Recently, a note came to me from someone in our church with an interesting question. It said this:
Why is it that sometimes your prayers do not end with “Amen”? Is there a biblical reason why we do or do not say amen after prayers?
I responded personally, but I also felt my answer might benefit others, so here it is in blog form.
The Meaning of “Amen”
First, the word Amen is a Hebrew word that comes from the Hebrew root AMN which means faith/faithfulness. Strangely enough, this same root word shows up in a variety of other Hebrew words including words for the firm columns supporting a roof. In other words, the root communicates security, stability, and strength, and that’s why the Hebrews used it to mean “faithfulness.” The irony is that we modern Christians tend to view faith as a tenuous and shaky thing while ancient Hebrews saw faith as the stability that holds someone’s life up!
Biblical Uses of “Amen”
Anyway, Amen comes from that root word for stability and means something like “affirmative” or “so be it” or “I agree” or “let it be so.” Throughout the Bible, you will see one person verbalize a prayer to God or a praise about God and others will respond by saying, “Amen.” Eventually, in the New Testament writings, when Peter or Paul would write out a praise to God, they would end the statement of praise by offering their own “Amen” since in the letter form, there was no one else to say it! Therefore, it became customary for “Amen” to show up at the end of prayers and praises even if the Amen is offered by the same person who is speaking the prayer.
In this sense, Amen has become sort of a last-minute word to tell God we are serious about our request. However, nowhere in the Bible is it required of us to use it in our prayers. As a matter of fact, Jesus never ends a prayer with “Amen” and the word doesn’t show up in the prayer He taught us. Look up Matthew 6:9-13, and you’ll see what I mean. Now, at some point after the first disciples had all passed away, a Bible tradition rose up that was uncomfortable with the ending of the Lord’s Prayer and actually added the line “for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.” The King James Version follows that textual tradition, but it is well-established that the phrase didn’t exist in the earliest copies of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus never used “Amen” when talking to his Father or when teaching us to talk with Him.
My Own Custom
As a result, when I pray privately, I have a conversation with God, and just like my conversations with anyone else, I don’t end with Amen.
However, when I pray with others, I adopt the custom of ending my prayer with Amen whenever I want to signify that the time of prayer is done. That’s why I often do not say Amen in prayers during our time of worship music or during our time of reflection. It is because I don’t want people to think the time for praying is over. It’s because I want us all to stay in an attitude of prayer.
If you have a few minutes to do some extra study, go to bible.com, youversion.com, or biblegateway.com and search for the word Amen. You’ll be fascinated to see when people use it in the Bible.