“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV).
If we were to paraphrase the idea behind this passage, we might say, “Let’s start with first things first.” In this instance, “first things” involved four important elements of prayer: “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.”
We can begin our look at these verses with the word “supplication.” This type of prayer arises from a specific need or urgent request. Other phrases that convey this idea include an appeal, a petition, or a plea.
One Biblical example of a supplication appears in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. When Nehemiah learned of the deplorable conditions that existed in the city of Jerusalem, he became distressed and entered a period of mourning and fasting.
However, Nehemiah also served as an attendant to the king during that period, so he approached God in prayer with the following plea…
“…Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (Nehemiah 1:5-10).
Therefore, in the words of one commentator, “Supplications are those expressions in prayer that relate to the deepest needs of the heart; such needs are far more personal than those expressed by ‘prayers.'” (1)
(1) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment 2:1–7] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961 https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesTimothyAndTitus/18TimothyAndTitus_djvu.txt