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The Meaning of Amen

By: Scott Morton

I am sure there are individuals who are reading this article that are wondering why this topic is even going to be addressed. The idea for this article came from speaking with someone I work with. The following is an incident she told me:

My daughter is a little feminist. When we were at church this weekend, she looked at me and asked Why do we always say amen? Men arent good for anything and we should say awomen. I thought it was funny.

This little story shows one of the problems in Christianity. There are many things that have just become traditional in nature and we have no idea what things mean or why we are doing things. People will use the word amen and have no idea what it means. When we allow traditions to take hold in the church, there are problems that come. The Bible warns about traditions:

Mark 7:1-9

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. [2] And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. [3] For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. [4] And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. [5] Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? [6] He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. [9] And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Colossians 2:8

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

These two passages point out that the traditions of man take believers away from what the Word of God says. Since the Word of God is truth, traditions take people away from the truth. God does not get any glory when a believer blindly follows some tradition and has no understanding what His Word means.

This is especially true with prayer, as believers know this is supposed to be part of their life. However, they do not really know what this means and they are just going through the motions so they will not look bad. They understand the following passage and that they are supposed to be praying:

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray without ceasing.

Since this verse says we are to be praying, the believer knows they are to be functioning in this manner. They may not know anything else in this area of their life and are instead functioning according to the traditions they have learned. This is not how a believer is supposed to be living their life.

This article is going to look at what the word amen means. This is a word believers use all the time, but probably have no idea what it means. The story above demonstrates this fact. Most individuals are just taught this is the way to end a prayer and that is the end of the discussion. It is always important to know what a word means, especially if we are using it in our communication with God.

The word amen is found in 72 verses throughout the Bible, with 22 of these being found in the Old Testament. One of the principles of Bible study is the rule of first use. If you look at the first time a word is used in the Bible, you start to get an idea of what is meant by the word. The first time the word amen is used in found in the book of Numbers:

Numbers 5:22

And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

This passage has nothing to do with prayer, but we see that this word is being used here. This passage has to do with part of the law being laid down. Moses is being told about a sexual relationship outside of the marriage union. The passage has to deal with part of the punishment being laid down. They were to do something that would help to cleanse them from the uncleanness that has been created.

In order to see what is meant by this word, the following comes from the Strongs Concordance:

H543

אמן

'amen

aw-mane'

From H539; sure; abstractly faithfulness; adverbially truly: - Amen, so be it, truth.

The Hebrew word here is a confirmation of truth that had been communicated. This is the only word in the Old Testament (using the traditional description of Genesis to Malachi) that is used. It clearly is showing that the person speaking this is confirming a truth being given.

Psalms 89:52

Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

One other example from the book of Psalms shows this has the same idea. In this case, Ethan the Ezrahite (the author of this psalm) is declaring the truth of God being blessed. I think this is a truth everyone could agree is true, and this is why it is being confirmed in this manner.

This word is also found in the New Testament (using the traditional description of Matthew to Revelation) as well. One of the passages this is found in is found here:

Matthew 6:9-13

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. [10] Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread. [12] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This prayer recorded here is what is commonly referred to as the Lords prayer. This is given during the Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord Jesus Christ was giving some instructions to the members of the nation of Israel about the coming kingdom. He was making sure they understood what was coming for the nation by giving them the things to endure until then. Because we are members of the Body of Christ and are not promised an earthly kingdom (Ephesians 1:3), this prayer is not supposed to be prayed by a member of the Body of Christ.

Even though we are not to pray this prayer, we do see that it ends with how we end our prayers. The Lord Jesus Christ uses the word amen, which is what we have been looking at in this article. The following is the Greek word from Strongs Concordance:

G281

αμήν

amen

am-ane'

Of Hebrew origin [H543]; properly firm, that is, (figuratively) trustworthy; adverbially surely (often as interjection so be it): - amen, verily.

Just like in the Old Testament where there is only one word that is translated as amen, the New Testament has the same thing happening. This one word is used in all 50 occurrences in the New Testament.

The meaning of this related to trust and surely. It means the believer is putting their trust in the fact God is going to do whatever is being prayed by the believer, according to His will (Romans 8:26-28). The believer in this dispensation is informed they are to pray for all things (Philippians 4:6-7). Paul put his trust in what God said because of one simple truth:

Romans 3:4

God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Paul realizes there is only source of truth for mankind today. No matter how many times someone tries to say they tell the truth, Gods Word shows that man is a liar. At some point, we do not tell the truth. This is why we are not to rely on what man says, because it inevitably contains some manner of lie.

The Word of God here confirms that only God tells the truth all the time. This is why we are to rely on Him. The truth contained in His Word applies to our lives and we need to realize this. Our prayer life reflects this fact, as we start to rely on the principles of prayer for the Body of Christ and do not try to use the promises given to Israel. When we are able to do this, we have accomplished what God has intended for us.

There is an emptiness that many people have related to their prayer life. They know they are supposed to pray and try to do this. However, some people feel they dont know what they are supposed to say. Because of this, they will often just repeat the same words over and over every time they pray. The Word of God also addresses this fact as well:

Matthew 6:5-8

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [6] But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. [7] But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. [8] Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

The Lord Jesus Christ tells His disciples that they are not to vainly repeat words in their prayers. While this warning was being given to His disciples during the earthly ministry, it holds true today.

The problem that occurs when people are praying in this manner is that they are not actually believing the words that are being said. The words that are coming out of their mouths are empty and they are doing this for many different reasons. One of these can be that the person does not truly know how to pray and they need to understand the doctrine that is given. Another reason is that they think this is how they are to pray and they do not know any better. This is a problem that can easily be fixed by someone reading the Bible and understanding how the doctrine applies to them.

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul is very clear in this passage of how the prayer life of a believer is supposed to function. A believer is to pray for all things. There is nothing in a believers life that God does not think should be given over in prayer. Unfortunately, we too often think there are some things we are not supposed to pray about, as they are physical things and God did not intend for members of the Body of Christ to pray for physical things. The passage here in Philippians is very clear that we are to pray for all things, which would include the physical things people often think are not to be prayed for.

Romans 8:26-28

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

This last passage here shows the true nature of prayer. We pray for all things (as shown in the last passage), but we dont always know what we are to be praying for. This is why God has to intervene in order to make prayer more effective. The Spirit (one-third of the Godhead) takes our prayers and makes intercession for us. This is how our prayers are answered.

We have seen through this study what the word amen means. It actually points to a doctrinal truth we are to understand and is not just a word that has no meaning that we have traditionally used to end prayers. It truly is important to understand the words we use and to not be doing it just because we feel this is what we are supposed to do.



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