression of earnest supplication.

Taking all the evidence into consideration, fervency may not be the most important issue in prayer. Certainly, Elijah prayed earnestly. However, the point of James seems to focus more on the efficacy of prayer and the aspect of righteousness in the one praying. The admonition to prayer is prefaced with the command to confess sins. James also makes a point that the prayer comes from a righteous person. Elijah was a righteous man, and the results of his prayer were beyond incredible.

The point of James 5:13–18 is that prayer is important and God answers prayer, so we must make it a priority. We don’t have to be “super Christians.” We might be tempted to think of Elijah as some sort of super saint, but James says he was an ordinary man and that God answered his prayer. However, sin in the life of the one praying can block prayer’s effectiveness. Certainly, earnest prayer is important, and the prayer of faith is important, but this passage does not seem to indicate that the forcefulness with which one prays determines effectiveness. Rather, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful (forceful) and effective.

We should confess our sins and pray, expecting God to answer. Of course, the prayer should not be half-hearted or nonchalant, and other passages encourage us to pray with persistence (Matthew 7:7–8, Luke 11:5–9; 18:1–8).


James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur

More insights from your Bible study – Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!


What does it mean that the “prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16)?

What are some hindrances to a potent prayer life?

What does the Bible say about prayerlessness?

What is the value of a prayer meeting?

Why is daily prayer important?

Author: J. Palmer

Living under the wings of God and the angels around me keeping me going and safe. Sharing the love of Christ.

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