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In 1 Timothy 2, Paul urges four activities that might all fall into the range of meaning of the English word 'prayers' as it is used today:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people 1 Timothy 2:1, ESV


Παρακαλῶ οὖν πρῶτον πάντων ποιεῖσθαι δεήσεις, προσευχάς, ἐντεύξεις, εὐχαριστίας, ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων 1 Timothy 2:1, SBLGNT

What do these four words mean and are we to understand their usage here as addressing four distinct (albeit perhaps overlapping) activities, or is Paul using synonyms and repetition for rhetorical emphasis.

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2 Answers 2

The Greek text of 1 Tim. 2:1 according to the Textus Receptus (Estienne, 1550):

Παρακαλῶ οὖν πρῶτον πάντων ποιεῖσθαι δεήσεις προσευχάς ἐντεύξεις εὐχαριστίας ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων

The Greek words in question are (in the order in which they occur):

  1. δεήσεις (lemma: δέησις)
  2. προσευχάς (lemma: προσευχή)
  3. ἐντεύξεις (lemma: ἔντευξις)
  4. εὐχαριστίας (lemma: εὐχαριστία)

A summary of the following information is included at the end of the post for those who wish to skip the detailed information which follows.


The easiest of these words to discern is the Greek word εὐχαριστία. It is a noun referring to the state of "thankfulness," the act of "giving thanks," and later, to the Eucharist itself.1 It is related to the adjective εὐχάριστος, "thankful," as well as the verb εὐχαριστέω, "to give thanks."

However, with respect to the other three words, expositors vary in their understanding. In his Synonyms of the New Testament, §51, p. 177), Richard C. Trench wrote a detailed analysis of the words εὐχή, προσευχή, δέησις, ἔντευξις, εὐχαριστία, αἴτημα, ἱκετηρία, which I've included below.2

Notes:

  1. I've added as many hyperlinks to Trench's sources as I could.
  2. Where no English translation of Trench's Greek and Latin citations can be found in the public domain, I've translated the Green and Latin to the best of my ability. However, where such English translations of Greek and Latin citations can be found in the public domain, I've included those for the sake of brevity along with the translator's name (if noted with the translation).

Trench remarks,

Four of these words occur together at 1 Tim. 2:1; on which Flacius Illyricus (Clavis Scripturae, p. 1063, Oratio) justly observes: "Quem vocum acervum procul dubio Paulus non temere congessit" ("...which multitude of words, without doubt, Paul compiled deliberately."). I propose to consider not these only, but the larger group of which they form a portion.

Εὐχή is found only once in the N. T. in the sense of a prayer (Jam. 5:15); twice besides in that of a vow (Acts 18:18; 21:23); compare Plato (Legg., §801a), εὐχαὶ παρὰ θεῶν αἰτήσεις εἰσίν ("εὐχαὶ are requests to gods"). On the distinction between it and προσευχή, between εὔχεσθαι and προσεύχεσθαι, there is a long discussion in Origen (De Oratione, Ch. 2-4), but of no great value, and not bringing out more than the obvious fact that in εὐχή and εὔχεσθαι the notion of the vow, of the dedicated thing, is more commonly found than that of prayer. A more interesting treatment of the words, and the difference between them, may be found in Gregory of Nyssa, De Oratione, Dominica Orationes, §2, ad init[io] ("from the beginning").

Προσευχή and δέησις often in the N. T. occur together (Phil. 4:6; Ephes. 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1; 5:5), and not unfrequently in the Septuagint (Ps. 6:10; Dan. 9:21, 23; cf. 1 Macc. 7:37). There have been many, but for the most part not very successful, attempts to distinguish between them. (Hugo) Grotius, for instance, affirms that they are severally ‘precatio’ and ‘deprecatio’; that the first seeks to obtain good, the second to avert evil. Augustine, let me note by the way, in his treatment of the more important in this group of words (Epistle 149, §12–16; cf. Bishop Taylor, Preface to Apology for Set Forms of Liturgy, §31), which, though interesting, yields few definite results of value, observes that in his time this distinction between ‘precatio’ and ‘deprecatio’ had practically quite disappeared.

