Categories
Bible Insights

Amen in the Bible

Amen in the Bible

I recently blogged about the use and meaning of amen. Although its use in modern circles is a bit perplexing—especially from preachers—amen does occur in the Bible. The NIV uses amen fifty-two times.

Scriptural Uses of Amen

In forty-nine instances, over 90 percent of the time, the Bible uses “Amen” to conclude a prayer.

Once, in Revelation 3:14, Amen appears as a proper noun, an intriguing reference to God.

Another time, in Nehemiah 8:5-6, Ezra praises God and the people respond with “Amen, Amen,” as if saying, “We agree, we agree.” They repeat it for added emphasis.

Paul, in his second letter to the people in Corinth, uses amen in a perplexing way but which seems to simply mean “yes!”

In none of these examples do I see any biblical reason for preachers to use “amen” as an interjection (“Amen!”) or a question (“Amen?”) seeking a response. And aside from the single use in Nehemiah, there’s no other biblical example of “Amen” being offered as a response by the congregation.

In addition, in this case, it was offered as praise to God, not feedback for a preacher.

Keep amen at the ends of prayers and out of preaching. Click To Tweet

So, let’s follow the Bible and keep our “amens” at the ends of prayers and out of preaching.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

Categories
Christian Living

The Use and Meaning of Amen

The Use and Meaning of Amen

When I think about it, the word “amen” perplexes me.

Out of training and convention, I say “amen” at the end of a prayer, as if it means “Goodbye, God” or “I’m done, now.” Not only does saying amen tell God my prayer is over, it also lets others know to open their eyes. It’s all rather strange to me.

Amen in Sermons

What really bugs me is preachers who use, overuse, and misuse amen when they preach. Sometimes amen becomes an interjection, as in “The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Amen!”

Other times the inflection in their voice implies a question, as in “The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Amen?”

They also use “amen” as mindless filler (just like they sometimes utter “Praise the Lord” at nonsensical times) or to evoke a response from listeners, as in “Are you listening?” They say, “Amen?” and the expected response is “Amen!” as in “Yes, we are”—even when they’re not.

This all seems rather silly to me.

A few ministers utter “amen” so often when they preach that it distracts listeners (or at least it distracts me). Then I start counting. A few preachers are able to exceed one “amen” per sentence. For one, I noted a ratio of 1.5—until I grew weary of counting.

What does amen actually mean? How and when should we use it?

The dictionary doesn’t help much, either. It says Amen is the name of the Egyptian god of life and reproduction. The other definition says amen is used at the end of a prayer.

May It Be So

The Amplified Bible, however, is more helpful. It sometimes adds a parenthetical explanation, implying amen means, “so be it” or “so let it be.” I see both of these as fitting, God-honoring ways to conclude a prayer, much more so than tacking on a rote and obligatory “amen.”

Yet using those phrases instead of “amen” in public prayer, often leaves people confused. Is he done praying? Can I open my eyes, now? How long as the prayer been over? Was he ever praying in the first place?

I normally follow convention and say, “amen” at the end of my prayers. However, when around friends or informal gatherings, I sometimes use “So be it” when it fits or maybe a heartfelt, “Thank you, Jesus.”

However, the Bible says to pray without ceasing, so should we ever say, Amen?”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

Categories
Christian Living

Say Amen for the Right Reasons

Say Amen for the Right Reasons

The convention in the circles I move in is that the word “amen” is the concluding statement of a prayer. Most people give that word little thought—or if they do, it may seem no more than a comfortable ritual or trite tradition than anything significant.

Upon reflection, it seems that saying “amen” at the end of a prayer may be akin to telling God, “goodbye.”

In group settings, for the people who are listening to your prayer, “amen” is a signal that the prayer is over, that you are finished, or “I’m done.” It is now time for other activities to resume.

Lastly, for those who feel a need—be it of conviction or compulsion—to echo your “amen” with an “amen” of their own, it’s like saying, “I agree.”

Apparently, “amen” has three meanings: “goodbye,” “I’m done,” and “I agree.”

The Amplified Bible provides some additional insight, parenthetically rendering “amen” to mean “so be it” or “so let it be.”

The next time you pray in private, I challenge you to mix it up a bit and skip the “amen,” instead using “so be it” or “so let it be.”

However, for public prayers, it may catch people off guard. So unless you’re with people you trust and who love you, it might be best to stick with the traditional “amen,” even if it has become a bit of a ritual.

Can anyone say “amen?”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.