Let’s be honest: how often have we said the word “Amen” and not really known what we are saying or why we are even saying it?
The word is used throughout Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New. In fact, the book where it occurs most is Deuteronomy (chapter 27).
The Hebrew word and its Greek counterpart in their simplest forms mean something that is firm, sure and truthful. We can see this clearly in Isaiah 65:16 where God is called the “God of truth” (the Hebrew literally has it as “God of Amen”). So the word conveys a sense of truth and authority, one that can only come from God.
Most often, it was used by those under the hearing of the words of God to affirm what was being said was truth: “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands.” (Nehemiah 8:6)
It is often included in the Psalms, like in the beautiful Psalm 72:
“Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!” Psalm 72:19
In the New Testament we read of Jesus using “Amen,” but each time He uses it in the sentence, He places it at the beginning (the ESV translates it as “truly”): “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Why is important where the word comes in the sentence? Like we saw with the Old Testament passage, the “Amen” signified an agreement that the revealed words of God were the truth. But when Jesus starts with the word, He is declaring that what He has to say were the very words of God; no small statement.
Why then do we end our prayers in “Amen”?
Some translations do include an “Amen” at the end of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 5, but not all (most of the “modern” translations do not include it). It is, however, included at the end of all the Epistles. John ends his Gospel with “Amen”; he uses it nine times in Revelation. Christians use “Amen” at the end of our prayers to point towards the fact that God is faithful and true, and that we have the promise that He hears all the prayers of His children.
This is all through our mediator and high priest, Jesus: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5)
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
So the next time we read or say “Amen,” let’s think about how that wee word reflects the truthfulness and faithfulness of God.