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 I 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 (I Kings 8:52; Esther 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 selfish your requests will be.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between “supplications” and “prayers,” 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. You can praise Him for His goodness and His grace, or just talk to Him about whatever is on your heart. If you have children who only call when they need something, you know how God feels if all you ever do is ask Him for things.
You can also make “intercessions” to God in prayer. Intercessions are selfless prayers prayed to God solely on behalf of others, the kind of prayer the Lord prays for us (Rom. 8:34).
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!
Now that we’ve defined these prayers, I’d like to submit for your consideration that Paul mentioned them in a specific sequence that reflects the order of spiritual maturity. When you were first saved, your prayers mostly consisted of asking God for things. But as you matured in the Lord, you began to “pray” more, praising God and talking to Him about whatever was on your heart. Then, more and more, the focus of your prayers moved away from yourself to others, and you began interceding for them more than for yourself. Perhaps you’ve already arrived at the point where you mostly just thank God when you bow before the throne of His grace.
If not, if you’ve never spent an entire season of prayer just thanking God, I can’t recommend it enough. Since Paul mentions it last in this list of prayers that reflects the order of spiritual maturity, I believe it to be the highest form of prayer that you can pray to God.
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.