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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

What Does Amen Mean, and Why Do We Say It?

Adapted from an article on Bible Study Tools webpage; Lisa Lorraine Baker, Author; March 2, 2023

Amen is one of two Christian words understood and spoken by most cultures. (Hallelujah is the other.) Amen is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word meaning truly, verily. Amen can be equated with steadiness, trustworthiness, and truth. It has served as a declaration of affirmation and as the closing exclamation of agreement to a prayer in both Jewish and Christian liturgy.

Is Amen Seen Anywhere in Scripture?

Thirty instances of amen may be found in the Old Testament. One example is 1 Chronicles 16:36, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said ‘Amen’ and ‘Praise the Lord.’” This verse is the source of those lyrics of the Recessional at a recent service. In the ancient songs, the Psalms, Amen became a standard closure to what had been said.

Amen as used in the New Testament is a continuation of the Jewish liturgical practice. Amen is transliterated into the Greek and appears 129 times, ninety-nine of which are uttered by Jesus. Found both at the beginning or end of his statements, Jesus often applied Amen (commonly translated as truly or verily) to what he commanded or related about himself, God the Father, or about what occurred or what was to take place. His Jewish listeners would not miss the force of Jesus saying Amen, when he preached and taught.

When Did We Start Using Amen to End Prayers, and Why?

The Bible gave us our start with including Amen inside passages and concluding prayers, oaths, and affirmations. The Old Testament’s use of the word is likened to the phrase, “so be it,” and it serves as a confirmation of events and words of the Lord as truth. The practice continued in the New Testament, and Jesus’ use of Amen (verily, or truly), gives us a standard — a model — to follow when we pray or affirm a truth from Scripture.

Historical Christian leaders such as Martin Luther substantiated our prayer conclusions in his book, A Practical Way to Pray, “Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, ‘Very well. God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.’ That is what Amen means.”

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