Whatever the prayer, amen as ‘truth!’

When I write or recite a prayer, I always conclude with amen.

The word amen is used in all major faith traditions. Ending with amen is what I was taught so it’s ingrained in me whatever its source, but its historical meaning makes it even more logical for me.

The literal translation of the Hebrew word amen is “firm.” It is used in Hebrew scripture to express agreement or mean truth. Imagine making some sort of statement or request in a public forum, and someone else pipes up with “truth!” That’s the effect of amen.

Someone—I no longer remember who—once told me a story of how amen came to end the prayers of the Hebrews.

Imagine a group of Bedouins, nomads wandering the desert following the seasons and migrating wherever there is water and food. Because they are constantly on the move, they live in tents. To secure their tents, they need solid ground in which to drive their tent stakes. A nomad who is used to moving on certainly wouldn’t settle down amid the shifting desert sands unless they had some confidence in the location. Finding such solid ground amid unreliable desert conditions meant they could be assured of shelter and protection from the elements. Solid ground and place to pitch their tents was a godsend—a matter of life and death. Amen—or firm ground—came to mean “Now that’s something I can stick a tent stake into.”

Solid ground. An anchor in a storm. Something to believe in. That’s what amen means to me.

Amen.


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