Is there a difference between prayer and supplication in the Bible? Yes, there certainly is a difference! This is the page, where those differences between the two will come to light as we take a close look at scripture.
These two terms seem to be peppered throughout the Old Testament and the New. We often hear about prayer and supplication being used together by preachers or maybe in Christian books. Because of this, it may be possible that many of us may have been using these terms synonymously.
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Let’s talk about Ephesians 6:18 for a minute. We’ll first address the focus behind this verse. Who is it that Paul is addressing?
He is addressing us as believers, the body as a whole, filled with the Holy Spirit. If filled with the Holy Spirit, we can pray in the Spirit, and have faith in God for answers.
But in this verse, prayers for who? The saints. Actually, for all saints. Not just those who we know and associate ourselves with, but ALL of the saints.
This verse is not talking about praying for the bills to get paid, a new car, or anything that concerns us personally, but prayers for the saints as a whole. Not just prayers but also supplication. What is supplication, and how does it differ from prayer?
Difference Between Prayer and Supplication Defined
Clearly these differ in meaning reading the defined terms, but which do you do the most? Maybe we kind of blend the two together. There’s no reason that I can find to assume that one is more important than the other, but I believe that all of one and none of the other isn’t a good thing.
To always pray for others might ignore different things in your life that need some prayer. To pray only for yourself isn’t necessarily following the second greatest commandment, that we should love others as ourselves, is it? So all of one way and none of the other is an unbalanced diet of prayer.
The Holy Spirit saw fit to bring both of these terms up, and use them one following the other, but not synonymous with each other. If he sees a difference between the two, perhaps the answering of our prayers is impacted for the better or worse, depending on how we present our prayers and supplications to God?
I have a feeling that if we take stock of how we pray, we might find that we combine prayers and supplication together as we go. There isn’t anything wrong with that at all, and it just may be the way the Lord is directing you to converse with him.
I’ve found myself doing the same thing in nearly every prayer I type out in the “Proverbs Daily Devotionals” section of this site. If you haven’t checked it out, you’re missing out. For every devotional is a prayer at the end. Though I call them prayers, most are a blend of prayers and supplications.
Now that we’re getting into it, let’s check out what the Bible has to say and see if we can get to a supernatural truth in Christ, given by no other than Christ Jesus himself.
Christ’s example of Prayer
How should we Pray?
Jesus gave us the ultimate example of how we ought to pray. In Matthew 6 he says the following:
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Simple, direct, and to the point, and does in a way stick with the definition of prayer given above. No tears being shed, no chest-thumping, no emotionally lead outbursts of pleading. “After this manner” means do it along these lines. In other words, this is a type given. Because the King of Kings and Lord of Lords called this a prayer, I’d say that it would be safe to use this as the example of prayer.
Notice what else is going on here. We see words being used like “our,” “us,” and “we,” instead of “those,” “them,” and “they.” This is an important distinction between prayer and supplication. We include ourselves in prayer, and exclude ourselves in supplication.
Christ’s example of Supplication
What is Supplication?
Now, I am taking liberty here because what I am about to use doesn’t specifically call it a supplication in the text, as it was specifically called out in what Jesus called prayer. Using the definition above concerning the word supplication, the following (to me anyway) seems to be a good fit.
Check out the difference between the prayer given in Matthew 6 (above) and chapter 17 of John. While reading it, notice that the criteria is much different, and mostly concerns others (“those,” “them,” and “they”) when it comes to asking for anything.
17 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,
Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
I don’t think that I have to continue rambling on about this. The differences between the two are very clear when you read one, and then the other. The first was for one’s self, the second was a group of requests made for others.
If we go back to the first piece of scripture that we looked at, I don’t think it’s by accident that Paul used supplication not only twice, but in connection with all the saints. Just as Jesus did in the above supplication.
If you for some reason aren’t very familiar with John chapter 17, get yourself more familiar with it. You’ll be blessed by it.
Actually, if you spend the time, and read John 17 (I shamelessly copied from Bible Gateway) about 5 or 6 times in a row, I’ll bet you receive more from it each time the words reach your eyes. It’s from Christ himself so give it a shot!
Get in the Word of God prayerfully and in the Holy Spirit; find discoveries for yourself! Actually, the whole Bible Study and Daily Devotionals sections of this site came to be in that manner.
I have a feeling that only the surface has been scratched concerning this topic, and volumes have probably been written out there on the web concerning the difference between prayer and supplication.
Without a doubt, you’ll find many exhaustive studies on the difference between prayer and supplication out there on other sites, but this is my quick take on it anyways and would encourage you to dig deeper.
Thank you for reading about the difference between prayer and supplication, and for all of you that keep coming back and checking out these posts & pages. Your interest in this site and excitement about the Word of the Lord is incredibly encouraging, and I especially enjoy all of your comments.
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I hope this either irons out or gets you thinking, about the difference between prayer and supplication!
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 6 P.55 – The Way of Life
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 22 P. 338 – Words of the Wise
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 8 P.71 – Spirit of Truth
- Prayer and Supplication in the Spirit
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 8 P.84 – The Spirit of Life