A closer look at four different types of prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1

1 Timothy 2:1 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.”

Today’s post is interested in looking at four different types of prayer described in 1 Timothy 2:1. The aim today is to consider the four Greek words behind the English text of 1 Timothy 2:1 to better understand the main expressions of prayer revealed in the New Testament. We will simply deal with each word in the order they appear in the passage, offering some brief observations, citation of relevant sources and life application to the reader.

1. Entreaties (day-sis; δέησις; desperate prayer) = According to New Testament scholar William Mounce, this word occurs 18 times in the Greek New Testament and can be translated “entreaty, prayer, supplication.” In the standard Greek Lexicon (dictionary) by Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich and Danker (also known as BAGD), this word is often used in concert with another common word for prayer (“pros-oo-xay”; “προσευχη”; the second word translated “prayers” in 1 Timothy 2:1) to denote a more specified request to God. The classic work: “Greek and English Lexicon” by Liddle and Scott suggests the meaning of δέησις as referring to prayer that results from a “wanting need”.  This blogger would suggest that this word is seen in contexts where a desperate situation or desperation for God has prompted the child of God to seek Him with an intentional resolve of prayer.

For example in Luke 2:37 we see the widow Anna serving God in the temple with “fastings and prayers“. Clearly this widow’s prayer-life was accompanied by a desperate sense of seeking God’s face. In Luke 5:33 we see the prayer-life of the disciples of John the Baptist described with this word in the statement: “often fasting and offering prayers“. Imagine following after a powerful figure like John the Baptist whose urgency to prepare the way for the Messiah wove its way through every teaching and activity.

Thus when we see Paul urging Timothy and the congregation at Ephesus to offer up “entreaties”, he is urging them to make sure their prayers are laced with an urgency and resolve to seek God in specific ways. This tone ought to accompany the Christian’s prayer life. With the idea of “entreaty” in clearer view, we can now move onto the second word for prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1, namely…

2. Prayers (pros-oo-xay; προσευχή) = New Testament Scholar William Mounce lists this noun for prayer occuring 36 times in the Greek New Testament. The Greek Lexicon BAGD (see above for the meaning of this abbreviation) renders this term with the translation “prayer” and with the idea of this type of prayer said in the context of other acts of worship. So for example, this word is used to describe Jesus in a kneeling position on the ground in prayer in Luke 22:45. Oftentimes this word refers to a designated place of prayer, such as the place described in Acts 16:13,16 where the women would gather to pray. The Greek-English  Lexicon by Liddle and Scott suggests the meaning of this word as referring to a specific form of address to God. There appears to be a tone of intentionality and expression, a purposefulness to one’s prayer life. It is no wonder why Jesus’ disciples would use the infinitve (verbal noun) form of this word in their request to Jesus to teach them how “to pray”.

As Christians living in this 21st century world, the temptation to be distracted is at an all time high.  If anything, Paul’s use of this word in 1 Timothy 2:1 suggests the idea of having “purposefulness” in our prayer life. So thus far we have seen with the word “entreaty” the idea of desperation for God in our prayer-life and with the common word translated “prayers” we have understood the need for purposefulness. Now lets consider the third word in this text…

3. Petitions (en-too-xeis; ἐντεύξεις) = According to New Testament scholar William Mounce, this noun occurs only twice in the Greek New Testament. In the context of 1 Timothy 2:1 the word refers to intercession or praying on behalf of someone. BAGD Greek Lexicon assigns the meaning of “power of intercession”. According to the Greek and English Lexicon by Liddle and Scott, the idea of “conversation” or “closeness” is implied in the meaning of this term. In the first two words used by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1, prayer is conceived of mainly in public settings. With this particular word, the closeness of fellowship with God is emphasized, with the idea of praying for others and bring their names and situations to God for the sake of discussion.

As Christians, there ought to be a sense in which God is not viewed as some remote, abstract person. Certainly God is Sovereign and All-powerful (Omnipotent), however He is, in the words of Jeremiah the prophet, not only the God who is far off but the God who is near. (Jeremiah 23:24). God is the Father of the Christian by adoption and by His Holy Spirit with Whom He shares the same eternal essence, Christians cry out “Abba, Father”. (Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:6). Is it no wonder that when Jesus taught his disciples to pray He began the prayer with “Our Father”. Thus what Paul is telling Timothy and Christians today is that when praying, pray with desparation for God, purposefulness and a desire for closeness with God in intercession for others. Now lets consider the fourth word for prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1, namely….

4. Thanksgivings (eu-xa-ris-tos; εὐχαριστία) = William Mounce defines this word and lists some appropriate key verses wherein the word appears: “gratitude, thankfulness, Acts 24:3; thanks, the act of giving thanks, thanksgiving, 1 Cor. 14:16; conversation marked by the gentle cheerfulness of a grateful heart….”.(http://bible.theopedia.com/1timothy/2/1/9). 

Perhaps the reader is familiar with the word “eucharist” which is used in some Christian circles as a name for the celebration of the Lord’s table. In the Supper we give thanks to the Lord for His substitutionary death on behalf of His people. Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker (BAGD) in their Greek Lexicon list the additional meeting of “gratitude”.

Certainly Christian people ought to not view prayer as only asking things from God. Without thanksgiving, prayer grows stagnant. Just as the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, certainly the shortest distance between the heart of the Christ-follower and worship is that of thanksgiving.

Closing thoughts:

This short post has attempted to sketch out the distinctive meanings of the Greek words behind the English words for prayer that are found in 1 Timothy 2:1. It has been learned that prayer needs to be a desperate seeking after God (i.e entreaty). Secondly, prayer needs to be purposeful and intentional (i.e prayer). Thirdly, prayer needs to be aimed at closeness with God and interceding for other people (i.e petition). Then finally, prayer needs to include thanksgiving so as to raise prayer to the level of true worship (i.e thanksgiving).

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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