One of my family’s favorite movies to watch together is “Lilies of the Field,” starring Sidney Poitier. Poitier’s character, Homer Smith, befriends several nuns who want to build a chapel. Homer and the nuns disagree on a lot of things, one of them being the pronunciation of the word “amen.”
“A-men!” Homer says after the chapel is finally done.
“Ah-men,” all the nuns say, correcting him.
This, of course, leads into a classic song titled…. Amen.
“Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,
Sing it over!
Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen!”
That song will probably be stuck in my head all day (look it up on YouTube!), but that’s certainly not the only place we hear amen. We say it after prayers, and in some churches, people say it as a way of acknowledging and agreeing with something a pastor has said. Some people just say it in almost the same way they might say “phew!”
According to PreceptAustin, a database I often reference when I come across a verse or chapter in the Bible that I’d like to learn more about, says that “amen” means “so be it.”
I’m not sure where I first picked that up, but at some point, someone told me that it meant “let it be so,” which is basically the same as “so be it,” and so that’s what I’ve meant when I said “amen.”
I realize that I may have just made prayer significantly more difficult for you.
God probably doesn’t think you’re just kidding when you pray something and skip the amen, but for me at least, saying “amen” really hands the matter over to Him and encourages me to let go.
“Your will be done, Lord. Let it be so.” I think that’s one of the hardest prayers to pray. “Your will be done” sounds so ambiguous, and I think that when we say “Your will,” we have a pretty good idea of what we think that should be. But when I add this confident “let it be so,” things change.
Hold on just a second. So, God just heard me complaining about this and that. And He has a pretty good idea of what I want because I’ve been fairly vocal about it. Then, I handed the entire matter over to Him and said that I want His will to “be so.”
I’m not God. So when I say something as epic-sounding as “let it be so,” I’m not breathing the earth into existence and controlling what’s happening next. In fact, I’ve just acknowledged that I have absolutely no control over this will of His that I’ve just willed to “be so”!
This is a bit frightening, especially since, as I’ve discussed on this blog before, God’s plan for my future isn’t always quite in line with mine. It in fact has a history of going in precisely the opposite direction.
For me, the word “amen” is about agreement when I’m speaking with others, but it’s also about trust when I’m speaking to God.
It’s a final reminder at the end of my prayer that God is in control, and His will is perfect and good. It also leads me to take my prayers more seriously, and to actually mean what I say instead of being tempted to half-heartedly confess or ask for something.
This may all seem a little heavy, but I don’t think that “amen” is meant to be the stamp of doom on the end of a prayer. It’s rooted in trust, but it resonates with hope.
One of my favorite Biblical prayers ending with “amen” is actually here on my blog in part in the “About” section. It’s the prayer for the Ephesians and comes from Ephesians 3.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” So be it!!
I trust You, Lord, and I’m excited to give praise to You and to see what You’re going to do next!
Something exciting and hopeful is always a good note to end something on, and that’s actually how the Bible ends.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon,” the end of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, says. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
The greatest hope that we have loves us and is coming for us.
So this ends my little series on “those words Christians say.” If you have any questions about any other words or phrases, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I can tell you what I know or what I’ve researched.
This also ends my second-to-last post for a few months. For the months of June, July and August, I’ll be taking a break from weekly postings. I’ll still be dropping by and looking at comments and things, and occasionally posting songs or links that I’ve found encouraging, and I’ll be back to weekly blogging the first week in September. There will be more on this, along with a post, next week!