One of the striking things we do as a congregation is our vigorous congregational “Amen” after our prayers and songs. Saying “amen” after a prayer may seem a little more normal, but why do we say “amen” after our hymns and psalms? Well, first off because our songs are prayers. They are simply sung prayers. So if we say “amen” at the end of our prayers, it’s actually strange that we wouldn’t at the end of our hymns.
But the word “amen” doesn’t just mean “now we’re done.” “Amen” means “yes, I affirm this, and let it be so,” but given the context where we saying this before God and one another. “Amen” is really more of a covenantal oath. In Dt. 27, the Levites proclaimed the curses of the covenant and after each one it says, “And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.” This is why when the congregation is asked to affirm that they receive new members and renew their own membership vows or when you are asked at a baptism to promise to assist parents in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, you are asked to affirm that vow by saying “Amen.” Likewise, when Nehemiah renewed the covenant with Israel, all the people answered by saying “Amen, Amen.” (Neh. 8:6, cf. 5:13). Sections of the psalter end with an “Amen,” and one of the psalms exhorts all the people to say “Amen” (Ps. 106:48).
So our practice is to say that hearty “amen” together after prayers and songs, and when we do that, we are binding ourselves together and to God in a solemn, joyful oath. We are swearing that what we have just said/sung is true and we are offering it up in honest faith to God asking for his blessing. We do not want this to become frivolous or mindless or some kind of vain repetition. So as we pay these vows to God, don’t mumble, but let it ring out with solemn joy. The Lord is God. The Lord is God. And all God’s people said, Amen!
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash
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