Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Differences between Prayer and Benediction

Those of us who have been attending churches would have noticed that prayer happens at the beginning and throughout the Sunday Church service. Usually, at the end, before the congregation leaves, the pastor or preacher will say a final blessing called the Benediction.  However, many Christians are still not aware of the differences between prayer and benedictions. Enters Dr John Stackhouse with three helpful distinctions between prayer and benediction.

Firstly, he says that prayer is a form of 'us speaking to God' while benediction is a 'good word.' Secondly, we usually close our eyes when we pray, but when the benediction is given, it is acceptable for congregations to open their eyes and receive the blessing. His third point is somewhat muddled as he talks about praying by invoking the Trinity. Is it a difference from the perspective of the typical church-goer, or between 'prayer and benediction' per se? My reading is that while he views benediction as an explicit way to pray in the name of all the members of the Triune Godhead, in prayer, it is implicitly understood that while we pray in the name of Jesus, the rest of the members are involved, even though they are not verbally mentioned.

My thinking is, perhaps, one way to avoid the confusion in the modern words is to paraphrase the word 'benediction' into a form like, "Let us receive the word of blessing." Often, a simple instruction and advice from the pulpit will do wonders, to teach church people the meaning behind what they are doing each Sunday. I think as educators, we need to play our part to explain from time to time, the meaning of certain things we do in church. Even the singing of songs during worship has a reason, and we may need to explicitly state them.

Thanks Dr Stackhouse for bringing this up.


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