James 5:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

James 5:16, NIV: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16, ESV: 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.

James 5:16, KJV: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:16, NASB: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.

James 5:16, NLT: 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.

James 5:16, CSB: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.

What does James 5:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

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.