What Is Supplication? Biblical Meaning and Significance

In the Bible, we are told: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Discover the definition and benefit of supplication as we look to scripture and Christian tradition.

Christianity.com Editorial Staff
What Is Supplication? Biblical Meaning and Significance

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)

Definition of Supplication

We can define supplication as a form of a prayer, a call for help from God. The term bears a spirit of reverence and devotion with it, a solemn prayer to a higher power.

According to vocabulary.com, although it is a noun, supplication comes from the Latin verb supplicare, which means "to plead humbly." While a supplication is often thought of as a religious prayer (it is used 60 times in the Bible), it can logically be applied to any situation in which you must entreat someone in power for help or a favor. Still, it carries with it an aura of religiosity and deep entreaty, and should not be used to describe just any simple request.

Supplication in Christianity

In Christianity, the prayer of supplication for health by and for the sick is mentioned by early Christian writings in the New Testament, notably James 5:13-16. The Bible calls us to practice supplication rather than surrender to our anxiety and fear. Christians can use supplication as a means of praising God and casting worries upon Him releasing them from our hearts and minds.

From its Latin translation of supplicare, meaning “to plead humbly,” supplication can also be summarized as a request to God. In our request (or supplication), we must be wise to ask God for things that will truly enrich our lives, like wisdom, strength, health, and love.  In Christianity, genuine supplication is an expression of authentic belief in God and trust in Him to answer our prayers.

Prayer and Supplication

Prayer and supplication are closely related and interconnected as they are both forms of reverence and invocation to God. However, supplication is a type of prayer making them somewhat distinct. When we pray to request something from God, this is known as supplication, “to plead humbly.” Alternatively, we can pray in thanksgiving, simply praising God for His many blessings and mercy.

The Bible contains numerous prayers of supplication. In the book of Psalm, you can find a supplication for mercy in Psalm 4:1, for leading in Psalm 5:8, for deliverance in Psalm 6:4, for salvation from persecution in Psalm 7:1, and so forth. According to GotQuestions.com, when Daniel discovered that King Darius had declared an edict forbidding prayer to any god but the king, Daniel continued to pray to God with prayers of thanksgiving as well as prayers of supplication for God's aid in his unfortunate circumstance.

In the New Testament, Jesus instructs us to pray for our daily bread in Matthew 6:9-13, which comes into the category of a prayer of supplication. Additionally, in Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells us not to give up praying for what we need. The book of James states that: on the one hand, we don't receive because we don't ask (James 4:2). On the other hand, we ask and don't receive because we are thinking only of our fleshly desires (James 4:3). Reasonably the best way to approach supplications is to ask God in all sincerity as children talking to their kind-hearted Father, but finishing with "Your will be done" (Matthew 26:39), in complete submission to God’s plan.

Bible Verses about Supplication

  • Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV
  • Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 ESV
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 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 ESV
  • Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 ESV

Originally published June 21, 2019.