Theodoret, who had anticipated Grotius here, explains προσευχή as αἴτησις ἀγαθῶν ("a request of good things"), and δέησις as ὑπὲρ ἀπαλλαγῆς τινῶν λυπηρῶν ἰκετεία προφερομένη ("a supplication presented for the removal of certain evils"). He has here in this last definition the words of Aristotle (Rhetoric, §2.7.3) before him: δεήσεις εἰσὶν αἱ ὀρέξεις, καὶ τούτων μάλιστα αἱ μετὰ λύπης τοῦ μὴ γιγνομένου (J. H. Freese: "By needs I mean longings, especially for things the failure to obtain which is accompanied by pain"): compare Gregory of Nazianzus (Carmina Moralia), δέησιν οἴου τὴν αἴτησιν ἐνδεῶν ("While in need, [your] request is a δέησις").

But this distinction is altogether arbitrary; it neither lies in the words, nor is it borne out by usage. Better (John) Calvin, who makes προσευχή (== ‘precatio’), prayer in general, δέησις (== ‘rogatio’), prayer for particular benefits: "προσευχή omne genus orationis, δέησις ubi certum aliquid petitur; genus et species" ("Προσευχαὶ is the Greek word for every kind of prayer; and δεήσεις denotes those forms of petitions in which something definite is asked. In this way the two words agree with each other, as genus and species."). (Johann Albrecht) Bengel’s distinction amounts very nearly to the same thing: "δέησις (a δεῖ) est imploratio gratiae in necessitate quâdam speciali; προσευχή, oratio, exercetur quâlibet oblatione voluntatum et desideriorum erga Deum" ("δέησις (from δεῖ) is the imploring of grace in any special necessity: προσευχὴ, prayer, is exercised, when on any occasion we offer our wishes and desires to God.").

But Calvin and Bengel, bringing out one important point of distinction, have yet failed to bring out another—namely, that προσευχή is ‘res sacra’ ("a sacred word"), the word being restricted to sacred uses; it is always prayer to God; δέησις has no such restriction. (Karl Friedrich August) Fritzsche (pp. 372-373) (on Rom. 10:1) has not failed to urge this: ‘ἡ προσευχή et ἡ δέησις differunt ut precatio et rogatio. Προσεύχεσθαι et ἡ προσευχή verba sacra sunt; precamur enim Deum: δεῖσθαι, τὸ δέημα (Aristophanes, Acharnians, §1059) et ἡ δέησις tum in sacrâ tum in profanâ re usurpantur; nam et Deum rogare possumus et homines.’ (For a translation of Fritzsche's remark, see the "Summary" at the end of the post.) It is the same distinction as in our ‘prayer’ (though that has been too much brought down to mundane uses) and ‘petition,’ in the German ‘Gebet’ and ‘Bitte.’

Ἔντευξις occurs in the N. T. only at 1 Tim. 2:1; 4:5; (but ἐντυγχάνειν four or five times), and once in the Apocrypha (2 Macc. 4:8). ‘Intercession,’ by which the A. V. translates it, is not, as we now understand ‘intercession,’ a satisfactory rendering. For ἔντευξις does not necessarily mean what intercession at present commonly does mean—namely, prayer in relation to others (at 1 Tim. 4:5 such meaning is impossible); a pleading either for them or against them.3 Least of all does it mean exclusively the latter, a pleading against our enemies, as Theodoret, on Rom. 11:2, missing the fact that the ‘against’ lay there in the κατά, would imply, when he says: ἔντευξις ἐστὶ κατηγορία τῶν ἀδικούντων ("ἔντευξις is an accusation of the wrongdoers"); cf. Hesychius: δέησις εἰς ἐκδίκησιν ὑπέρ τινος ("a δέησις is for avenging on someone's behalf") (Rom. 8:34), κατά τινος ("against someone") (Rom. 11:2); but, as its connexion with ἐντυγχάνειν, to fall in with a person, to draw close to him so as to enter into familiar speech and communion with him (Plutarch, Conjugalia Praecepta, §13), implies, it is free familiar prayer, such as boldly draws near to God (Gen. 18:23; Wisd. 8:21; cf. Philo, Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat, §92: ἐντεύξεις καὶ ἐκβοήσεις (Charles Yonge: "conversations with and cries"); Plutarch, Phocion, §17).

In justice, however, to our Translators, it must be observed that ‘intercession’ had not in their time that limited meaning of prayer for others which we now ascribe to it; see Jer. 27:18; 36:25. The Vulgate has ‘postulationes’; but Augustine, in a discussion on this group of words referred to already (Epistle 149, §12–16), prefers ‘interpellationes,’ as better bringing out the παῤῥησία, the freedom and boldness of access, which is involved in, and constitutes the fundamental idea of, the ἔντευξις—‘interpellare,’ to interrupt another in speaking, ever implying forwardness and freedom. Origen (De Oratione, §14) in like manner makes the boldness of approach to God, asking, it may be, some great thing (he instances Josh. 10:12), the fundamental notion of the ἔντευξις. It might mean indeed more than this, Plato using it of a possible encounter with pirates (Politic., §298d).

