“Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen”. – Psalm 89:52
The word Amen is one of the most familiar and common words in the English language, yet at the same time it is a word that many of us don’t fully understand. Simple as it may seem, the word Amen is actually brimming over with meaning and purpose.
Amen as a Closing to Prayer
Most of us know the word Amen as a closing to a prayer. When we say Amen at the end of a prayer, do we really know why we say it or what it means? That is the purpose of this article. Amen is a Hebrew word that is essentially an affirmation of truth or agreement, meaning something like “so be it”, “it is so”, or “it is true”. Amen is an expression that all those things we just asked for in prayer, all the things we praised God for, all the questions, all the pain and the joy we express in prayer are founded in the truth of God. It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the those assembled responded “Amen”, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.
Is Amen a Transliteration or a Translation?
One reason for the widespread nature of the word is that Amen is not translated, but transliterated, which makes it easy for all people everywhere to understand. A transliteration is when the word is pronounced the same way it was in the original language, and just given letters that makes sense in the new language. A few subtle differences notwithstanding, the word Amen is one of the few words that is pronounced almost exactly the same way in every language in the world. This makes it understandable in every language, which is fitting considering that it holds such a strong meaning for all of us. It also means that when we say “Amen”, we are saying the same exact word that has been uttered as a confirmation of belief for thousands of years. It means that we are speaking the same word spoken or read by the one leading the prayer, or sharing the word of God while preaching, and the Lord Jesus himself. There is a certain beauty in this.
In the four gospels Jesus uses the term “Amen” as “verily” some 78 times. The word “Amen” is used some 43 times in the other New Testament books except in the books of Acts, James and 3 John where the word is not used. There are about 30 prayers attributed to Paul, but he uses the word “Amen” to end only a few. He does close each of his epistles with a benediction with the word “Amen” contained in each one. The Hebrew writer does likewise as does Peter in his epistles, John in two of his letters and Jude in his letter. The apostle John uses the word some nine times in Revelation.
John closes the Revelation with these words: Revelation 22:20-21: “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
And let the church say “Amen.”