What’s the difference between a piano and a fish? You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish!
While you may have never wondered about the difference between a piano and a fish, you may have wondered about the difference in the various types of prayer that Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 2:1:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.”
The word “supplication” means to ask someone for something (1 Kings 8:52; Esth. 4:8). Some grace believers are uncomfortable asking God for things, but it is our own apostle Paul who encourages us to “let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). Just try not to be as selfish as unbelievers are when they pray. I once saw a comic strip that featured God sitting at a computer and saying to an angel, “I need to set up a spam filter to block requests to win the lottery!” While Paul says to let your requests be made known unto God “in every thing,” the more you mature in Christ, the less your
prayers will include selfish requests like that.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between “supplications” and “prayers” (the next category Paul mentions)—don’t tell anyone! You see, if you are wondering that, it means you think the word prayer means to ask God for things. But there are lots of other things you can say to God in prayer. For example, you can praise Him for His goodness and His grace. Speaking of tuning things, an old hymn contains the powerful prayerful line, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.”
“Prayers” can also involve just talking to God about whatever is on your heart. Christians who think God invented prayer just so they could call Him to ask for things are similar to selfish adult children who seem to think the telephone was invented so they could call and ask their parents for things.
The “intercessions” that Paul mentions next are selfless prayers prayed to God solely on behalf of others, the kind of prayer the Lord prays for us (Rom. 8:34). If you want to live as unselfishly as the Son of God, reflecting Him in your prayer life would be a good place to start. An old poem says, Others, yes others, let this my motto be. Lord help me live for others, that I may live like Thee.”
The final type of prayer Paul mentions is the “giving of thanks.” This kind of prayer needs no explanation, but it can usually use some exhortation! With that in mind, I invite you to consider that Paul mentions the different forms of prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1 in a specific sequence that reflects the order of spiritual maturity, and the place in which he mentions thanksgiving in that sequence just might motivate you to include more thanksgiving in your prayers.
He mentions “supplications” first because when a believer is first saved, his prayers mostly consist of asking God for things. But as he matures in the Lord, he begins to “pray” more, just praising God and talking to Him about what is on his heart. Then, more and more, the focus of his prayers moves away from himself to others, and he begins to make “intercessions” for them.
In fact, our text directs that all four of these different types of prayers “be made for all men.” You yourself are part of “all men,” of course, so there is certainly nothing wrong with praying for yourself. But the more Christ-like you become, the more the focus of your prayers will shift away from yourself and settle on others.
Finally, since Paul mentions the “giving of thanks” last in this list of prayers that reflects the order of spiritual maturity, I believe it to be the highest form of prayer you can pray to God. That’s why Paul almost always began his epistles by thanking God—most of the time for the saints to whom he was writing (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Thes. 1:2; 2 Thes. 1:3; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philemon 1:4).
If you’re already following Paul as he followed Christ in every other area of your life (1 Cor. 11:1), why not consider following him in making thanksgiving your top priority in prayer? It’s high spiritual ground, but if you mean it when you sing “Lord plant my feet on higher ground,” then it’s an upgrade in your prayer life that you’ll sincerely
wish to make
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.