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As I was reading Philippians 4:6 (ESV), I came across the phrase, “prayer and supplication” being curious I began studying what the word supplication meant and began going down a rabbit hole of the origins of the translation.

The original Greek says

“παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας”

which was translated to

“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”.

However, I found that the word “δέησις“ had been translated into the word prayer instead of supplication in other chapter such as 2 Corinthians 1:11 and even earlier in Philippians 1:4.

So now I am left wondering what is the difference between prayer (προσευχῇ) and prayer also translated as supplication (δέησις) in Philippians 4:6?

2 Answers 2

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The Greek words “προσευχῇ” (proseuchē) and “δέησις” (deēsis) both appear in Philippians 4:6, and while they are sometimes used interchangeably in English translations, they do have distinct connotations in the original Greek.

  • “προσευχῇ” (proseuchē) is a general term for prayer. It refers to worship and communication with God. This can encompass all forms of prayer, including praise, thanksgiving, confession, and requests.
  • “δέησις” (deēsis), on the other hand, specifically refers to supplication or petition. It implies a sense of need and typically involves humbly making requests or pleading for assistance.

So, putting those together, in the context of Philippians 4:6, “προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει” (prayer and supplication) suggests a progression from general prayer to specific requests. It’s like saying, “In every situation, by prayer (in a general sense of worship and communication with God) and supplication (specifically making your requests known to God) with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

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OK, the two words in question are, with their meanings from BDAG:

προσευχή (proseuché)

  1. petition addressed to deity, prayer, eg, Rev 5:8, 8:3, 1 Peter 3:7, Acts 1:14, Eph 6:18, Phil 4:6, etc.
  2. a place of or for prayer, place of prayer, eg, Acts 16:13, 16

δέησις (deésis)

urgent request to meet a need, exclusively addressed to God, prayer, eg, Luke 1:13, 2:37, Phil 1:19, 2 Tim 1:3, 1 Peter 3:12, Acts 1;14, Eph 6:18, Phil 4:6, etc.

It is immediately apparent that these two words are close synonyms: προσευχή (proseuché) being the more general term, and δέησις (deésis) also being a prayer but in the form of urgent need for help.

Note that these two nouns are frequently used together such as in 1 Tim 2:1, 5:5, Phil 4:6, Eph 6:18, Heb 5:7, etc. Thus, they form a type of rhetorical emphasis.

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