If you're anything like me, you're probably not entirely sure what to make of these verses. Let me start by dispelling a couple of lies that would be easy to believe when reading these verses:
1. I can't possibly think to pray that much, I must not be good at being a Christian.
2. My prayer must not be offered in faith because it doesn't usually work.
3. I confess my sins to God, I don't need to confess them to people.
4. It's my job to tell sinners what they're doing wrong.
I'll start at number one. James is not trying to be condemning about what we don't yet do, instead, he's trying to encourage us on how to respond to God in specific moments. Prayer is not meant to be limited to only certain moments, instead, it should be our constant instinct to be internally praying and talking to God. Most of you probably already do this and don't realize how much you do it. Having an awareness of God's constant presence takes practice. Try talking to God while you're walking to class, sitting in the dining hall, or going to sleep at night. It can be about anything - the more you feel like you have a relationship with God, the more nature asking Him for things will feel when the time comes.
Number two - I have fallen into this trap many times. I begin to wonder if God isn't moving because of something wrong with me. I think that I'm misunderstanding who God is in these moments. I believe in some moments, God's plan is for one thing to happen instead of another, but He still wants me to have the faith to ask. This is similar to Luke 22:42 when Jesus prays, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." I think God wants our hearts to be in this position - honest with our desires, but totally surrendered to His will above all else.
Number 3 - Confessing sins to God is the perfect first step into freedom. However, I think God calls us to be honest with each other about our struggles. My friends and I realized recently that, as Christians, we have a hard time being honest about what we're struggling with right in that moment. We usually wait a few weeks to be able to say I "was" struggling with this to keep people from thinking we're a mess. But when we all began to talk about the things that we were dealing with right in that very moment, God really opened up a door for true friendship that we hadn't been able to have before. This friendship could come only through vulnerability with people with trust.
Number 4 - This one is tricky. I think James is encouraging us to help those who are sinners get back on the path. However, we must find the balance between encouraging and forcing. If you can do what we talked about in number 3 and be vulnerable with a group of people you trust, number 4 should come alongside that. As friends open up to each other, we give each other a place in our lives to speak truth into. The difference is all in the heart - either you have a goal of changing people or you have a heart to see your friend set free.
James is calling us into healthy community. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel like you have community to do this with yet. Community will come! If you're not yet a part of Freshley, the way we provide community is for you to come Monday nights at 8pm to join a small group with other freshmen who are dealing with similar issues and encourage each other towards Christ!
Lord, thank You for giving me freedom when I repent to you. Thank You that you desire us to be in community with people who will try their best to see me as you do. Please give me more of those people to be in my life. Lord, teach me how to be a good friend instead of simply looking for friends who would be good to me. I invite you to teach me vulnerability and I trust that You will never be ashamed or embarrassed of me when I open up my heart. Amen.
- Michele Houston