Why Do We Say “Amen”?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “amen” lately.  The common coda with which we all end our prayers, “amen” is always said in subtly different ways.  Sometimes it issues forth as a deep sigh of affirmation of God’s greatness.  Other times it is said hurriedly like cutting off a conversation with an old friend because your bus has arrived.  The one thing I’ve observed consistently about the word is that whenever we say it now, there’s a distinct connotation of, “Well, goodbye”– as if the conversation with God is somehow over because the word “amen” has been uttered.  (This is particularly funny during group prayers where someone says it too early, and then individual eyes pop open around the room to see if the rest of the group is still praying.)

This raises a deep question though: If we are supposed to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5), then why does this word even exist?  Why would we possibly have a word that indicates our conversation with God is over?

Simple.  That’s not what “amen” actually means.  Far from being a goodbye or a way to end a prayer, the word really just means, “It is true” (or, as my old Greek textbook used to translate it, “Verily! Verily!”).  Think of times you’ve heard people shout “amen” after a particularly good point in a speech or sermon; well, that use of the word is much closer to its original intent.  It’s a word of affirmation.  It’s a word that reiterates that we know the love of God to be true.  It’s a word that states plainly that we know there is power in the name of God– the same name that we invoke whenever we bow in prayer.

So the next time you’re praying and say the word “amen”, don’t think of it as an end to the conversation; rather, it is a reminder that our God is real and that He has heard everything you’ve just said.  From there, who knows where your conversation with Him might lead.

 

Grace and Peace,

Tom

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