Across the Pastor’s Desk: Welcome to the wonder of “Amen”
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh
We end our prayers with, “Amen.” It is a pretty much a universal usage. And we know what it means. The prayer is over.
I have more than once seen people doze off during prayers. Space fortunately does not on this occasion accommodate commentary on my prayers. But once the “Amen” comes out there is a pattern to stir and repeat the “Amen!”
But maybe there is a lesson in the waking at the end of a prayer. Perhaps that is the point. Prayer is indeed conversation with God and opportunity to make requests of our Lord. But is not prayer also the end of words and the beginning of action?
We can pray for someone who is ill and then recall that a visit or call is good medicine. We can pray about forgiving someone and find the strength to bring forgiveness to life in our own actions. Our hands may be folded during a prayer, but they can be ready for action when the prayer is ended.
We have a habit of saying that we agree with something said by speaking up with a loud, “Amen!” It is a way of saying, “Yes, I agree with what you said.” Or better yet, “Ain’t that the truth!” Our use of the word outside the setting of prayer reveals the meaning of the word. “Amen” means to believe that something is true. That’s why we say “Amen” in affirmation to what we have just heard
Consider the meaning of “Amen” for our prayers. To speak it at the end of a prayer is to believe it to be so or will be so. It is a statement of confidence and faith. It can also be the beginning of our making that request of that “Amen” become a new reality.
Recall also one of the petitions we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That is a remarkable request. First, we are asking that another reality come to us. It is quite another thing that the other reality is heaven sent. There is more. If that altered reality is from heaven, then God is in charge. We are not. And that is good news.
To pray “Amen” is to be open to that new reality and to give control and credit to the God who brings it. “Amen” is a four-letter word with quite a punch. And that is a good thing.
Jesus will on occasion in John’s gospel preface his words with a phrase. He will say, “Truly, I say to you…” Another form of it is, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” Our translators are trying to decide what to do with a common phrase of that time. The phrase is literally, “Amen, amen, I say to you…” You can see the usage in play. Jesus knows “Amen” speaks of certainty. And he employs that word to make a point. He might as well be saying, “Hey! Listen up!” He is introducing a new reality.
Welcome to the wonder of “Amen.” It marks the end of a prayer but also new beginnings. It is a great word. It welcomes a new and great reality. And it is the welcome we offer to our God to enter our lives and bring that new reality into being.
Todd Walsh is director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea.
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