James 5:16 – “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.”
I am learning to be cautious about teaching things that we can do to make our prayers more effective and powerful. To focus on what we do distracts us from what Christ already did to empower and make possible an effective prayer life. The redemption of Christ is sufficient for all we need. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… (2 Peter 1:3).”
However, every passage on prayer directs us, as does James 5:16, to be clean vessels. Often we quote the last portion of this verse; that people made righteous have great power in prayer.
We miss a point, however, when we exclude the first portion of the verse. Although all power in prayer is purchased and granted by the complete work of Christ (His death, burial and resurrection), and no works of ours can create for us more power than that available, sin can block the power made available to us.
As James points out, sin in our lives can most often be seen in our horizontal relationships. Sin is not dealt with vertically (between us and God) until it has been dealt with on the horizontal level (between each other).
The delusion that we can be right with God and not right with fellow Christians is never promised in the Bible. John reminds us that “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).”
This is why James encourages us to clean our earthly relationship (through confession) and pray for each other (demonstrating love and proper relationship) so that our prayers not be hindered. One who is right with God, as evidenced by his clean accounts on earth, has the powerful prayer life delivered by Jesus Christ.