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The "Amen" of Prayer
What does a believer mean when he says "amen" at the end of a prayer (perhaps
especially when the prayer has been spoken by someone else)? The answer generally
given to this question is, "so be it", that is to say, "I agree with the prayer and also desire
the performance of the things asked". But should the response, "amen", convey only
The word "amen" derives from the Hebrew aman, as does the general word used for
faith (or faithfulness) in the O.T. (emunah). Underlying these words are at least three
basic, inter-connected ideas, which ought to be taken into consideration in the usage of
the response "amen":
(1) Stability. In Exod. 17: 2 Moses' hands "were steady (emunah) until the going
down of the sun". As Joshua fought with Amalek, so Moses (with Aaron and Hur staying
up his hands) sat on the top of the hill with the rod of God. This is surely a picture of
unwavering prayer before God--the "steady" hands of Moses.
(2) Truth. Deut. 32: 4 refers to God as "The Rock", emphasizing the reliance
Israel may place upon Him because of His stability. He is also called "A God of truth
(emunah)" in the same verse.
(3) Faith or Faithfulness. In the same chapter the Lord's complaint against Israel is
concerned with their forsaking of "The Rock" that bare them, and He calls them a
perverse generation, "children in whom is no faith (emun)" (verses 18, 20).
In the N.T. amen is mostly translated "verily" (an emphatic assertion of truth) as in the
Lord's "Verily, verily, I say unto you" (John 1: 51, etc.). Paul emphasized the truth of his
words by the negative "I lie not", and perhaps also, "This is a faithful (true) saying"
(Rom. 9: 1; I Tim. 1: 15; 3: 1).
Applying these thoughts to the "amen" of prayer it may be said that in responding so,
the believer ought to be assured: (a) That the prayer expresses truth (otherwise no
`amen' should be said) for it is possible to `ask amiss' (James 4: 3). In fact, the response
"amen" at the end of a prayer is an assertion that the believer agrees that the prayer is
truth. (b) That the prayer, since it is truth, will be heard by the God on Whom one can
rely, in Who one can trust (faith).
Hence prayer is seen as an aspect of resting in the Lord, and "amen" the expression of
that trust which submits all its desires to the furtherance of the truth (Thy will be done).
All prayer should be asked in Christ's name, and it is not without point that He is called,
"The Amen, the faithful and true witness" (Rev. 3: 14).
BRIAN E. SHERRING