What Is A Prayer Of Supplication? A Christian Study

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

People pray in many different ways. Some are very formal and will present their prayers in such a way that they look and sound like they are petitioning the Queen of England to intervene in their private affairs. Others pray the same prayer over and over again until it becomes nothing but words rolling off their tongue. Still others, pray in such a way that their prayers sound like they’re talking to a friend. However, there is one thing about prayer that everyone should keep in mind. That is praying with supplication. With this in mind, we will do a short Christian study from the Bible to learn what is a prayer of supplication?

What Is A Prayer Of Supplication

What is the common definition of the word supplication?

Supplication is commonly defined as (1): “The action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.” It was most commonly used before the year 1600 as well as the early 1800s (2). Today it is not commonly used, but those that use the King James Bible are familiar with the term. Historically, the word supplication comes from a Latin term, supplicare, which means to plead humbly and has the word supple as its root (3). The fact that the word supplication has the word supple at its root provides great insight for us in understanding a prayer of supplication.

How does the Bible define the word supplication?

The word supplication is used in the Old Testament several different ways. Each Hebrew word communicates the idea of humbling one’s self to another, often in the case of prayer. In the New Testament, supplication is tied to prayer (Acts 1:14; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6). From the perspective of God, His response to our sincere supplication is with mercy and grace. In the case of man, our supplication goes deeper considering our position before God.

What is involved in praying with supplication?

In Philippians 4:6, we are told: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The phrase, “Be careful for nothing,” literally means to be anxious for nothing. In other words, do not get anxious about anything. Instead, in everything we are to submit our requests to God through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.

Most people understand praying and giving thanks. However, supplication communicates how we should pray. It is more than just submitting our requests to God, but instead, submitting them with the mindset that we should humble ourselves and become supple before God. To put this in perspective, think about what it means when someone or something is supple. For example, if someone has supple skin, then their skin can be described as soft, pliable, healthy, and giving way under the pressure of touch. If you were to squeeze someone’s arm that has supple skin, you would expect that their skin would give way to your touch much like soft clay would give way when pressure is applied.

With this in mind, when we pray with supplication, we are not only humbly submitting our requests to God, we’re doing it with the mindset that we want God to make our minds supple. This is so that He can mold our thinking, our opinions, and our emotions to be in line with His thinking, opinions, and emotions. David prayed such a prayer in Psalms 51 when he confessed his sin to God and prayed that God would forgive him, cleanse him, and create in him a clean heart and renew his spirit. David did not want God to change to meet his desires. He wanted God to change him to meet God’s desires.

Therefore, when we pray with supplication we are asking God to change us into the image of His Son and to mold us into what He wants us to be. When this happens, it helps us to grow closer to Christ and our desires become His desires. When our desires become His desires, it changes our opinion of what we want God to do and what we believe is right. With this in mind, it gives us a deeper perspective on Psalms 37:4-5 where we are told: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Many people read this verse with the idea that if they draw close to God that God will give them what they desire. However, when we submit our prayers to God with supplication, He changes us and our desires change as well. Therefore, this verse teaches not that we will get what we want, but instead we will desire what God wants.

Conclusion

Supplication is commonly defined as: “The action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.” The word supplication comes from a Latin term, supplicare, which means to plead humbly and has the word supple as its root. When we pray with supplication, we are not only humbly submitting our requests to God, we’re doing it with the mindset of allowing our minds to be supple and receptive to God’s will. We want God to mold our thinking, our opinions, and our emotions to be in line with His thinking, opinions, and emotions. When this happens, God changes us to be more like His Son, which changes our desires and our will to be in line with His.

Something else for you to read: Bible Verses About Prayer

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2015). “Supplication”. Retrieved from Google, https://www.google.com/search?q=supplication&rct=j. (2) Google (2015). “Supplication”. Retrieved from Google books Ngram Viewer, https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=supplication&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1500&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Csupplication%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BSupplication%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bsupplication%3B%2Cc0. (3) Douglas Harper (2015). “Supplication”. Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=supplication&searchmode=none

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Mick G. July 22, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Dr. Williams,
Great explanation. I have learned a lot from this and your other articles.
Thanks, Mick G., TX
(I especially liked your description: “Some are very formal and will present their prayers in such a way that they look and sound like they are petitioning the Queen of England to intervene in their private affairs.” I’d bet in ten years I’ll still remember that sentence and the content of this article.)

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Pamela Rose Williams July 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm

So funny Mick G. Regarding your “especially liked” part — I laughed out loud when I was editing this one for Dr. Mike. Yes, 10 years from now you might recall it when you see someone praying in such a manner. Thanks for lightening my day. Come back again for a visit any time.

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Berentha Duval August 17, 2016 at 8:12 am

The explanation is simple, easy to understand and helpful. I particularly appreciate the comparison with the Old and New Testament.

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Carole in the Uk September 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Thank you so much.
I have often wondered what supplication meant and you have cleared it up beautifully for me. In a way that I can understand.
May the Lord, bless your ministry greatly.

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Awobajo Olutayo October 4, 2016 at 1:38 am

God bless u for this enlightenment. Was feeling down about d exam I had yesterday. Then I remembered Phillips and 4 vs 6. I decided to go online to check d meaning of supplication. Dts how I got you blog…. now I understand dt its not about the result but it’s by being in God’s will, and His will is perfect. I will continue to pray and supplicate with giving of Thanks to our God and father. Thank you. I pray for more enlightenment for you in Jesus name

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Dan Klein October 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm

What a blessing to be in Vietnam, preparing for a meeting, looking at the topic of prayer and finding a great article about the attitude of true biblical prayer, and finding a friend wrote it! To God be the Glory!

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Mulenga December 15, 2016 at 4:30 am

“Many people read this verse with the idea that if they draw close to God that God will give them what they desire. However, when we submit our prayers to God with supplication, He changes us and our desires change as well. Therefore, this verse teaches not that we will get what we want, but instead we will desire what God wants.” Now i understand that it is all about Gods will;

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Pauline Ombogo April 27, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Doctor Williams;
Greetings and more grace to you.!
I desire to learn more about God…to get deeper and closer to Him.
As such, am looking to study the word, to the highest level possible.
However, am caring for my autistic grandson, who grounds me around him.
Am only able to do online studies.
I have been looking for such an opportunity for the last 2years, in vain.
Learning that you are from a Nursing background, gave hope.
Am also a registered nurse.
How can you help me please?
Kind Regards and blessings to you and your dear wife.

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Willie Daggins July 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm

This was a great read, one that helps to put us into correct prospective and in a position to realign ourselves to be “moldable” rather than “needy” with our petition – Thank you!

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Ishmael Ubong Sunday October 31, 2017 at 4:10 am

Dr. Michael, God bless you for this message. I’m richly blessed.

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Lavinia Henry November 21, 2017 at 8:15 am

What an awesome and inspiring teaching about the prayer of supplication. I daily write down the prayer requests on my journal that I usually pray and intercede for many. I thank God for you as u do the ministry’s for many to understand the Bible and give meaningful explanation. There are many types of explanations to the Bible but however there are those that need additional information to better understand the Bible scriptures.

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kingsley January 30, 2018 at 5:24 am

this is a very enlightening piece. it is not just informative but i find it very encouraging and uplifting. thank you for putting it together and making it available.

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Joseph March 30, 2018 at 5:15 pm

I’m not so sure you hit the nail on the head. Because the verb means “supple” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how the word was used at the time the NKJV was translated. It would have help had you brought up contemporaneous examples of it’s usage.

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