A Closer Walk
The Bible uses different words to convey the concept of prayer requests. We find the words ask, request, supplication, petition, beseech, and entreat used to describe the act of seeking something from our God. Jesus told us to ask; “...give us this day our daily bread...,” Matthew 6:11 KJV. Some of the words used to describe the act of asking seem to be stronger than the others. Let's remember that prayer also consists of other equally important aspects such as worship, praise, and confession. But for our discussion today let's explore the asking part of prayer, and see if we can uncover deeper meanings from the words used to describe it.
Ask. The dictionary defines ask as: "to use words in seeking an answer (to a question); to put a question to (a person); to request." We can use asking to gain information from our Lord about a person (is this the person I should marry?); a place (is this the house, or town, we should move to?); or a situation (what should I do about this?). Asking in prayer is rewarded with an answer. "Ask, and it shall be given to you...For everyone who asks receives," Matthew 7:7-8 NASB.
Request. Dictionary defines request as: "an asking for something; to ask for; to ask (a person) to do something." Request could be a variation on the word ask. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication...let your requests be made known to God," Philippians 4:6 NASB. Request and ask may be similar in strength and intensity, and could possibly be two sides of the same coin.
Supplication. Supplication is a derivative of the word supplicate which the dictionary defines as: "to ask for (something) humbly; to make a humble request." Supplicate is also the root word of supplicator which would be the person or being we would bring the supplication to. By making a supplication, we recognize and acknowledge the existence of a supplicator, one who has what we are asking for, or who has the ability to provide what we are asking for. In the case of our Heavenly Father, He has both. A supplication is offered humbly, and in doing so we acknowledge that we do not have the ability or power within ourselves to provide what is being asked for. Supplication would seem to be about the same strength as ask and request, and it is carried to the supplicator with humility. In this discussion, since the supplicator we are referring to and talking about is Almighty God, the word Supplicator should be capitalized.
Petition. Dictionary defines petition as: "a solemn, earnest request; entreaty; a formal document embodying such a request, often signed by a number of persons". Notice please, "...signed by a number of persons." At this stage we are enlisting the aid of others; and we recognize that we need help from others to accomplish this. We are asking our brothers and sisters in Christ to share our burden by going to the Supplicator with us, and for us. "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men," 1 Timothy 2:1 NASB.
Beseech. Dictionary defines as: "to ask earnestly, entreat." This is stronger than any of the previous words. This would seem to be knees to the floor praying. Perhaps we have already tried the asking, the requesting, the supplicating, and the petitioning. Perhaps, even with the help of others we have not been rewarded with an answer. Or, maybe this particular request is so serious and urgent, that we would skip over the others and start right here with beseeching. Or it could be that the burden we are trying to lift is so stubborn that it requires more effort. "Epaphrus, who is one of your number...always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers," Colossians 4:12 NASB. Doesn't “laboring earnestly” convey physical effort and a sweat drenched brow?
Entreat. Dictionary defines as: "to ask earnestly; beseech; implore." This word seems to be the strongest of them all. This is prostate on the ground praying, because knees to the floor did not gain an answer. Or looked at another way, this is pounding on the very doors of heaven while jumping up and down and screaming and hollering. If our family was in a burning house, and we were the only one who could save them, this is exactly what we would do. At this point none of that walk softly stuff, but because of possible barriers or hindrances, this is big stick time. The figurative big stick would be employed in an effort to break down these barriers or hindrances that may be holding back our answer. "...To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh...Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me," 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 NASB. Even such a one as the Apostle Paul did not get the answer to his entreaty the first time, or even the second. Should we expect anything different?
Finally, there is one more that is not mentioned in the Bible, but is instead based on life experiences, and is worth mentioning here. Begging and pleading. This is where we throw ourselves on the mercy of the court, so to speak. We have nothing to offer, nothing to give. We just plead for our Heavenly Father's compassion, or mercy, or grace. We beg, or plead, for His help for a situation or circumstance that we ourselves, even with the earnest prayers of others, haven't been able to solve or fix. We have asked, requested, and petitioned. We have made the supplication, done the beseeching and the entreating. There is simply nothing left.
During our prayer lives there may be occasions when we desire to take our prayers to the next level, so to speak. But we would do well to remember three things. First: we are the clay, our Lord is the potter. Even though we may not understand, He has His own reasons for doing things to shape and mold us as He desires. Second: faith makes things possible, not necessarily easy. And third: when all else fails we should remember this, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy Faithfulness Lord unto me.”