The twelve disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. In His grace the Lord gave them the instruction they sought. Then Jesus added these words: "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." And: "If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:9ff).
This promise from our Saviour requires response on our part. We give our response when we add to our prayers that little word ‘Amen’.
The word "amen" appears frequently in the Bible. As an example, the Levites received instruction in Deuteronomy 27 to declare that any man who committed this or that sin was to be cursed, and the listening people were commanded –no less than 12 times– to respond with that word ‘Amen’. One wonders: what did this ‘Amen’ mean? (cf here also Num 5:22; Neh 5:13).
We note that this ‘Amen’ was the response of the people to the words spoken by the Levites, was a response they were commanded to voice. That in itself already tells us that the word expresses the reaction God wished the people to have to these curses. What this reaction of the people was to be? The word "amen" was obviously not meant to convey simply the notion that the people accepted the curses upon possible sins, as if this Amen was simply an equivalent to "alright, OK, we’ll accept that". The meaning of the term is much more profound than that.
The word "Amen" is at bottom not an English word; it’s Hebrew. In our Bibles the word has not been translated. The word actually means "to believe". Abram had once been told that he would have a child. Yet as the years went by no child was granted. There came the day when Abram took his concern to God. God in turn responded by taking Abram outside and showing him the stars, and then added these words: "so [many] shall your descendants be" (Gen 15:5). Then we read these words: Abram "believed in the Lord." The Hebrew says ‘Amen’; Abram "amened" in the Lord. We note that Abram did not simply believe that there was a God; Abram rather accepted for truth and fact the promise God had just spoken. With the word "amen", Abram indicated his conviction that God would surely do as He had just said He would do. Here we receive a little taste of what ‘Amen’ means; with the word ‘Amen’ one gives expression to one’s conviction that what the previous speaker has said will surely come to pass.
It’s this understanding of the word ‘Amen’ that we are to have in mind as we read Deuteronomy 27. The people had to say ‘Amen’ not to indicate their simple consent that curses should come upon disobedience. Rather, with the word ‘Amen’ the people were instructed to confess their faith, to express their heartfelt conviction that God would certainly do as He had promised to do. God made a promise to Abram in Gen 15 about children; Abram responded to that promise by believing it, holding those words for true and certain – God would surely do as He said He would do. God made a promise to Israel in Deut 27 about curses; Israel was to respond to that promise by believing it, holding those words for true and certain – God would surely do as He said He would do.
It is that same meaning for the word "Amen" that we are to bear in mind when we meet the word elsewhere in Scripture. Jeremiah was told by God to speak to the people of Israel about the redemption God had given them from Egypt, to speak too about the curse that was to come upon every person who did not listen to the words of God’s covenant. Jeremiah’s response to these words of God was, "Amen, Lord" (Jer 11:5). In other words: ‘Lord, I accept as true and certain this word that has come from Your mouth; I believe that You will certainly bring Your curse upon any who refuses to listen to Your voice.’
Confession of Faith
The word Amen is, however, not used only to indicate the response of a person or people to the curses of another. The word is used also as one’s response to words of praise one has just heard. When David brought the ark of God into Jerusalem, he sang this song:
[that we may] give thanks to Your holy name,
to triumph in Your praise.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!"
Here is praise for God, and in both these cases those who hear these words of praise voice their ‘Amen’, and so express their conviction that Yes, it’s true, God is to be blessed from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord is the great God. This ‘Amen’ is again a confession of faith; the hearers profess that the words spoken are true and shall always be true – God is blessed and God is great now and always. "Amen."
New Testament is the Same
Similarly, the well-known words of Rom 11:
‘Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’"
It’s this word "Amen" that we voice at the end of our prayers. What,
then, are we saying with that word? The Biblical meaning of the word does
not allow us room to think that the term means something like "this is
The End of my prayer." The Biblical meaning of the word instead implies
that with this word ‘Amen’ at the end of our prayer we are professing
our faith, we are expressing our conviction that the words just prayed
will come to pass.