Four Flavors of Prayer

Not too long ago, I had a brief exchange with someone who excitedly exclaimed that the Greek language was so cool because the Greeks had four words for “love.” “No,” I responded. “They don’t. Rather, English is such a limited language that it has only one word to convey four different Greek concepts.”

That’s not entirely accurate, but it was fun to say it.

This week we will look at another interesting concept that also divides neatly into four distinct arenas, and all of it involves communicating with God.

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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
– 1 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV

Paul begins this exhortation to Timothy saying, “First of all,” and it does, literally, read that way (πρῶτον πάντων). What Paul is about to instruct is primary, preceding of all things. It is the preeminent concern, above every other concern.

Given its glaring lack of emphasis in most assemblies, it is difficult to see that prayer of any kind is even *a* priority, much less the “first of all” priority. In the early church, we find that prayer was at the core of the apostolic ministry.

But we [the apostles] will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
– Acts 6:4, ESV [bracketed mine]

Prayer was one of the four basic devotions of the early believers.

And they [the early church] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
– Acts 2:42, ESV [bracketed mine]

Back to 1 Timothy, and Paul’s charge to him …


δεήσεις – Supplications, entreaties, or petitions. It is the same word James used to say the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.1 Supplication is made with reference to our needs. “Give us this day our daily bead” perhaps. There is an acknowledgment of our endless dependence of God’s provision. יְהוָה יִרְאֶה (yhwh yirʾeh) – God our provider.


προσευχάς – This is a more generic term with a wider application. It carries the idea of reverence toward the one to whom we pray. Paul uses the same term just moments later in this same chapter.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
– Acts 2:42, ESV

Prayer is a sacred, holy activity, particularly when you consider that you are speaking to the Creator-God of the universe. The bar does not get set any higher than that. Prayer demands an attitude of reverence.


ἐντεύξεις – Intercessions are petitions we make on behalf of someone else. It is a term of intimacy. An interesting use of the term is found later in this same letter to Timothy, where Paul says, reputedly, unholy foods are made holy by intercession.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
– 1 Timothy 4:4-5, ESV [bold mine]

We don’t intercede for our food in the same we interceded for another person, or the way the Spirit intercedes for us,2 but I do find this to be an intriguing use of the word.


ἐντεύξεις – We pour out thanksgiving to the giver of the greatest gifts. When we give thanks, knowing what we deserve, and recognizing what we are given in that place. In this realization, we can “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s well for you in Christ Jesus.”3

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
– Colossians 4:2, ESV

The Subject

These reverent prayers are to be offered up for all, especially for kings [presidents] and all those in authority.4 In the United States, we will soon be electing a president. You may view this, as I do, as us not having a really good choice. Regardless of who ends up filling that office, Christ-followers have an obligation to pray for that one in authority. This prayer is not without purpose.

—so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
– Colossians 4:2, BSB

Paul gives Timothy two good reasons for Christ-followers to pray for those in authority. It is vital that we understand exactly who that authority figure was when this was written. It was the emperor Nero. It is difficult to imagine a more godless man than Nero, yet the believers were being charged with the task of praying for him.

  • We pray for our “Nero” that we may lead peaceful, quiet lives, dignified in every way.
  • We pray for our “Nero” because our God and Savior is not desiring that any should perish, but that all may be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

Our mediator, Jesus Christ will present our prayers to the Father, and the Father will respond to those prayers as he sees best.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
– 1 Timothy 2:5, ESV

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
X – @DamonJGray
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1. James 5:16
2. Romans 8:26-27
3. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
4. 1 Timothy 2:2

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Damon J. Gray

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