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Praying with a Purpose
by Dr. Michael J. Shanlian, BRE, M.A., Ph.D. ABD, D.D.



1"O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
3My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
4Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
5For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
6I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
7Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
8Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
9The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
10Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly."
(Psalm 6 KJV emphasis added)

Also known as "petitioning" or "plea", supplication is the most common form of prayer.

In Christianity, the prayer of supplication for health by and on behalf of the sick is referenced in early Christian writings in the New Testament, especially James:

13"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
16Therefore, 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 5:13-16)

The word "supplication" is found 60 times in the Bible: 39 times in the singular and 21times in the plural; or, 53 times in the Old Testament and seven (7) times in the New Testament. It is a synonym of "prayer" and of the 58 verses where supplication is used, 31 of these verses also have some form of the words "pray" or "prayer".

According to the word history of supplication, it refers to a bending down and indicates a bowing or kneeling in submission. 1 Kings 8:34 states: "And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven." (KJV) By extension of this picture, to supplicate is to ask humbly and earnestly. It refers most to the attitude of our prayer.

The word, "supplication", is found seven seven times in connection with crying out to God (cf.1 Kings 8:28; 2 Chronicles 6:19; Psalm 28:2; 30:8; 31:22; 142:1; Hebrews 5:7). Consider especially Psalm 142:1, which states, "I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication." The word is also used in three passages (Jeremiah 3:21; 31:9; Hosea 12:4) with the idea of weeping.

Daniel 9:18—

Acts 1:14—

1 Timothy 5:5—

Supplication, therefore, is the attitude or spirit of prayer. We bend down to God and cry out to Him for an answer. We submit to His will and to His authority. We earnestly seek His help. In this way, we make supplication to God in our prayers. May we follow our example, the Lord Jesus, who "...offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" (Hebrews 5:7).

In his book, "How Great Generals Win", Bevin Alexander tells of "The General Who Beat Hannibal". One of Hannibal's most effective tactics was the use of elephants in battle. For years Roman soldiers and horses were ineffective against the elephants — until the Roman general Scipio Africanus made a brilliant decision to startle Hannibal's elephants with trumpets and cause them to retreat in fear. Until the defeat of Hannibal of Carthage, the Romans could not make the move toward World Empire.

Like Hannibal, Satan uses intimidating tools to win spiritual battles against us. We must stand against him with weapons that even he cannot counter: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching there unto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

As James tell us in the fourth chapter of his epistle, if we "submit ourselves to God" and "resist the devil" with these tactics, "he will flee."

Big Idea: Supplication is prayer that is persistent!


Dr. Michael John ShanlianQuestions/Comments?
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