A photograph capturing a person kneeling in prayer, hands clasped together and eyes closed, demonstrating supplication as a humble act of seeking divine guidance, mercy, or assistance.

What Does Supplication Mean In The Bible?

Supplication is an important concept in the Bible that refers to earnest prayer, petition, and/or intercession. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the meaning, significance, and examples of supplication throughout the Scriptures.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Supplication in the Bible refers to praying earnestly or pleading to God for help and favor through difficult circumstances or trials.

We will start by examining the definition and etymology of the word supplication. Next, we will look at biblical examples of supplication in both the Old and New Testaments. We will then explore the purpose and power of supplication according to biblical principles.

Finally, we will discuss how to engage in effective supplication in your own spiritual walk.

Definition and Etymology of Supplication

Literal Meaning

The word “supplication” comes from the Latin verb supplicare, which means “to plead humbly.” It is derived from sub (under) and plicare (to fold or bend). So literally, supplication means to bend down under or kneel down humbly before someone as an appeal or request.

In the Bible, supplication carries the literal sense of kneeling down or prostrating oneself before God as an act of reverence, worship, and humility while making requests or appeals for help or mercy. It implies a recognition of God’s supreme power and authority.

Supplication as an Appeal to God

Throughout the Bible, believers are encouraged to bring their needs, cares, and requests to God through supplication or prayer (Philippians 4:6). Supplication is an appeal to God for help, deliverance, or favor. It is the act of crying out to the Lord from a position of neediness and dependence.

In both the Old and New Testaments, great emphasis is placed on supplicating God in times of difficulty:

  • Hannah supplicated the Lord for a child with great anguish and grief (1 Samuel 1:10-11).
  • David frequently supplicated God to hear his voice and be merciful to him (Psalm 28:2, 31:22).
  • Hezekiah supplicated God desperately when Jerusalem was under attack (2 Kings 19:14-19).
  • The tax collector stood far off and supplicated God for mercy, beating his breast (Luke 18:9-14).

Supplication is meant to be an act of humility, dependence, and trust in God’s goodness and power. Through heartfelt, earnest supplication, believers can cast their cares upon the Lord, waiting patiently for His help and deliverance according to His timing and will.

Type Definition Example
Petition An earnest request made respectfully to someone in authority Moses’ supplication to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 3:23-25)
Intercession Pleading on behalf of another person Abraham supplicating God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-33)
Lament A cry of grief or sorrow David’s psalms of supplication lamenting evil men (Psalm 140)
Thanks An expression of gratitude The Levites’ song of supplication giving thanks to God (Nehemiah 9:5-38)

As this table shows, supplication encompasses many aspects of prayer and communication with God. But the defining quality is humility – recognizing God’s power and grace, and seeking His mercy and help through earnest, faithful prayer.

According to a 2022 Barna report, 87% of practicing Christians engage in supplication or intercessory prayer multiple times per week. As the Bible instructs, supplication helps believers align their will with God’s purposes, deepen divine trust, and find help in every situation (Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:6-7).

Examples of Supplication in the Bible

Supplication in the Old Testament

There are many examples of supplication, or earnest prayer petitions, found throughout the Old Testament. Here are some notable ones:

  • Moses supplicated to God numerous times on behalf of the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 32:11-13, Numbers 14:13-19).
  • Hannah prayed earnestly for a child, and God heard her supplication and gave her Samuel (1 Samuel 1:10-20).
  • David frequently offered prayers of supplication, asking for God’s guidance, help, and forgiveness (Psalms 25, 51, 86).
  • Elijah supplicated for the widow’s son to be revived, and God answered his prayer (1 Kings 17:20-22).
  • Daniel supplicated on behalf of his people, confessing their sins and pleading for God’s forgiveness and help (Daniel 9:3-19).

These examples showcase how supplication was a key part of prayer and the relationship between God and his people in the Old Testament. Whether interceding for others or pleading for themselves, supplicants approached God earnestly and reverently.

Supplication in the New Testament

The New Testament also provides great models of supplication through the prayers of Jesus and the early Christians.

  • Jesus prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, saying “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
  • The apostle Paul frequently made requests of God in his letters, such as supplicating for love and spiritual growth among the Philippian Christians (Philippians 1:9-11).
  • James instructs Christians to “pray one for another” by confessing sins and supplicating for healing and forgiveness (James 5:13-18).
  • Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, which includes supplications for God to “give us this day our daily bread” and “forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:9-13).

The Purpose and Power of Supplication

Seeking God’s Mercy and Grace

Supplication is fervent prayer that seeks God’s mercy, grace, and blessings (1 Kings 8:28-30). Through supplication, we humbly acknowledge our dependence on God and recognize Him as the source of every good thing (gotquestions.org).

Supplicating to God allows us to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). As we cry out to God, He hears us and responds with His unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 86:3-5).

Aligning Our Will with God’s Will

Supplication realigns our will with God’s perfect will. Rather than demanding our own desires, supplication surrenders our thoughts and wants to God’s greater plan and purposes. As Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, “not my will but yours be done.”

Through earnest supplication, we gain the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and wisdom from above (James 1:5) to know God’s will. Supplication transforms and renews our minds to desire God’s will above all else.

Strengthening Our Faith

Supplication fortifies our faith and deepens our intimacy with God. As we persistently cry out to Him, we grow in patience and trust that He hears and answers prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Although God may not respond immediately, He assures us that “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

Supplication ushers us into God’s presence where we find shelter, comfort, and hope. Through continual supplication, our faith is refined and we gain unshakable confidence that “God is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

How to Engage in Effective Supplication

Come with Humility and Sincerity

Engaging in sincere and humble prayer is key to having your supplications heard by God (James 4:10). This means coming before God with an attitude of reverence, sincerely seeking His will rather than your own.

As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:5-8, we should not pray to impress others or use vain repetitions, but have a modest and truthful heart that acknowledges our dependence on God.

Psalm 51 provides a great example of David’s humble spirit as he earnestly sought forgiveness and cleansing from the Lord after his sin. We too can echo his prayer: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (v. 1).

This models coming to God from a posture of humility, sincerely seeking His grace.

Persist in Prayer

Effective supplication requires persevering in prayer rather than giving up (Luke 18:1-8). As we bring our heartfelt requests to God, we must be patient and persistent. It may not happen on our desired timeframe, but we can trust God’s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The parable of the persistent widow who kept appealing to the unjust judge shows the power of unrelenting prayer. And Jesus assured us that God, who is loving and just, will “see that they get justice” when His people cry out persistently to Him (Luke 18:1-8).

So we must persevere in bringing our supplications to God, confident that He hears us.

Have Faith in God’s Promises

Finally, engaging in effective supplication requires faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So we must have faith both that God hears our prayers and that He will respond according to His perfect will.

Such faith was exemplified by biblical heroes like Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. Despite facing difficult trials, they trusted God’s power and remained steadfast in prayer (James 5:16-18). We too can have bold faith that our compassionate Heavenly Father wishes to hear and answer our heartfelt supplications which align with His good purposes.


In summary, supplication is earnest, heartfelt prayer and intercession before God. As illustrated throughout Scripture, supplication enables us to seek God’s mercy, align our will with His purposes, and strengthen our faith in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Engaging in heartfelt supplication deepens our relationship with God and allows us to truly surrender our cares and burdens to Him. We can come boldly before God’s throne of grace in our time of need, making our requests known through supplication.

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