Why do we say "Amen"? Though decidedly a religious word, we'll begin our search in a universal source, namely a dictionary. Here we can find some current usages of the word...

a·men [ey-men, ah-men]


    1. it is so; so be it (used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement to express solemn ratification or agreement).


    2. verily; truly.


    3. an utterance of the interjection "amen."

    4. an expression of concurrence or assent: The board gave its amen to the proposal.

To the public at large, the last definition has perhaps become the most common. Someone states something and another says "amen" in agreement. In the church, the first definition could be what is intended at the end of a prayer, but from observation I believe many people there use their "amen" more as a mere common expression of assent to what has just been prayed.

"Amen" is a Hebrew word or expression, carried almost directly into Greek and then, much later, into English. For this reason, how the Bible defines it is of utmost importance. To define a word from Scriptures requires more than a cursory glance at a Bible languages concordance. For example, Strong's1...

'amen (aw-mane'); from OT:539; sure; abstract, faithfulness; adverb, truly:
KJV - Amen, so be it, truth.

amen (am-ane'); of Hebrew origin [OT:543]; properly, firm, i.e. (figuratively) trustworthy; adverbially, surely (often as interj. so be it):
KJV - amen, verily.

From these simple descriptions of what "Amen" can mean in Hebrew and Greek, a person could arrive at a very weak understanding of the word. Based on these possibilities alone, using "Amen" as a mere term of assent, akin to "sure" in modern English, would be quite acceptable. This is why many who tack their "Amen" onto the end of a prayer do so casually, as if to say "I hope so." This is not all there is to this word as revealed in Scriptures.

A year ago, my son quoted a phrase he had heard at Bible College; "All Christians pray like Calvinists." Having had time to think on this, I don't believe this is true. Perhaps it should be restated as "All Christians should pray like Calvinists" or "All Christians in dire straits pray like Calvinists". For example; hosts of people hold that God cannot override the freewill of man, that man has the final say. With this belief, praying to God for someone's salvation is to pray to One who cannot, or will not, make it happen. This leaves that "Amen" as a very loose "I hope so". For the Calvinist, their belief in the absolute sovereignty of God over all affairs of man leads them to pray earnestly that God will do it - as only He can. Here their "Amen" becomes "God let it be so!" It is a prayer that God will change hearts and minds, and will intervene in the fallen affairs of man.

A similarly stronger perspective of the word "Amen" is found throughout Scriptures. Perhaps the strongest is that Jesus, Himself, is referred to as the "Amen".

Revelation 3:14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. (NIV)

This echoes an Old Testament passage, wherein God is called "the God of Amen". Many translations partially obscure this as they have rendered the Hebrew "Amen" as one of its meanings, such as "truth".

Isaiah 65:16 Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth [literally "Amen"]; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth [literally "Amen"]. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes. (NIV)

How can God be referred to as "Amen" if its meaning is merely "I hope so"? God is not the God of "I hope so" but the God of "I will do it!"

Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (NIV)

Psalms 33:11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (NIV) [See also Hebrews 6:17]

Psalms 135:6 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. (NIV)

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (NIV) 2

Without making a long study on prayer, consider that all prayer is answered according to God's will. If we ask in accordance with His will, our prayer receives a positive response - God will do it! Answered prayer is to bring Glory to God (Isaiah 42:8).

John 14:13-14 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV) [Consider also James 4:2-3]

Even the work God began in you, as a believer, is guaranteed to be completed because God - the great Amen - has promised to do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (NIV)

We add "Amen" to the close of our prayers because it is God's will and work that is the final word, even if we have prayed amiss. Jesus, as God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), didn't have to wait for the final word, he could lead with it! He taught by His own perfect authority. More than 100 times, Jesus is recorded in Scriptures as beginning a statement or proclamation with the Greek word "Amen", sometimes doubly so (i.e. John 14:12). The King James translated it as "verily", NIV as "the truth", NASU as "truly" and the Holman Christian Standard Bible as "assure you". Compare the various renderings of one occurrence in Matthew...

