Leslie Basham: If you take the words of Jesus at face value, the word amen should mean something. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: He warned us against vain repetitions—just saying things in our prayers that are rote habit that we don’t think about. So I hope after today’s session you will never say that word again—amen (ah-men), amen (ay-men), amen (ah-mean), however you say it—that you’ll never say it again thoughtlessly or carelessly.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 28.
Amen. Funny word for the beginning of a radio program, right? Well, why? Do you even know what amen means? You will after listening to Nancy.
We’ve been in a series on the Lord’s Prayer for several weeks this Fall, and Nancy’s about to wrap it up with an explanation of a word most of us use to mean, “I’m all done.”
Nancy: Well, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but in my heart this has been a very wonderful and rich journey through the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve spent a lot more time on it, actually, than you’ve had to listen to it.
For much of the past year, I’ve been meditating on the Lord’s Prayer and asking God to open it up to me. As I said (I think in the last session), even within the last twenty-four hours there have been parts of that last phrase in the Lord’s Prayer that the Lord has shown me in a new light.
I love to study the Scripture seeing how it relates to other passages and bringing passages together. So as we talk about “Yours is the kingdom,” you can go on a big, long study of “the kingdom of God” as it’s seen in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
This has been a rich study for me not only in how to pray. It has impacted my prayer life; it is impacting my prayer life. But it’s also impacting the way that I live, the way that I think about my circumstances, the way that I think about life. It’s giving me God’s perspective.
We say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Then we make our petitions. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That’s for our present needs, provision.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” That’s a petition for pardon, pardon for our past offenses.
And then, Lord, as we look to the future, we need Your protection. “Do not lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Then we come to the epilogue, the doxology, the benediction that we’ve looked at over the last several days. “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” And then what’s the last word? “Amen” (Matt. 6:9-13).
Now, we might be tempted to just skip over that word. I want to encourage you, whenever you read the Scripture, not to skip over any word; to realize that every word is important.
You may not stop at every word every time you read it and do this great big long study. But you see a word like that that is used many times in the Scripture, and as you study it, you start to realize it’s not a throwaway word. It’s an important word. It’s full of meaning.
I have heard God’s people pray and preach in multiple different languages, none of which I understand. I understand a little bit of Spanish, and beyond that I don’t know any of those other languages. But there’s one word you will always recognize when you hear it anywhere in the world.
They may say it with a different accent or a little different pronunciation, but you will know the word amen. In some countries they say amen (ah-mean). But you know what they’re saying.
Now, I know there are some people who use this word just out of habit without thinking about it. We’ve said earlier in the study that Jesus warned us before He gave this model pattern prayer. He warned us against vain repetitions, just saying things in our prayers that are rote habit that we don’t think about. So I hope after today’s session you will never say that word again, amen (ah-men), amen (ay-men), amen (ah-mean)—however you say it—that you’ll never say it again thoughtlessly or carelessly.
Amen is more than just a word we tack on to the end of a prayer. It’s not a word to be taken lightly or thrown around. The word appears in the Bible ninety-nine times. It’s actually a direct transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “firmness” or “truth.” It refers to something that is reliable. It’s sure. It’s true. It’s permanent. It’s something which is absolutely certain.
In our English Bibles it’s often translated amen, which is, as I said, a transliteration from the original Hebrew word. But sometimes in the English it’s translated verily, particularly if you have the King James translation. Where you see the word verily, that’s actually a translation of the Hebrew word amen.
Sometimes it’s translated truly. In some of your more modern translations, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” We’ll talk about what that means. Sometimes it’s translated “let it be so,” or “so be it” in our different translations. That’s the word amen.
As I just mentioned, Jesus used it often to emphasize the truthfulness or the reliability of what He was about to say. So He would often start His points or His teaching by saying, “Verily, verily, I say to you” or “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
If you were to read that in the original language, it would say, “Amen, amen, I say to you.” This is true. What I’m about to tell you is reliable. It is absolutely certain.
Now, anything Jesus says is true. It’s all reliable. It’s all certain. But He often used this phrase “Amen, amen” to emphasize a point He was getting ready to make. “Listen carefully to this. Mark it down; it is true.”
Did you know that Amen is one of the names of God? It’s fitting that it should be His name, because it describes His character. In Isaiah 65 He is called “the God of truth.” That name is used twice in Isaiah 65:16. If you go back to the Hebrew, it’s “the God of Amen.”
What does that mean? It means:
- He is faithful.
- He cannot lie.
- He is the God of truth.
In Deuteronomy 7:9 He is called “the faithful God.” If you go back to the Hebrew, that would be “the Amen God.” He is faithful. His promises are sure and true.
In Revelation 3:14 Jesus calls Himself “the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” That’s how He describes Himself. He is God’s Amen.
Now, usually when you read the word amen in the Scriptures, it’s not found at the beginning of a sentence, as Jesus sometimes used it. It’s more often found at the end of a sentence or a paragraph or a thought.
It’s usually the last word of a solemn statement. Often it’s a congregational response to express agreement or affirmation with what has just been said.
