Why Do We Say 'Amen'? What Does it Mean?

Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.” 1 Chronicles 16:36
Updated Oct 12, 2023
Why Do We Say 'Amen'? What Does it Mean?

Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.” -1 Chronicles 16:36

Origin of Amen

Amen is an affirmation of truth first seen in the Old Testament and later in the New Testament. The first mention of the word “amen” in the Bible is found in Numbers 5:22.

The term amen meaning “so be it,” as found in the early scriptures of the Bible, is a word of Hebrew origin. It originated in the Hebrew Scriptures as a reply of confirmation and is found in Deuteronomy as an affirmative response made by the people. Furthermore, in the Books of Chronicles, it is designated that near 1000 BC, the word is used in its religious meaning, with the people responding with "amen" to receiving the blessing: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from now and unto all eternity."

Amen Meaning and Definition

Standard English translations of the term amen include "surely," "truly," and “so be it.”

According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, in current usage, the term "amen" has become little more than a ritualized conclusion to prayers. Yet the Hebrew and Greek words for amen appear hundreds of times in the Bible and have several uses. Amen is a transliteration of the Hebrew word amen. The verb form occurs more than one hundred times in the Old Testament and means to take care, to be faithful, reliable, or established, or to believe someone or something. The idea of something that is faithful, reliable, or believable seems to lie behind the use of amen as an exclamation on twenty-five solemn occasions in the Old Testament. Israel said "amen" to join in the praises of God (1 Chronicles 16:36; Nehemiah 8:6; and at the end of each of the first four books of Psalms).

Modern dictionaries define Amen as "used to express solemn ratification (as of an expression of faith) or hearty approval (as of an assertion)" (Merriam-Webster).

"In Jesus' Name, Amen"

Below is a transcription of the video above, in which Don Whitney explains why we end our prayers with “In Jesus' name, Amen.”

Well, we're told in John 14:16, Jesus says, whatever you ask in my name that will I do that the father may be glorified in the son. So from that, we realized that there's an explicit passage about praying in Jesus' name. But more importantly, the truth that points to is is the larger truth found in the new testament that we have access to God the father through Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, the veil of the temple was split in two from top to bottom. And Hebrews tells us that, that we then have access to God through the veil that is his flesh. So that veil, that several inches thick of material that separated the holy of holies, where the presence of God was manifest there, over the arc of the covenant, only the high priest could go in only he once a year after a week's preparation, that now through the death of Jesus, anybody has access to God, but they must come through the veil of the flesh of Jesus through the death of Jesus Christ. 

So our access to God is in coming through Christ and his righteousness. Hebrews says that we come in his blood. So it is through the death of Jesus who we have access to God and praying in Jesus' name is a theological shorthand for expressing that, that we have no righteousness of our own, that God will receive us as it were covered in the blood of Christ. God will receive us having been United with Christ. And so to pray our prayer in Jesus' name is to recognize that we're coming in the righteousness of Christ, not our own. We don't deserve to be heard by God, but Jesus does. And we come in his name, we come presenting him and all that he is. It also means I think that we are coming and asking what we believe Jesus would ask if he were in our situation. So that's true. That's a lesser truth to the greater truth that we come in and through the righteousness of Christ. God hears us because of Jesus. So we'd come. Father, did you hear this prayer? It's not because I deserve it, but I come in Jesus' name. 

Amen in the Bible

To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen(Philippians 4:20) ESV

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen(Romans 11:36) ESV

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) ESV

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) ESV

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13) KJV

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20) KJV

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