Εὐχαριστία, which our Translators have rendered ‘thankfulness’ (Acts 24:3); ‘giving of thanks’ (1 Cor. 14:16); ‘thanks’ (Rev. 4:9); ‘thanksgiving’ (Phil. 4:6), a somewhat rare word elsewhere, is frequent in sacred Greek. It would be out of place to dwell here on the special meaning which εὐχαριστία and ‘eucharist’ have acquired from the fact that in the Holy Communion the Church embodies her highest act of thanksgiving for the highest benefits which she has received of God. Regarded as one manner of prayer, it expresses that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions (Phil. 4:6; Ephes. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18; 1 Tim. 2:1); namely, the grateful acknowledgment of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of future. As such it may, and will, subsist in heaven (Rev. 4:9; 7:12); will indeed be larger, deeper, fuller there than here: for only there will the redeemed know how much they owe to their Lord; and this it will do, while all other forms of prayer, in the very nature of things, will have ceased in the entire possession and present fruition of the things prayed for.

(Trench next discusses Αἴτημα, but this has been omitted as this word is not relevant to the context of 1 Tim. 2:1.)

Ἱκετηρία, with ῥάβδος, or ἐλαία, or some such word understood, like ἱλαστήριον, θυσιαστήριον, δικαστήριον, and other words of the same termination (see (Christian) Lobeck, Pathologiae Sermonis Graeci, p. 281), was originally an adjective, but little by little obtained substantival power, and learned to go alone. It is explained by Plutarch (Theseus, §18): κλάδος ἀπὸ τῆς ἱερᾶς ἐλαίας ἐρίῳ λευκῷ κατεστεμμένος (Bernadotte Perrin: "This was a bough from the sacred olive-tree, wreathed with white wool.") (cf. Wyttenbach, Animadd. in Plutarch. vol. xiii. p. 89; and Wunder on Sophocles, Oedip. Rex, 3), the olive-branch bound round with white wool, held forth by the suppliant in token of the character which he bore (Aeschylus, Eumenides, §43-44; compare Virgil, Aeneid, §8.116: ‘Paciferaeque manu ramum praetendit olivae’ (John Dryden: "And he held a branch of olive in his hand"), and again §8.128: ‘Et vittâ comtos voluit praetendere ramos’ (John Dryden: "I bear these peaceful branches in my hand") and once more §11.101 (John Dryden: "A truce with olive branch in his hand"). A deprecatory letter, which Antiochus Epiphanes is said on his death-bed to have written to the Jews, is described (2 Macc. 9:18) as ἱκετηρίας τάξιν ἔχουσα (RSV: "in the form of a supplication"), and Agrippa designates one addressed to Caligula: γραφὴ ἣν ἀνθ᾽ ἱκετηρίας προτείνω (Charles Yonge: "...a writing...which I now here offer to you as my earnest petition.") (Philo, De Legatione ad Caium, §276). It is easy to trace the steps by which this, the symbol of supplication, came to signify the supplication itself. It does so on the only occasion when it occurs in the N. T. (Heb. 5:7), being there joined to δέησις, as it often is elsewhere (Job 41:3 [40:27 LXX.]; Polybius, Histories, §3.112.8).

Thus much on the distinction between these words; although, when all has been said, it will still to a great extent remain true that they will often set forth, not different kinds of prayer, but prayer contemplated from different sides and under different aspects.

Witsius (Exercitationes in Orationem Dominicam, §1, p. 2): "Mihi sic videtur, unam eandemque rem diversis nominibus designari pro diversis quos habet aspectibus. Preces nostrae δεήσεις vocantur, quatenus iis nostram apud Deum testamur egestatem, nam δέεσθαι indigere est; προσευχαί, quatenus vota nostra continent; αἰτήματα, quatenus exponunt petitiones et desideria; ἐντεύξεις, quatenus non timide et diffidenter, sed familiariter, Deus se a nobis adiri patitur; ἔντευξις enim est colloquium et congressus familiaris: εὐχαριστίαν gratiarum actionem esse pro acceptis jam beneficiis, notius est quam ut moneri oportuit"

which is translated (by Rev. William Pringle) as,

"My opinion is, that the various names express one and the same thing, viewed under various aspects. Our prayers are called δεήσεις, so far as by them we declared to God our need, for δέεσθαι is to be in need. They are προσευχαί, as they contain our wishes. They are αἰτήματα, as they express petitions and desires. They are ἐντεύξεις, as we are permitted by God to approach Him, not with timidty and diffidence, but in a familiar manner. For ἔντευξις is a familiar conversion and interview. That εὐχαριστίαν is thanksgiving for benefits already received, is hardly necessary to be mentioned."

