Click to Change

Return to Top

Return to Top

Printer Icon


The Blue Letter Bible

Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

Choose a new font size and typeface

li. εὐχή, προσευχή, δέησις, ἔντευξις, εὐχαριστία, αἴτημα, ἱκετηρία.

Four of these words occur together at 1 Tim. 2:1; on which Flacius Illyricus (Clavis, s. v. Oratio) justly observes: ‘Quem vocum acervum procul dubio Paulus non temere congessit.’ 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. 801 a), εὐχαὶ παρὰ θεῶν αἰτήσεις εἰσί. On the distinction between it and προσευχή, between εὔχεσθαι and προσεύχεσθαι, there is a long discussion in Origen (De Orat. § 2, 3, 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 Orat. Dom. Orat. 2, ad init.

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. 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 (Ep. 149, § 12–16; cf. Bishop Taylor, Pref. 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, and δέησις as ὑπὲρ ἀπαλλαγῆς τινῶν λυπηρῶν ἰκετεία προφερομένη. He has here in this last definition the words of Aristotle (Rhet. ii. 7) before him: δεήσεις εἰσὶν αἱ ὀρέξεις, καὶ τούτων μάλιστα αἱ μετὰ λύπης τοῦ μὴ γιγνομένου: compare Gregory of Nazianzus, δέησιν οἴου τὴν αἴτησιν ἐνδεῶν. But this distinction is altogether arbitrary; it neither lies in the words, nor is it borne out by usage. Better 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.’ 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.’

But Calvin and Bengel, bringing out one important point of distinction, have yet failed to bring out another—namely, that προσευχή is ‘res sacra,’ the word being restricted to sacred uses; it is always prayer to God; δέησις has no such restriction. Fritzsche (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, Acharn. 1059) et ἡ δέησις tum in sacrâ tum in profanâ re usurpantur; nam et Deum rogare possumus et homines.’ 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.1 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; cf. Hesychius: δέησις εἰς ἐκδίκησιν ὑπέρ τινος (Rom. 8:34), κατά τινος (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, Conj. Proec. 13), implies, it is free familiar prayer, such as boldly draws near to God (Gen. 18:23; Wisd. 8:21; cf. Philo, Quod Det. Pot. 25; ἐντεύξεις καὶ ἐκβοήσεις; Plutarch, Phoc. 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 (Ep. 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 Orat. 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. 298 d).

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.

Αἴτημα occurs twice in the N. T. in the sense of a petition of men to God, both times in the plural (Phil. 4:6; 1 John 5:15); it is, however, by no means restricted to this meaning (Luke 23:24; Esth. 5:7; Dan. 6:7). In a προσευχή of any length there will probably be many αἰτήματα, these being indeed the several requests of which the προσευχή is composed. For instance, in the Lord’s Prayer it is generally reckoned that there are seven αἰτήματα, though some have regarded the first three as εὐχαί, and only the last four as αἰτήματα. Witsius (De Orat. Dom.): ‘Petitio pars orationis; ut si totam Orationem Dominicam voces orationem aut precationem, singulas vero illius partes aut septem postulata petitiones.’

Ἱκετηρία, with ῥάβδος, or ἐλαία, or some such word understood, like ἱλαστήριον, θυσιαστήριον, δικαστήριον, and other words of the same termination (see Lobeck, Pathol. Serm. Groec. p. 281), was originally an adjective, but little by little obtained substantival power, and learned to go alone. It is explained by Plutarch (Thes. 18): κλάδος ἀπὸ τῆς ἱερᾶς ἐλαίας ἐρίῳ λευκῷ κατεστεμμένος (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, Eumen. 43, 44; compare Virgil, aen. viii. 116: ‘Paciferaeque manu ramum praetendit olivae;’ and again ver. 128: ‘ Et vittâ comtos voluit praetendere ramos’ and once more xi. 101). 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, and Agrippa designates one addressed to Caligula: γραφὴ ἣν ἀνθ᾽ ἱκετηρίας προτείνω (Philo, Leg. ad Cai. 36). 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, iii. 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 (De Orat. Dom. § 4): ‘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.’—On the Hebrew correlatives to the several words of this group, see Vitringa, De Synagogâ, iii. 2. 13.

1 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.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1162,G155,G1783,G2169,G2171,G2428,G4335.]

Return to the Table of Contents

BLB Searches
Search the Bible

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval

Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.