It’s a word of affirmation, comfort, agreement and relief. It’s a word that completes vows, promises, blessings and all our prayers. It’s a word of release, signaling the end of far-too-lengthy worship services; and it’s the “Get ready…Get set…Go!” signal at around the dinner table. The word, of course, is “Amen.”
At its most basic, “Amen” means, “Let it be.” Thus, when we say “Amen” to end our prayers, we’re not saying, “the end” (though I’ve heard many children finish that way); we aren’t finishing our prayers at all. We’re actually beginning, for we’re confirming and confessing our trust in the God to whom we pray.
“Amen,” then, is a sort of faith signature with which we sign our prayers. “Let it be,” we’re declaring, “as God wills it.” So every time we invoke this familiar word, we’re saying “Yes” to God’s perspective about the world and about us, and we’re saying “No” to all others.
Every “Amen” becomes an argument to convince ourselves, over and over, God knows us best and knows what’s best for us. And, speaking of “God knows,” God knows we tend to argue with ourselves, don’t we? Late in the day, quietly in the dark; early in the morning before we’ve had our coffee or medication; driving alone with only the hum of tires on pavement: We have conversations with ourselves those in recovery have learned to call, “Stinking Thinking.”
We create these stories inside our heads about who we are; how we’ve failed; how ashamed we should be of ourselves; how unworthy we are; how utterly useless our lifework has been; how we are a lousy father, mother, parent, business owner or whatever. I’m convinced many people can’t be quiet, and can’t still their minds because they can’t bear what they say to themselves in quiet moments.
So they keep life’s volume turned up to ear-bleeding levels, keeping life at breakneck speed. These people aren’t busy; they’re suffering, and I can’t blame them for wanting to smother the voices in their heads, because a majority of the time the self-guided narrative they’re feeding themselves is erroneous, untrue and downright destructive.
Obviously, there are those who do not have the voices of shame and inadequacy screaming in their brains. There are those with, shall we say, more narcissistic tendencies. Their thinking is about how great they are; how overlooked and persecuted they’ve been; how they’re so much better than the other guy; why can’t everybody see that? It’s a line of thought on the other end of the emotional spectrum, but it’s “Stinking Thinking” all the same.
This then, is one of the great benefits of prayer; and I don’t think it matters if the prayer is guided by a rosary, prayer beads, meditation, a daily repetition of a favorite scripture or some other spiritual practice. People who pray aren’t simply memorizing a repeated litany of words or practicing religious rituals. They are, in a real sense, reprogramming their software. They are overwriting the faulty components of thinking.
They’re experiencing the transformation of hearts and minds, for, in learning to listen to God’s voice in prayer (and listening is a learned art form), they turn down the cacophony of voices around them. And yes, these other voices include the “Stinking Thinking” inside their own heads.
Those who learn to truly pray are empowered to say, “Amen, let it be!” to God’s voice, and to shout in protest, “No, absolutely not!” to all other pretensions – especially those manufactured from within. Such praying may not get one everything he or she asks for, but such praying may lead one to getting what he or she needs; and to that I say, “Amen.”
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.