We are told in Sunday school that amen means “let it be”. Let’s see what comes out when we unpack the word.

Amen derives from the root ‘aman, which we associate with confirming, firmness of security, dependability, trustworthiness, reliability. It is one of five weighty Old Testament words deriving from this root, words meaning truth, faithfulness (in being and action), and believing.

In the Old Testament, you said amen after something. To say amen is to state that what you’ve just heard or said is true. It is a solemn word because it commits you to a certain belief. For an Israelite this meant not only believing with the heart and understanding with the mind, but also actually doing what was required by the truth of what was said. God places a high value on commitment and expects his people to as well.

In the Old Testament, you said amen after something. Jesus turned this on its head by being the first to say amen before something – a revolutionary move that marked him out as being so confident in the truth, that he can confirm his words even before he has spoken them, with no room for debate. Jesus speaks the truth because he is the truth. He is God’s Yes to everything God says and is and does. He is the assurance of God’s truth and faithfulness – God’s Amen.

In the way of Jesus, to say amen after a prayer is more than asking our Father to make something happen. It is committing ourselves to living in such a way that what we have amen’ed is true. We saw that saying amen after something is to say “this is true, and I believe it”. Christian belief expresses itself through love in action, so when we say amen we are promising to live according to what we claim to believe.

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