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Articles

Prayer

The Amen

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?” (1 Cor. 14:16)

 

The word “amen” (Gr. αμεν) is a fascinating word. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who is unfamiliar with it. But what does “amen” mean? Is it a ritualistic way to end or validate our prayers? Or is it merely a way of signing off and telling God, “That’s it. My prayer is over now”? I suggest to you the meaning behind this word is far richer than we might realize.

 

The word “amen” was transliterated (the conversion of a text from one script to another where the original is copied phonetically as opposed to translation where a new word is provided that best fits the original’s meaning) directly from the Hebrew into the Greek New Testament. “Amen” continued to be transliterated into Latin and straight into English and many other languages. This means that the word “amen,” virtually unmolested through the ages, is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech.

The word is directly related, in fact, almost identical, to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean "sure" or "truly," an expression of absolute trust and confidence. Therefore, when “amen” is used before a discourse it is testifying to the truthfulness of what is about to be said. For example, when Jesus said, “For truly (amen) 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,” (Mt. 5:18) He was testifying to the absolute truth and trustworthiness of His declaration.

When the word is used at the end of a discourse, after a statement has been made, the “amen” is voiced as an affirmation of what has been said. In this case “amen” means “so it is,” “so be it,” or “may it be fulfilled.” It was a custom in the synagogues to voice the word “amen” after a prayer or reading of Scripture that passed on to Christian assemblies (1 Cor. 14:16). When the “amen” is voiced after a solemn prayer, reading, lesson, or prophecy the offerors made the substance of what was uttered their own. By way of affirmation, they were joining themselves to what was just said.

But “amen” is not a magic mantra that ensures God’s acceptance of a message. Instead, it is a reminder to us who utter the “amen” that the message must be brought into conformity with God’s will, not our own. “Amen” is a direct reference to Jesus who taught us to pray, “Your will be done” (Mt. 6:10). Jesus modeled His life after this concept of submitting to the will of the Father. His prayer in Gethsemane ended with, “yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). Thus Jesus Himself is the ultimate “Amen” whose life was perfectly in accord with God’s will. Indeed this is how He refers to Himself to the church at Laodicea, “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness” (Rev. 3:14; cf. 2 Cor. 1:20).

We are expected to follow the example of “The Amen” in our prayers and in our lives. Those who “boast in their arrogance” were warned to pray instead, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). We should have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers when “we ask anything according to His will” (1 Jn. 5:14).

So the next time you voice the word “amen” understand that it is not a mere formality to be observed but an affirmation of your agreement and the truthfulness of a statement. The “amen” is a reminder of our Savior, “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness,” and how every aspect of our lives must come under His Lordship.

Cast Your Anxieties on Him

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In 1 Kings 18 and 19, the king of Judah, Hezekiah, received a disturbing message from Sennacherib the king of Assyria. After the shame of giving Sennacherib tribute in the form of all the silver from the temple (18:15) Assyria's king felt Hezekiah was holding out on him so he sent Rabshakeh of Lachish with an army to persuade him. Upon arrival, Rabshakeh was told to speak the message in Aramaic so that only the king's court would understand without all the inhabitants of Jerusalem hearing but Rabshakeh defied them and spoke Judean in the hearing of all the men who sit on the wall whom he said were "doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine" (1 Kgs. 18:27). Some of our southern friends might say, "Them's fightin' words!"

Despite the might of the Assyrian army, an army which conquered several kingdoms before its march on Judah, Hezekiah had told the Hebrews to trust in the Lord and they would surely be delivered. Rabshakeh called into question the wisdom of this kingly decree. After all, said he, "Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (1 Kgs. 18:33-35).

Indeed, Sennacherib's record was undefeated. From Hezekiah's point of view this must have been a frightful position to be in. Could you imagine sitting on the throne receiving report after report of Assyria's movements, one kingdom after another falling until finally the whole of Samaria fell (1 Kg 18:9-12)? After more "trash talk" from Rabshakeh, Hezekiah tore his robes and sent for Isaiah who returned with a message of hope from the Lord (1 Kgs 19:5-7).

Sennacherib then sent a blasphemous and arrogant letter that repeated the threats of his previous message which drove Hezekiah to his knees before his God. Mysteriously, the next morning, the Assyrian army woke to find 185,000 of their compatriots slain in their tents with no explanation. The God of Israel was busy. Sennacherib left the way he came with his tail tucked between his legs.

How did this fortunate turn of events come about? The sincere prayer of a righteous man. God said, "Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you." (1 Kgs. 19:20). When Hezekiah was frightened of what might come to pass he brought his troubles before the Lord, quite literally: "Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD" (1 Kgs. 19:14) and he prayed a fervent, God-exalting prayer for deliverance (19:14-19).

Brethren, how many Sennacheribs do you have looming at the gate with threatening language? How many problems in your life feel so much bigger than you? Do you feel as if the odds are stacked against you so that you can never overcome them on your own? Do you feel that you will surely fall beneath the crushing weight of adversity? For the child of God, this is the most advantageous position from which to fight. Draw back your bow and take aim in prayer to God. Take all your troubles and spread them out before the LORD like Hezekiah. When God's children are backed into a corner by Satan, God reacts to the prayers of His saints like a mother bear reacts to the helpless cries of her cubs--with fury (see Psa. 18).

Take your problems before the LORD. Even though your Father "knows what you need before you ask Him" (Mt. 6:8) He desires that you spread out the scroll of your anxieties at His feet. Leave no fear bottled up but "let your requests be known to God" (Phil. 4:6). "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:6, see also Mt. 7:7-11).

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