This morning in my Quotemeal email from www.heartlight.org was this quote from Frank Laubach, and Christian Evangelical missionary to the Philippines who was born in 1884:
The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says “Amen” and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him your ideas.
I thought it was interesting that I should receive this quote this morning, because just yesterday I was looking up the word “amen” on www.dictionary.com. Laubach’s quote suggests that the word “amen” is a conclusion to a prayer, the end of it. And most people do treat it that way. But the real meaning of the word is much different. According to the online dictionary, amen is an interjection that means “it is so; so be it,” an adverb that means “verily; truly,” or a noun that is “an expression of concurrence or assent.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary (also on dictionary.com) defines amen as follows:
This Hebrew word means firm, and hence also faithful (Rev. 3:14). In Isa. 65:16, the Authorized Version has “the God of truth,” which in Hebrew is “the God of Amen.” It is frequently used by our Saviour to give emphasis to his words, where it is translated “verily.” Sometimes, only, however, in John’s Gospel, it is repeated, “Verily, verily.” It is used as an epithet of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 3:14). It is found singly and sometimes doubly at the end of prayers (Ps. 41:13; 72:19; 89:52), to confirm the words and invoke the fulfilment of them. It is used in token of being bound by an oath (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15-26; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; 1 Chr. 16:36). In the primitive churches it was common for the general audience to say “Amen” at the close of the prayer (1 Cor. 14:16). The promises of God are Amen; i.e., they are all true and sure (2 Cor. 1:20).
If we think of amen in these terms, as an affirmation of the petitions we have brought before God in our prayers and of our trust in His faithfulness to answer those prayers in accordance with His will, then we are less likely to quit listening for God’s answer after we complete our formal prayers. If amen is not an end, but a calling upon the God of truth, then it is possible to do as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians and “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Perhaps, then, amen signals the end of what we have to say to God and ask of Him for now, and the beginning of the time in which prayer becomes listening and watching for the answers to our prayers.
As an example, what if I pray for wisdom (among other things) while on my knees before God in the early morning, and conclude my prayer with amen? Shouldn’t I then be listening for that wisdom to come when I need it most throughout my day? And if I am not going to listen, then what use is it to have prayed for wisdom in the first place?
I actually think the quote from Laubach and stumbling upon the dictionary definition of amen is an answer to that very prayer for wisdom. Lately, I have not wanted to say amen at the end of my morning prayer time because it felt like an end and I didn’t want my time with God to end just because I had to get ready for work. But now I realize amen is not an end, but a beginning. It signals the beginning of my day with the God of truth at my side and in my heart. “Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.” Psalms 89:52.