What Does Amen Mean, and Why Do We Say It?

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
What Does Amen Mean, and Why Do We Say It?

“In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

So ends many prayers spoken by believers all over the world. It seems a simple way to close a prayer, but sadly, for some, it is a rote recitation. For others, it’s a heartfelt affirmation of what they just prayed, and to Whom.

Amen is one of two Christian words understood and spoken by most cultures; hallelujah is the other. Amen is a transliteration of the original word, and – wonderful for us – it is pronounced nearly the same. Whether one says Ā’men or “Ah’men, it matters not; what counts is the heart attitude.

What Does Amen Mean?

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, the Hebrew word amen means truly, verily. Amen can be equated with steadiness, trustworthiness, and truth.

The Lexham Bible Dictionary states amen is “a Hebrew word that has served as a declaration of affirmation and as the closing exclamation of agreement to a doxology or prayer in Jewish and Christian liturgy.”

Is Amen Seen Anywhere in Scripture?

Thirty instances of amen may be found in the Old Testament, and usage of the word includes that of sincere verification at the conclusion of a pledge (Numbers 5:22), curse (Deuteronomy 27:15-26), consent, announcement, prophecy, or closing pronouncement (cf. Psalm 41:13; Jeremiah 28:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36). In Jeremiah 28:6, Jeremiah scorns a false prophet with Amen. Isaiah emphasizes God’s faithfulness by calling Him “the God of Amen (truth)” (Isaiah 65:16). Yet it is in the Psalms that Amen became a standard closure to what had been said.

Amen as applied in the New Testament is a continuation of the Jewish liturgical practice. Amen is transliterated into the Greek and appears 129 times, ninety-nine of which are uttered by the Lord Jesus. Let’s unpack how He applied Amen.

Found both at the beginning or end of His statements, He often applied Amen (commonly translated as truly or verily) to what He commanded or related about Himself, God the Father, or about what occurred or what was to take place. He spoke truth about everything and everyone, therefore His use of Amen underscores the veracity of what He said. His Jewish listeners would not miss the force of Jesus saying Amen, as Jesus said Amen to affirm His deity alongside His miracles.

In John’s gospel, every time Jesus said truly (amen), it is as a doublet either at the beginning or the end of His statements, giving more emphasis to His words. The only singular use of truly (Amen) is John 8:31, where He said, “…If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples.” Truly as employed here emphasizes disciples who obey Jesus and His word.

As for the use of Amen by the Apostles and Jude:

Paul ended many exhortations within his letters with Amen (Romans 1:25, 9:5, 11:36, 15:33, 16:27; 1 Corinthians 16:24; Galatians 1:5, 6:18; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:16; 2 Timothy 4:18).

The writer of Hebrews closed his book with a hearty Amen after he proclaimed glory forever and ever be to Jesus Christ, as did Peter in 1 Peter 4:11, 5:11, and 2 Peter 3:18. Jude concluded his letter in verse 25 with an amen to the proclamation that to God, our Savior through Jesus Christ be “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.” We can certainly add an Amen to that verse.

Throughout the Epistles and in Revelation, Amen is active as corporate affirmation by the church (Romans 1:25), and individual avowal to what has been said (2 Corinthians 1:20). The book of Revelation declares Amen eight times in affirmation of God’s character, what He has done, is doing, and will do. Revelation 22:20 states an Amen to Jesus’ pronouncement that He is coming soon.

As a designation for Jesus or God, Revelation 3:14 calls Jesus the Amen: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.’” In this passage, Jesus Himself is testifying His words are true as He is true.

When Did We Start Using Amen to End Prayers, and Why?

The Bible gave us our start with including Amen inside passages and concluding prayers, oaths, and affirmationsThe Old Testament’s use of the word is likened to the phrase, “so be it,” and it serves as a confirmation of events and words of the Lord as truth. The practice continued in the New Testament, and Jesus’ use of Amen (verily, or truly), gives us a standard — a model — to follow when we pray or affirm a truth from Scripture. 

Historical Christian leaders such as Martin Luther substantiated our prayer conclusions in his book, A Practical Way to Pray, “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.”

Do We Have to Close Our Prayers with "Amen"?

The Bible does not command us to end our prayers by saying, Amen, but given its use both in the Old Testament, by Jesus (especially), and by the Apostles, it’s a very good practice. Whether our prayer be one pf praise, cautious imprecation, or supplication, our submission to God’s will in every circumstance deserves an Amen, knowing it’s His will which will be done, and that perfectly. 

Sure, we can close a prayer without saying Amen, but why would we want to omit a verbal exclamation point which highlights God and His character? Our Lord and Savior is our King, and as His subjects (and as children of God), to proclaim Amen to His truths (and what He has done, is doing, or will do) identifies us as those who love and obey Him. 

Truly, however, we most often close a prayer by saying it’s in Jesus’ name we pray. If we recite an amen without its full gist of meaning — without affirming it with all our hearts — we could be lying to God. Therefore, when we say Amen, we are to mean it.

How Else (Other Than Praying) Can We Use This Word?

Amen is often used in situations outside the biblical norm where someone wishes to affirm the truth of what has been said. It would seem to add more credibility to a statement or action made by someone. The world may not know nor understand the biblical root of Amen, but they know when they repeat the word, they are exclaiming affirmation and agreement with what has occurred or been said. A lighter example would be if someone said, “This is the best ice cream ever.” To which a person may respond, “Amen.”

Christians of all denominations say Amen to statements and events which underscore their biblical worldview. For example, when an evil act is brought to judgment, we may voice an Amen to bolster our witness about God’s sovereignty. We also often say Amen when another believer has achieved success in some way that benefits the kingdom of God.

Within churches all over, many pastors will loudly request, “Can I get an Amen?” after a powerful point in their sermon. Usually, the whole congregation answers the pastor with a loud “Amen!” In another vein, a song titled Amen repeats the word as a call and response throughout.

Whether it’s used in prayer or as affirmation of a biblical truth spoken or written by someone, Amen is an affirmative response we should never take lightly. If — in our prayers — we ask for God to exact His justice, we say amen knowing God will enact His perfect will. Whatever He chooses to do, we acquiesce to His perfect character. The Scriptures say, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Our delight in Him means we live to love and obey Him, and our desires will be according to His Word and will.

Can I get an Amen? 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/rudi_suardi

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.