Summary: AMEN is not just a meaningless word with which we end our prayers. It is a bold and personal affirmation of the will of God in our lives.
All God’s People Say--Amen
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and power, and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9-13)
Introduction: No doubt you have heard the old story of the circuit riding preaching who sold his horse. When a prospective buyer came to look at the horse, the preacher explained that his horse was not like most horses. It didn’t respond to the normal commands of “Whoa”, “Giddyup”, “Gee”, “Haw”, and similar verbal commands. Being a preacher’s horse, it would only obey biblical commands! It wouldn’t pay any attention to the regular orders. He explained to stop the horse, the rider needed simply say, “Amen.” A full gallop would follow a hearty “Praise the Lord.” A right turn would follow, “Hallelujah” and “Glory! Glory!” meant a left turn.
Before the buyer took the horse out for a ride, he reviewed the commands until he was sure he had them mastered. Horse and rider took out down the dusty road and took a sharp “Hallelujah” into an open field. He put the horse through it paces. Finally, he decided to see how fast the horse really was. He gave the appropriate command and the horse took off at a full gallop. As the ground became rougher and rougher, the rider decided he had enough. He pulled on the reigns and instinctively yelled “Whoa!” Nothing happened. He tugged harder. Still nothing! Then he remembered that he was to use the special commands. By now, he was hanging on for dear life as the horse bounded down a gully and up the other side, across fallen trees, and through thick brush. He looked up! The horse was heading straight for the edge of a huge cliff! It would be certain death for both horse and rider.
He yelled and tugged and screamed, but nothing happened. Finally, fearing for his life, he prayed, “Lord, help me! Save me. Amen!” No sooner had he uttered the last word than the horse came to a screeching halt not six inches from the edge of the precipice. Shaken but relieved, the rider wiped his brow, leaned back in saddle, and let out a grateful and hearty, “Praise the Lord.”
That is one of those time release stories. If you don’t get it right now, you may start giggling in about fifteen minutes!
For several weeks, we have been studying the Lord’s Prayer—with a short excursion off course every once in a while. We started at the beginning “Our Father which art in heaven” and have looked most recently at the closing benediction “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” We have one more piece left. Tonight, I want to examine the final word of the traditional ending—“Amen.” If you have never heard a sermon on the single word “Amen,” this is your lucky night!
The term “amen” is often used as if it were a punctuation mark. It just marks the end of a prayer like a period marks the end of a sentence. It is actually word with a real definition. It is used to end prayers because of that meaning. It is actually a Hebrew word that is seldom translated into English. I must be honest here. I know very little Hebrew. I studied it about a hundred years ago, but have long sense forgotten more than I ever learned. I am almost as bad as the wag who said, "I know a little Greek and a little Hebrew. The Greek runs a restaurant and the Hebrew operates a tailor’s shop.”
There are two very common Hebrew words that every one of you knows because, for whatever reason, they are almost never translated. The two words are simply carried over into whatever new language is being used. They tend to be exactly the same in Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, Swahili, or Cantonese. So now you can tell your friends and neighbors you know two Hebrew words. The first word is hallelujah. When translated it means in English, “Praise ye the Lord.” Amen is from a Hebrew root meaning “to be firm or sure.” When translated, it is sometimes rendered as “so be it,” “Verily, verily,” “indeed,” or even “truth.”
In the New Testament Amen is used in three different ways. Amen was apparently used in Christian gatherings to signal agreement or approval. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 14:16, “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?” In such contexts it meant “That’s right!” Or “I agree.” Or in a sense, “Lord, bless that word or use that word.” It is also used to end prayers and doxologies just like we do. After a prayer, amen not only signals the end of the prayer, but serves as a final appeal to the Lord sort of like saying “This is it. I really mean it.” It not much different than the ending of the oath in courtroom, “so help me God!” Amen could also be used in normal conversation to signal the importance of something or truth of something. Jesus often used it in his teachings and is sometimes translated as “verily” or “indeed.” The NIV sometimes renders it “I tell you the truth” as in this sentence from John 3:3, “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The Greek text begins, “Amen, Amen—[no one can see . . .]