If you have spent any length of time in a church, it’s a word you have probably heard multiple times. Perhaps it comes at the end of a heartfelt prayer: “In Jesus’ name, amen.” Perhaps someone shouts it out from the back of the sanctuary whenever the preacher makes a good point: “Amen!” Perhaps it sometimes sounds like the most beautiful word in the world, because you’re waiting for someone to finish blessing the food so you can eat! Whatever the context, it’s an important word, but it’s so common around churches that Christians sometimes tend to forget just how important it is. Let’s step back and consider what this word truly means.

Growing up in church, I always heard that “amen” meant something to the effect of “let it be so.” I took it as a way to close a prayer by acknowledging that God’s will be done—and I took it very seriously. Once, when I was little, my grandfather prayed and ended with “amen”. Aghast, I looked at him and indignantly exclaimed, “Bop, it’s ay-men, not ah-men!” But as I began researching this word, I found there was more than meets the eye. “Amen” is used 30 times in the Old Testament and 129 in the New. In the Old Testament, the context is often an expression of praise – for instance, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting, and let all the people say amen” (Psalm 106:48, KJV). In the New, “amen” is most often used as a greeting or, again, to express praise to the Lord. The word is never used to confirm a blessing directed at anyone except God—He always gets all the glory.

“Amen” is derived from a Hebrew term, and it does indeed mean, “so be it.” (It turns out my five-year-old interpretation wasn’t so far off the mark after all.) Saying “amen” means you have listened to what was spoken; it expresses agreement. It’s almost a universal word, too—some actually believe it is the most widely known word in the world.

“Amen” has almost become a ritual, something mindless. But next time you pray, stop and think about the word. Keep in mind that when we hear a promise from the Bible, we can always say “amen”, because we know it will come to pass—“amen” is a way to communicate, “Because of Jesus, I know this is true”. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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