Say “Amen” Like You Mean It
What does the word amen mean? It sometimes seems like amen must mean “the prayer is over,” or “I’m done praying?” Or perhaps “I have nothing more to say.” Maybe we don’t even think about saying it; we just do.
The Amplified Bible gives us the answer. It says amen means “so let it be” or “so be it.” I like that. It’s as if we’re cheering God on at the conclusion of our prayers, that we’re affirming he is able to answer what we’ve asked. This understanding of what amen means has so informed my prayers that I often replace my “amen” with “so be it”—at least when I pray silently. However, when I pray out loud, I usually stick with the customary “amen,” because people are confused if I end with “so let it be.”Amen becomes nothing more than filler Click To Tweet
Still, in select company, I will sometimes say “so be it” to vocally add freshness to my words and affirm my faith in God’s ability to answer. Still this is hard for some people. My wife, for one, isn’t satisfied with that phrase and out of compulsion she adds the “amen” for me when I don’t. It’s not that I’m being sacrilegious or rebellious, it’s that I desire to affirm the power of the Almighty who I’m praying to. Try it some time.
Some preachers, however, use amen in a far different way—and it bugs me. They utter it often at the end of sentences, as if to ask “are you listening?” or “do you agree?” The expected response is for the audience to echo back “amen,” as if to say “Yes, we’re listening,” “We agree” or “Preach it brother!”
Too often they take this to nonsensical extremes, where amen becomes nothing more than filler, as in: “Turn in your Bibles, amen? To the book of Luke, chapter two, amen!” The funniest was when one preacher said, “Shall we pray, amen?”
Most of the dictionaries I consulted confirm what the Amplified Bible says, that amen means “so be it.” A few add a secondary definition that amen can express agreement. But I found none that confirmed these amen-spouting preachers are using amen correctly in their sermons.
Let’s reclaim amen for what it really means and stop using it incorrectly. We need to say “amen” like we mean it.
Have you ever ended a prayer with “so be it” or “so let it be?” Did it feel strange or good? Are you willing to try?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.