Q: “Would you please explain prayer and supplication?”
A: I appreciate you asking this timely question. It is true there are misconceptions about prayer and for that reason one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray in Luke 11:1. No doubt the disciples had seen the results of Jesus’ prayer life and felt their prayer life fell short.
First of all, I want to stress that praying is a privilege, a grace afforded to everyone, but if you are a child of God you will have the right to approach Him in humility and sincerity, but it does not mean He has to listen, or answer your prayers. We know that God will not hear the prayers of those who hide iniquity in their hearts, while the prayers of husbands who are not properly honoring their wives will be greatly hindered (Psalm 66:18; 1 Peter 3:7). We are told that if our prayers are self-serving, they will run amiss and will never hit the target that would assure answered prayer (James 4:2-3).
This brings us to a very important aspect of prayer: its main goal is not to necessarily let our personal requests be known, but to seek the heart concerns of God on behalf of His kingdom and people so that all prayers can line up to His will and hit the target (1 John 5:14). It is for this reason genuine prayer is nothing more than a conversation with God.
A conversation goes two ways because there is interaction between the parties involved taking place. It is not just us speaking to the Lord, but learning to wait for His answer to walk out His will regarding a matter. Genuine prayer will always lead into acceptable worship before the Lord, and in many cases will end in communion with Him. Once God receives the worship He rightly deserves, one can be assured that the prayer was heard and that He will be answering it according to His time.
God speaks through three sources: His Spirit, His Word, and others. It is for this reason we are instructed to hear what the Spirit is saying because He will lead us into all truth about a matter (Luke 14:35; John 16:13). However, we must be open to hear the answer and prepared to discern the answer by seeking confirmation.
If we feel led in a certain direction by the leading of the Spirit and others in a matter, we must confirm it with the Word of God. If we perceive that the answer has been revealed in His Word, there will be agreement in our spirit and God will even use others to unknowingly confirm it.
However, there are different types of prayer. Most people think that prayer requires outward formality. There is nothing wrong with outward formality such as bowing, sackcloth, tears, and etc. as long as it is truly representing the heart attitude. The reason I say this is that there are many different shows of religious piousness that includes flowery and long drawn out prayers, but Jesus said of such shows that those who do so were hypocritical, and what was being said was a matter of lip service that lacked heart (Matthew 6:5-8; 15:7-8).
This brings us to another important point about prayer. The purpose behind a particular prayer is what will prepare the attitude of the heart, setting up the environment of prayer. There are many different types of prayers. For example, there are prayers of thanksgiving which creates an environment of joy, gratitude, and contentment. We see David coming to God in great humility and brokenness over his sin in Psalm 51. When it came to the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8, you can see that King Solomon was awed and overwhelmed by the reality of God. In the case of Daniel, he humbly came seeking mercy from God as he interceded for the people of Israel in Daniel 9:2-19.
Now we come to supplication. It has interesting meanings attached to it. It points to a request or petition to move God to show favor or His grace in the form of kindness, mercy, and pity. It involves imploring, beseeching, and binding oneself to the matter until it is accomplished. Such action implies a burden is present about a kingdom matter.
In Acts 1:14 we see that those in the upper room were in one accord and continued with one accord in prayer and supplication as they waited for the promise of the Father (Holy Spirit). We see Paul persevering in his prayers with all prayer and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18). In Philippians 4:6 we are instructed, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Notice how supplication is connected to thanksgiving. In 1 Timothy 2:1 we are exhorted to first of all through supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. To seek the Lord, wait on and before Him reveals that prayer is also a discipline of the spirit.
We must keep in mind answered prayers are a matter of grace. God wants to show His grace to each of us, and this is why Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that we have a High Priest who understands us and intercedes on our behalf. We are then instructed in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Prayer becomes a beautiful avenue in which the Lord can show each of us grace, but He also wants us to be channels in which He can make His grace known to others. It is clear that to make such supplications on behalf of others is a way for the Lord to reveal His grace, but one has to have the heart, vision, and endurance to see such prayer through to the end.