On the Hebrew correlatives to the several words of this group, see Vitringa, De Synagogâ, §3.2.13.


Summary

  • προσευχάς (lemma: προσευχή)
  • δεήσεις (lemma: δέησις)

(respectively)

Trent: It is the same distinction as in our 'prayer' (though that has been too much brought down to mundane uses) and 'petition.'

Fritzsche: ἡ προσευχή and ἡ δέησις differ so that [ἡ προσευχή ] is "prayer" and ἡ δέησις is "petition; request." [The verb] προσεύχεσθαι and [the noun] ἡ προσευχή are sacred words. That is to say, we are praying to God. While [the verb] δεῖσθαι, [the noun] τὸ δέημα, and [the noun] ἡ δέησις are applied to a sacred and a profane thing, because we can petition both God and men.

  • ἐντεύξεις (lemma: ἔντευξις)

Trent: as its connexion with ἐντυγχάνειν, to fall in with a person, to draw close to him so as to enter into familiar speech and communion with him...implies, it is free familiar prayer, such as boldly draws near to God.

  • εὐχαριστίας (lemma: εὐχαριστία)

Trent: Regarded as one manner of prayer, it expresses that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions...; namely, the grateful acknowledgment of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of future.

Or, as Witsius beautifully summarizes:

My opinion is, that the various names express one and the same thing, viewed under various aspects. Our prayers are called δεήσεις, so far as by them we declared to God our need, for δέεσθαι is to be in need. They are προσευχαί, as they contain our wishes. They are αἰτήματα, as they express petitions and desires. They are ἐντεύξεις, as we are permitted by God to approach Him, not with timidty and diffidence, but in a familiar manner. For ἔντευξις is a familiar conversion and interview. That εὐχαριστίαν is thanksgiving for benefits already received, is hardly necessary to be mentioned.


Footnotes

1 BDAG, 417; Thayer, 264

2 There is a time when we must submit to the knowledge of our predecessors who have already answered such questions as these. In this case, rather than endeavor to submit my own thoughts, I choose to rely on Trench's expertise on this subject.

3 The rendering of δι᾽ ἐντεύξεως, 2 Macc. 4:8, ‘by intercession,’ can scarcely be correct. It expresses more probably the fact of a confidential interview face to face between Jason and Antiochus.


References

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: American Book Company, 1889.

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We interpret that to mean faith filled prayers as apposed to petitions which contain an element of worry or care. You could effectively say cry out like a woman wanting a child ie Hannah and Mark 11. Where as intercession would be the prayer for the benefit of the lost child (Hebrews 7:25) and supplication would be the prayer of the birth pains of a child (Galatians 4:19).

deésis: a need, entreaty

Original Word: δέησις, εως, ἡ

Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine

Transliteration: deésis

Phonetic Spelling: (deh'-ay-sis)

Short Definition: supplication, prayer

Definition: supplication, prayer, entreaty.

-Strong's Concordance

Cognate: 1162 déēsis (deō, "to be in want, lack"; see the cognate 1189 /déomai, "praying for a specific, felt need") – heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need (sense of lack, want).

[1162 (déēsis) ultimately roots back to 1211 /dḗ ("really") which likewise implies a felt need that is personal and urgent (R, 1149).]

-HELPS Word-studies

Here Rick correlates the same word prayers with a lack of worry.

Are Worry and Anxiety Trying To Seize or Control You? By Rick Renner

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

— Philippians 4:6

Do you ever have moments when anxiety tries to creep up on you and seize your heart? I’m talking about those times when you are thrown into a state of panic about things that concern you — such as your family, your friendships, your business, or your finances. Very often this state of panic is caused by the mere thought of a problem that doesn’t even exist and is unlikely ever to come to pass. Nevertheless, the mere thought of this non-existent problem troubles you deeply. Soon you find yourself sinking into such a strong state of worry and anxiety that it literally takes you emotionally hostage!

An example would be a wife or mother who worries endlessly about the health of her husband or children. Although in reality they are as healthy as can be, the devil constantly pounds the woman’s mind with fear-filled thoughts about her loved ones getting sick or dying prematurely. This fear acts like a stranglehold that gradually chokes off her life, paralyzing her until she can no longer function normally in her daily responsibilities.

