Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
It is very hard to understand how prayer does good to the person that offers it. It is quite impossible to give any satisfactory explanation of the truth, though we hold it as we hold our lives, that prayer is heard and answered, and all this without a constant miracle. That is hard to understand, though we are quite sure it is all perfectly true. But it is a much more mysterious thing — and in some points of view it is a very awful thing — to think that prayer for others may truly affect their state, both here and hereafter. Now perhaps the best way of bringing our minds in some measure to understand all this, is to set it before us, that all this is no more wonderful than certain other arrangements in God's Providence. It is just as hard to explain why your eternal destiny may be affected by another person's conduct, as by his prayers. Yet we know it is. But still, it is all very strange. And so, if you would ask a good man to do you a good turn, you can never do so better than by asking him to pray for you. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." We all need to feel this more than we do. No doubt there are few requests and few promises ever made with so little sense of what is meant by them as that to pray for another. A person will say that his prayer is that such a friend may be happy; while in fact he never really went to God's footstool with such a prayer at all. And it may be said, in a single sentence, that intercessory prayer for others is sometimes characterised by what is even worse than unreality. Sometimes the most ill-set and malignant thing that one man can do towards another is to pray for him, or to threaten to pray for him. Oh, let there never be admitted to our minds the faintest idea of hitting at somebody in prayer! Let intercessory prayer always be offered in love. And though the humblest and poorest, there is no saying the good you may do — do to your children, do to your friends, do to those who preach the gospel to you, do to the whole Church of God, by your earnest and persevering prayers. Not much need be said as to the way in which we ought to pray fur those we love. We pray for them as we pray for ourselves. We ask God to give them the same things we ask for ourselves. We ask for guidance through this present life, and for glory afterward, through the precious sacrifice of Christ, and the precious influences of the Holy Spirit: and we ask, as the occasion arises, for all the multitude of separate blessings which are included under these. And as the occasion arises, too, we should do all we can to bring about the things for which we pray. You know the great familiar rule for every Christian's work and prayer: it is to pray as earnestly as if we could do nothing by ourselves; and at the same time to work as hard as if we could do everything by ourselves. It has been well said, that if you want God to hear your prayers for others you must hear them yourselves. It is as mere a mockery to pray that those you love may be brought to Christ, and at last to heaven, while yet you never move a finger to bring them, as it would be for a man to sit down idly amid his heaps of quarried stones and pray that his house may be built, while yet he never moves a hand to build it. And yet, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it"; they are but the two aspects of one great truth. And indeed, it is only in regard to spiritual things that you will find people so forgetful that pains must go with prayers. You do not pray that your little boy may be a good Greek scholar, and yet never teach him Greek. You do not pray that your friend may not fall into a pit hard by on his way on a dark night, and yet never warn him that the pit is there. Now, just act on these plain rules of sound sense, as regards the most important things of all. You may indeed pray for those for whom you can do nothing else; but there are those for whom you ought to pray, for whom you may do much more. Pray for your children, and try to train them in the right way. Pray for your friends, and never miss the chance of doing them a good turn, for this life or the next. Pray for the heathen, and help the agencies for their conversion. Pray for the sorrowful, and never lose the opportunity of comforting a sad heart, and a kind word may go far here, or even the hearty sympathy, felt though unexpressed.
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.