Let me just mention several instances where the word is used this way in Scripture. When you go to Deuteronomy 27, you find this long passage which is kind of a catechism of curses that God told Moses to teach to the people. It’s the laws of God.
It says, “Cursed be the man that does this.” And then the people would say, “Amen.” “Cursed be the people who does this.” In other words, there will be consequences; there will be punishment if you violate this law. Then the people would say, “Amen.”
Verse 19 of Deuteronomy 27: “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” If you take advantage of a poor person or a destitute person or an oppressed person, you will be in trouble. “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”
What were they saying? “We agree with what has been said. We affirm it, and we are willing to submit ourselves to the penalty that is attached to the breaking of God’s law.” This was a serious affirmation. “Amen. We take this seriously.”
In Israel, when a prayer or prophecy was made or the law of God was read, often “all the people said, ‘Amen’” (Neh. 5:13; 8:6). You read about that, in Nehemiah 5 and 8, as it describes some worship services when Nehemiah or Ezra or one of the priests would pray or read the Scripture or stand up to bless the Lord in front of the people. Then all the people would say, "Amen."
Here’s another use of the word amen in the Scripture. Whenever you come across a doxology, a blessing of the Lord, you will often find the word amen at the end. Let me read several to you from the New Testament.
To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Rom. 16:27)
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Phil. 4:20)
To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. [And what’s the end?] Amen. (Jude 25)
There are a number of times in the Psalms when there is a blessing given and it ends with the word amen. Let me read a couple to you.
“Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” (Ps. 72:19) The double amen. “It’s true. Let it be so. We affirm it.”
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 106:48) Let all the people say, "Amen."
The apostle Paul uses the word amen seven times in his letter to the Romans at the end of doxologies or benedictions. You can go look them up.1 In fact, did you know that the very last word of the Bible is amen? Let me read the last two verses of Revelation 22.
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. [And then the church says,] Come, Lord Jesus!
Then we read the last verse: “The grace of the Lord Jesus [Christ] be with [you] all.” And what’s the closing word? “Amen” (vv. 20-21).
In the early church when they would meet for corporate worship, according to 1 Corinthians 14:16, we know that it was the practice of those early believers to say amen audibly. At the close of prayers or thanksgiving they would verbalize this.
It was the congregation giving assent, agreement, affirmation to what had been prayed, as we have seen modeled throughout the Old and New Testaments. I think this is a reminder that when we go to church or when we are with the people of God talking about the things of God or praying with God’s people, we are participants.
When you go to church, you are a participant in the service. That service is a means of God’s grace in your life. God intends you not to be a spectator but to participate, to take of what is being given and to respond to the Lord.
We’re not supposed to be just watching people on the platform perform during our church services. We’re supposed to be mentally, spiritually, emotionally engaged with what is being said.
Sad to say, in many cases that is not the truth. I know what it is to be sitting in a church service and have my mind way off somewhere else. But God wants us to be engaged when we hear the Word, when we’re involved in prayer.
When somebody is praying from the platform, or in your small group someone is praying, He wants us to be praying in our heart. That’s not the time for us to be thinking about what we’re going to pray when it’s our turn, though I’ll confess I’ve done that many times.
That’s the time for us to be affirming, praying along. In that sense, church services, prayer groups, small groups become a dialogue, a conversation with the people of God and God Himself. So we say amen.
We are not just private, isolated individuals sitting in our church services. We’re supposed to be actively responding, engaged with those who are praying and preaching, and engaged with the other people around us. Otherwise just sit at home and listen to your radio or listen to CDs or download something from your computer.
There’s nothing wrong with doing those things. But there is something holy about the people of God gathered together, the communion of saints—that is, the uniting of saints together to come and worship and respond to the preached Word and to the prayers offered up to God.
Now, I know that when I talk about saying amen (ay-men) at church—or amen (ah-men), if that’s how they say it at your church—some are not comfortable with that. And some churches are probably not comfortable with that.
Some prefer that their church experience be more quiet, that we have more dignity in worship, and they may not be accustomed to such expressions as “Amen” or “Bless the Lord” or “I agree” or “Let it be so.”
I think that some of our churches could probably do with a dose of greater reverence . . . a sense of awe that when we come to church we’re not just chattering about everything, but we are really in reverence and awe before the Lord.
When we speak up to say something like amen to affirm what’s being said, the point is not to make a scene. It’s not to draw attention to ourselves or to make a display. “I’m really a spiritual person because I’m saying, ‘Amen, preacher!’”
That kind of thing is not what we’re talking about. We should not be out of order. In the church that you’re a part of, if this is something that would kind of make the chandeliers shatter, then you might not want to be so loud or vociferous in the way you might respond.
But I do think that we could use some more . . . could I use the phrase “holy commotion” . . . in some of our church services. If we do it at sporting events, we think nothing of acting nuts, acting crazy. Then we come to church and are motionless, expressionless. If it’s just because of reverence, that’s one thing. But I think sometimes it’s because we’re not engaged.