Or have you ever known a successful businessman who lives in constant terror that he is going to lose his money? I’ve known many such men. Their businesses were blessed, stable, and even expanding. But because the devil struck their minds with worry and anxiety about losing it all, they weren’t able to enjoy the success God had given them. Instead of enjoying God’s goodness and His many blessings in their lives, they often lived like beggars, afraid that if they used what they had, they might lose it. This is a strangling, choking fear that steals people’s ability to enjoy what they possess.

Some people are so controlled by fear that they pray fretful prayers instead of faith-filled prayers. I must admit that I’ve had moments in my own life when I’ve prayed more out of fretfulness than out of faith. Have you ever had one of those times? Praying fretful prayers doesn’t get you anything. It is non-productive praying. God does not respond to fretfulness; He responds to faith.

In Philippians 4:6, Paul says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Do you see the word “careful” in this verse? It is the Greek word merimnao, which means to be troubled; to be anxious; to be fretful; or to be worried about something.

In New Testament times, this word was primarily used in connection with worry about finances, hunger, or some other basic provision of life. It pictured a person who is fretful about paying his bills; a person who is worried he won’t have the money to purchase food and clothes for his family’s needs or pay his house payment or apartment rent on time; or a person who is anxious about his ability to cope with the daily necessities of life.

This is the same word used in Matthew 6:25, when Jesus says, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink.” The word “thought” is also the Greek word merimnao. But in this particular verse, the Greek New Testament also has the word me, which is a strong prohibition to stop something that is already in progress.

This strongly suggests that Jesus was speaking to worriers who were already filled with fret and anxiety. He was urging these people to stop worrying. The verse could be translated, “Stop worrying about your life.” Then Jesus specifies that they were to stop worrying about “what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink.” So again we see the word merimnao used to describe worry, fretfulness, and anxiety about obtaining the basic necessities of life.

We also find the word merimnao used in the parable of the sower and the seed. Matthew 13:22 says, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” The word “care” is the Greek word merimnao, again connected to material worries and concerns.

Jesus says such worry “chokes” the Word. The word “choke” is the Greek word sumpnigo, which means to suffocate, to smother, to asphyxiate, to choke, or to throttle. You see, worry is so all- consuming in an individual’s mind that it literally chokes him. It is a suffocating, smothering force that throttles his whole life to a standstill.

In Luke 21:34, Jesus gives a special warning to people who live in the last days. He said, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, so that day come upon you unawares.”

When Jesus mentions the “cares of this life,” the word “cares” is the Greek word merimna. This time, however, it is used in connection with the word “life,” which is the Greek word biotikos. This comes from the root word bios, the Greek word for life. It is where we get the word biology. But when it becomes the word biotikos, it describes the things of life — pertaining primarily to the events, incidents, and episodes that occur in one’s life.

Thus, this phrase could be understood to mean that we should not allow ourselves to worry and fret about the events, incidents, or episodes that occur in life. This is a particularly fitting message for people who live in the last days and who are confronted by the incidents and episodes that occur during this difficult time.

So when the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing,” he is pleading with us not to be worried about the basic needs and provisions required for life. Paul is also telling us not to let the events of life get to us and throw us into a state of anxiety or panic. To let us know how free of all worry we should be, Paul says we are to be “careful for nothing.” The word “nothing” is the Greek word meden, and it means absolutely nothing!

So this phrase in Philippians 4:6 could be translated:

“Don’t be worried about anything — and that means nothing at all!”

So what is bothering you today, friend? What is stealing your peace and joy? Is there one particular thing Satan keeps using to strike your mind with fear? Can you think of a single time when worry and fretfulness ever helped make a situation better? Doesn’t worry serve only to keep you emotionally torn up and in a state of panic?

I urge you to put an end to worry today, once and for all. If you let worry start operating in you even for a moment, it will try to become a habitual part of your thought life, turning you into a “worrier” who never knows a moment of peace.

Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father right now, interceding for you continually. Jesus understands every emotion, every frustration, and every temptation you could ever face (see Hebrews 2:18). So why not make a deliberate decision to turn over all your worries to Jesus today? Rather than try to manage those anxieties and needs all by yourself, go to Him and surrender everything into His loving, capable hands. Walk free of all those choking, paralyzing fears once and for all.

Jesus is waiting for you to cast all your cares upon Him, because He really does care for you (see 1 Peter 5:7). Then once you throw your worries and concerns on Him, He will help you experience the joy and peace He has designed for you to enjoy in life all along!

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