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I'm reading a vocabulary book and there is an entry about the word benediction which I do not quite understand.

a screenshot of text transcribed below

benediction /ˌben·əˈdik-shən/ A prayer that asks for God's blessing, especially a prayer that concludes a worship service.

Here as I understand, prayer is a person who prays. So a prayer asks for God's blessing, especially a prayer who provides worship service to other people. Maybe the prayer sings something or reads something in the hope that someone will be healthy.

Is my understanding correct? What exactly does concludes a worship service mean here?

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  • As a reminder, questions should demonstrate your initial research efforts. A prayer is not a person, but the words that a person says to God.
    – choster
    Apr 13, 2019 at 13:37
  • Hi @choster, I did do my homework. I looked the words up in the dictionaries. And one of the dictionaries states that prayer could mean a person. Also in the example it says "asks for God's blessing", which give me the feeling that it's a person who is doing some kind of behavior that is considered "pray". Apr 13, 2019 at 13:44
  • Why do you think prayer is a person in this case? Is that the only meaning of prayer that you've come across?
    – SamBC
    Apr 13, 2019 at 13:50
  • @SamBC No, as choster said, it also means the words that you say to God. Maybe it's because initially as I understand only a person can "asks for" something and the word "prayer" ends with "er". Apr 13, 2019 at 13:55
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    The act of prayer is the far more common use of the term prayer. In fact, I can't recall the last time I came across anyone using to to mean one who prays.
    – SamBC
    Apr 13, 2019 at 14:41

1 Answer 1

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Your interpretation is based on an understandable confusion.

A prayer is both (1) a noun for a group of words read by somebody who prays, and (2) a noun for a person who prays.

In other words, you can have the following sentence:

A prayer walked into church, sat down, and said a prayer.

The problem is the first instance of a prayer in that sentence is talking about a person, while the second instance of a prayer is talking about the group of words.

Note that the pronunciation of the two words is different—which is how they can be distinguished in speech. The first has two syllables, the second only has one.


From Merriam-Webster:

prayer noun (1)

1 a (1) : an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought
// said a prayer for the success of the voyage
1 a (2) : a set order of words used in praying
1 b : an earnest request or wish

prayer noun (2)

: one that prays: SUPPLICANT


In the definition of benediction that you quote, it is the first sense of prayer that is being used. It's not talking about a person (supplicant) but about a thing (petition).

Had it actually been referring to a person who prays, it's likely that the definition would had slightly different wording:

A prayer who asks for God's blessing . . .

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  • Thanks Jason for the answer. One more question, what is a "worship service"? Does it mean a bunch of people get together and pray? Apr 13, 2019 at 15:22
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    @OgrishMan Yes, you are correct. Any church service will almost always be a worship service. (But if you went for a pancake breakfast rather than for a scheduled sermon, and where no sermon was given before or after, that would not be a worship service.) It's generally the main focus or purpose of a gathering of people. (It doesn't need to be at a church, although it commonly is.) Apr 13, 2019 at 15:45
  • @JasonBassford we actually did call pot latch's and lunches worship. My church had the idea that if people gather and have fun, it is in glory to god, and implicitly worship. I believe that is very uncommon though. Just thought I'd put it out there Apr 13, 2019 at 16:23
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    @Aethenosity I agree with this—if you had taken it to be a silent form of worship, where your actions are taking the place of a more traditional sermon or verbal prayer service. There are different forms of worship. (And prayers certainly don't need to be verbal.) Apr 13, 2019 at 16:32

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