God wants us to be engaged, to be participating. When we say "amen," we’re saying we are in wholehearted agreement that what has just been said is the truth. Or we’re affirming our certainty that what has just been prayed is in accordance with God’s will and will be heard by Him.
It’s a solemn oath of agreement. Amen: a word that never should be spoken lightly, but it should be spoken.
When we say amen in the corporate worship, study of the Word, and prayers of God’s people, we are actually joining in with the worship of heaven. Did you know that’s what they say in heaven?
Let me ask you to turn in your Bible to Revelation 5. We’re picking up in the middle of a worship scene in heaven. The angels and the living creatures and the elders are gathered around the throne room of God—hundreds of millions of them, myriads upon myriads.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:11-14)
So we join in that heavenly chorus. In that sense, our worship here on earth becomes a dress rehearsal, a practice for what we will spend an eternity doing in heaven—looking at the One who is seated on His throne, offering up doxologies, blessing to Him, praise, honor, glory, and saying as our affirmation and agreement, “Amen, amen, amen, amen.”
Martin Luther wrote a little book that we referred to earlier in this series on the Lord’s Prayer. He called it A Simple Way to Pray. Here’s what he had to say about this last word of the Lord’s Prayer:
Mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in His mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers.
Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone; rather, think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you, and you are standing among them in a common, united petition, which God cannot disdain.
Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means.2
So when we say, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen,” what we’re saying is “yes” to all of the Lord’s Prayer.
- Yes, O Lord, I want Your name to be hallowed. I want to give reverence to Your name. I want people all over the world to reverence Your name.
- Yes, I want Your kingdom to come.
- Yes, I want Your will to be done above everything else.
- Yes, God, I affirm that I need bread. I need practical things, and I believe that You will supply it because You are the Creator.
- Yes, I need daily forgiveness and the grace to forgive others as You have pardoned me through Jesus Christ.
- Oh, God, yes, amen, I need help against temptation and against the tempter.
- And oh, God, when I have fallen, yes, amen, I need to be delivered from the evil one.
- Yes, Lord, I acknowledge that You are the sovereign Lord and ruler of the universe, that all the kingdom, all the power, and all the glory belong to You forever.
- Yes, Lord. Let it be so. It will be so.
And all God’s people said . . . amen.
Leslie: What an appropriate way to end this series on the Lord’s Prayer. We say amen, and we keep saying amen with our lives and hearts.
That teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss wraps up the series, The Lord’s Prayer. One of the important topics in this series has been forgiveness. Can you really say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
A woman wrote Revive Our Hearts not long ago. She was wrestling with this issue. Nancy tells us her story.
Nancy: Susan wrote to tell us that a couple of years ago, her daughter told her news that no parent wants to hear. Her daughter revealed that she had been sexually abused as a child.
Obviously, when Susan heard this news, she was furious. She told us she was “full of rage” at her daughter’s abuser. But she knew this rage wasn’t exactly healthy.
Now this could have ended up as a story of bitterness and resentment that held Susan in bondage. But God turned her story in a different direction.
Through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, Susan realized that responding in bitterness to this situation could destroy her life. Of course, what happened to her daughter was a horrific sin. But while using some the resources that we provide through Revive Our Hearts, this woman began to realize that she had to come to the place of forgiveness, just as God had forgiven her. She said,
I knew I needed to forgive the man who sexually abused my daughter. I realized that, in myself, I was unable to forgive. But God would supply the grace to forgive.
I got down on my knees and held my out my hands, palms up, and prayed. I realized I had two choices. I could choose my way and hold on to the rage, or I could choose God’s way and receive the grace I needed to forgive. I told God I was willing to receive that grace, and at that moment I found release.
There are countless women just like Susan. They’re trapped in a prison of unforgiveness. But did you know that you can be part of their stories?
Here’s what I mean: God is using Revive Our Hearts to help women find freedom from unforgiveness and bitterness. It’s one of the things we talk about a lot on this program.
When you support Revive Our Hearts by praying for us, by supporting the ministry financially, you are helping us spread that message of freedom through Christ to women who desperately need it.
Your gift to this ministry can make a huge difference, and even more so as we near the end of the year. Usually, about 40% of the donations we receive for the entire year arrive during the month of December. We are asking the Lord to meet some substantial needs this year.
We invested a lot in True Woman '12, the conference that took place this fall. Hosting a conference of this magnitude and pricing it so it was affordable for women to come put a strain on ongoing ministry efforts. We’re asking the Lord to make up the difference here at year-end.
Some good friends of the ministry know about these needs, and they believe in what God is doing through this ministry and what He will do through it in the year ahead. They want to be part of the story of what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts.
And to encourage you to be part of the story, these friends are doubling every gift between now and December 31 up to a matching challenge amount of $450,000.
Meeting that challenge and then, Lord willing, far surpassing it will enable us to meet our current needs and put us in a strong position to continue reaching out to women in the year ahead.
To help us meet this matching challenge, or to get more details, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call 1-800-569-5959. Make a donation as the Lord leads and be a part of the story that God is writing in the lives of thousands of women like Susan.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
1Romans 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:20, 24, 27.