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The Gospel in Words: The gospel in words: 'Supplication'


Editor's note: This is a reprint of a previous column.

"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto Him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul ... " (Enos 1:4)

"Supplication" is defined as a humble or earnest petition or entreaty, a humble prayer addressed to God that often specifically petitions for a special blessing.

The root of supplication comes from "to be flat," or pliant. It also has the sense of supple or foldable. In a literal sense, to supplicate means to be on folded knees. Another sense of the word is to beg humbly.

The word supplication, as used in the Old Testament, is a translation of a number of words, which mean to bend or to stoop; to beg for favor, grace or pity; to entreat; or to search for the answer to a hard question, proverb or riddle. The Greek word in the New Testament is essentially the same with the additional sense of beseeching or begging as binding oneself.

Very often in scripture and in more modern usage, supplication is used in conjunction with prayer, as in prayer and supplication. The question is whether this is simply repetition for effect or redundancy, or if there really are separate meanings for prayer and supplication. In fact, sometimes prayer and supplication are used as repetition for emphasis. For example, Psalms 6:9 reads: "The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer." However, there are a number of cases where supplication is used as a special application of prayer.

Prayer encompasses all forms of how we approach our Heavenly Father. Prayer, while it can be supplication, simply means to ask or to entreat, whereas the sense of supplication is of a more intense nature. So, in general, we would not speak of supplication before our meals or in invocations or benedictions at church meetings. What Enos did was clearly more than his typical prayers. Another example is Melchizedek, who "offered up prayers and supplications with strong (mighty and powerful) crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death" (Hebrews 5:7).

Another good example of this intensity is the Prophet Joseph Smith, who tells us that "After I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me that I might know of my state and standing before Him."

When the word supplication is used in the scriptures, in this deeper sense, it is most often in the case of special, almost unique pleadings and cries of the heart for very particular blessings and manifestations and, thus, a much more intense form of prayer.

Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News.