In Christianity, the prayer of supplication for health by and on behalf of the sick is referenced in early Christian writings in the New Testament, especially James 5:13-16. One example of supplication is the Catholic ritual of novena (from novem, the Latin word for "nine") wherein one repeatedly asks for the same favor over a period of nine days. This ritual began in Spain during the Middle Ages when a nine day period of hymns and prayers led up to a Christmas feast, a period which ended with gift giving. A contemporary Christian example of supplication is the practice of the Daily Prayer for Peace by the Community of Christ where a member prays for peace each day at a specified time.
In Islam, the Arabic word duˤā (plural adˤiya) is used to refer to supplications. Adˤiya may be made in any language, although there are many traditional Islamic supplications in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. In Islam, duˤā tends to mean personal prayer.
The concept is perfectly at home with secular use. The supplicant may also be described as a suppliant but the former word is more commonly used. The key meaning is of a request by the lesser person in an acknowledged unequal relationship. For example, supplication is the final stage of thesis submission at Oxford University.