Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
If we were looking at a steam-engine, and meditating over the motive power of it, we should scarcely direct our thoughts to the safety-valve, or say of it, "What a mighty power is stored up in this little lever!" On the contrary, our attention would be fixed on the piston and the steam at the back of it, and on the laws which govern its production, expansion, and condensation. And we need scarcely say that there is not much in common between those who regard prayer simply as an emotional safety-valve, and those who look upon it as one of the great moving forces of the spiritual world. It happens often enough that there are forces in the world of which people generally are ignorant, or of which they have a totally inadequate idea. As, for instance, we have known cynical politicians deride the expression of public opinion, as being only valuable as a political safety-valve, and useful to keep the "many-headed monster," the populace, from more dangerous courses; but not once or twice have they been awakened to find that there is nothing to stand before the rush of a well-formed public sentiment. So that we say rightly public opinion is of great force. And certainly the idea which the majority of folk attach to the word prayer is but very incommensurate to the part which it occupies, not only in the development of the life of the individual soul, but in the life and lot of the world at large. On the other hand, the force of prayer has been understood by the really spiritual writers of every school and of all time. They knew that prayer is one of the secrets of life; that he who lives prays, and he who prays lives; that he who prays works, and he who works prays; and so large a part of the spiritual life is comprised in the one word prayer, that we find them describing the soul's advance by the character of the prayer which springs from it. May we not say that our Lord Himself was careful enough both in example and teaching to lead His scholars along this way, making them aware that a great part of the soul's education was education in prayer? He began by making them feel that they really didn't know what prayer meant, though they had been taught to say prayers almost since they could speak. So He brings them to a point where they say, "Lord, teach us to pray," &c.; encourages them further by admonitions to ask, seek, and knock; tells them that if they ask for bread and fish, they won't get stones and snakes; leads them on until they acquire the sense of the need of a larger faith; instructs them that prayer is the function of an organ of the spiritual life, and must be as constant and persistent as breathing or other natural functions, so that men ought always to pray and not to faint, and that they should keep awake at all times praying, if they are to be found worthy to stand before the Son of man. Finally, one of His last counsels, just before the last great objective teaching of His own life on the subject, connects the force of their prayer with the state of their life (John 15:7).
(J. Rendel Harria.)
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.