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV)

Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (NIV)

Matthew 5:18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NASU)

Matthew 5:18-19 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. (Holman Christian Standard Bible®)

Literally this passage could be rendered "Amen. For I say unto you..." or perhaps "Therefore Amen says to you..." Out of the compared translations above, the HCSB comes closest to emphasizing the absolute authority of Jesus' initial "Amen". It even footnotes the "I assure you" with this explanation...

This is a phrase used only by Jesus to testify to the certainty and importance of His words; in Matthew, Mark and Luke it is literally Amen, I say to you, and in John it is literally Amen, amen, I say to you. (from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 by Holman Bible Publishers.)

Jesus never uses "Amen" in its weaker form, but always as an invocation of His own name, the name of God, being the absolute authority and power by which His statement would be accomplished. There is never a hint of "might be", because God has determined it will be done. Amen! Consider the final words of the last book of the Bible...

Revelation 22:20-21 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen. (NIV)

Jesus clearly revealed He is coming back soon. John replies with an "Amen" before His "Come, Lord Jesus". Incorporated into his "Amen", is his assurance that it will be so and equally his affirmation that God's will be done. We too can echo the same "Amen" regarding the "soon", even though it is two thousand years later. The "soon" is God's choice, by His will and determination, and cannot be measured or constrained by any "I hope so". God's will be done.

The very last word of the Bible, by the NIV, KJV, NASU (to name some), is "Amen" (see verse 21 above).3 Yet if one is to check an interlinear concordance they will find that the "Amen" is not in the original text. So why do we find it in these large scale releases of Scriptures? A search of historical documents additionally finds that it was added to a scattering of other Bible manuscripts throughout history too (and not just in English). Obviously those doing the translation or copying could not think of a better way to express their agreement to all God has revealed - the culmination of God's word for us - Amen! Let God's will assuredly be done.

Every time we end our prayer with "... in Jesus name we pray. Amen" we have doubly invoked the name of God. In effect we have prayed to the Father, through the Son, asking that His will be done for the Glory of God. Our "Amen" expresses our faith that it will be done, as God desires and purposes and, of course, in His timing.4

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (NIV)

Unless you are seeking the Glory of God, desiring that His will be done, and trusting that He can and will do it - though spiritual forces, the will of mankind, or all of nature opposes - then don't say "Amen!"

End Notes

1. Both the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) references are from Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.

2. Contrast the four cited verses, regarding the absolute plan of God, with Ephesians 1:9-11. Additionally, take note that many other passages reflect the same, including that God directs and uses even godless people to accomplish His plan. The very reason we can ask of God in prayer, is that He can and does use, override, limit, and redirect all plans of man, spiritual forces (1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1:6-12), and even nature (Ezekiel 14:21) as He sees fit and for His glory.

Proverbs 21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. (NIV)

Isaiah 43:13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" (NIV)

Isaiah 46:11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. (NIV)

Daniel 4:34-35 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (NIV)

Acts 4:27-28 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (NIV)

3. Some modern translations no longer add the "Amen" to the last verse of the Bible (i.e. NLT, CJB, NET, TEV) or perhaps footnote it such as the HCSB. This is not removing a piece of Scriptures as it was not in the original. What they have removed from the print is the collective "Amen" that all believers should have to the entire word of God. One can only hope that printed or not, their readers too will echo "Amen" - let God's will assuredly be done!

4. If our "Amen" is given in doubt, as in "I hope so" or "maybe it will be so", it is not an expression of faith. Faith is always expressed in an absolute positive - "Let it be done to the Glory of God as He wills!" - Amen!

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (NIV)

We pray asking for the desires of our heart (i.e. Psalms 20:4), but aren't you glad that the Great Amen, does far more as He wills?!

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

(c) 2007 Brent MacDonald/LTM. Duplication is permitted as long as the source is cited.