Cornerstone

“‘In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.’ What do these words actually mean?”

“In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.”

Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught that all prayers end with these words. As I’ve gotten older and spent time around other Christians from all kinds of backgrounds, I’ve seen that to still be true. No matter where you come from it seems, a prayer to the Lord ends with some variation of specifying that we’re praying in Jesus’s name, and the last word is always “amen”.

What do these words actually mean? And why do we even say them in the first place? Such ubiquitous words require a deeper look into their meaning.

In Jesus’s Name

Understanding the totality of what it means to be in Jesus’s name is a bigger task than I’m willing to tackle here, but here are some observations worth noting.

First, we must ask a strange question—what is Jesus’s name? “Jesus” is actually the English spelling of a translation of Yeshua, which comes from a Hebrew root word meaning “to rescue,” “to deliver” (1). This is the same name that is translated as “Joshua” for the Old Testament book of the Bible. Inherent in the name Yeshua is the implication that there are people who need to be rescued. To pray in Jesus’s name is to recognize that there are people who need to be rescued—and that you are, in fact, one of them. When you pray “in Jesus’s name”, you are claiming both your need for a Deliverer and your recognition that Jesus is Him. You are affirming that the meaning of his name is true, in the deepest sense.

Second, to pray in Jesus’s name reminds us of a treasured promise. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says that, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” He reminds us that his divine nature allows him to be present with us as we come together to praise, petition, and plead to our loving Father. As such, proclaiming that we are praying “in Jesus’s name” recognizes Jesus’s presence among believers who are gathered together and reminds us of his precious assurance that he is with us.

Finally, Jesus gives us a somewhat perplexing promise in John 14:13-15:

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

It’s tempting to superficially read these verses and think, “As long as I say, ‘In Jesus’s name’ when I pray, God will do it for me.” But testing this theology on the ground will quickly prove that interpretation to be false. A more careful reading shows the heart that Jesus is after in our prayers. He reminds us that his goal is first and foremost to glorify his Father, and that he does things in accordance with this. He also specifies twice that we are to ask for things in his name. When we remember his name, Yeshua—“rescuer”, “deliverer”—we remember that he is the sovereign God that has done all the work of salvation for us, even sacrificing his own life so that we can live eternally.

Remembering this name shapes our prayers. Remembering that he has the power and mercy to rescue causes us to adore him, in awe of his glory. Remembering that he is Deliverer causes us to confess our sins before him, and ask for forgiveness, which he gives mercifully and abundantly (praise God!). Remembering that he has forgiven us causes us to thank him with a joyful heart. And remembering that he loved us enough to rescue us causes us to not hold back in asking for his will to be done in our lives. We love because he first loved us (1John 4:19), and Jesus says that if we love him, we will pray for things that are in accordance with his commandments and his will, which he is happy to do for the sake of our sanctification.

Amen

Amen comes from the Hebrew word aman, which on a basic level means to be firm, reliable, supported, confirmed, or believed. In the synagogues, when one person would offer up a prayer to God, the others would say “amen” to essentially convey, “I affirm”, or “I support what you have prayed.” It was a word that meant you were taking the essence of their prayer and making it your own. This tradition carried over into the Christian gatherings, and has been passed down until today (2,3). 

Even if you’re not praying corporately and therefore not necessarily praying in agreement with what another person has prayed, “amen” is still an appropriate word to end a private prayer. This is because belief and trust are the heart of the word aman. Ending a prayer with “amen” testifies to your own heart that you believe that God has heard your prayer and that he, in his all-knowing goodness and sovereignty, will answer.

Interestingly, aman also referred to “supporting with the arm,” carrying a child, and foster parents and nurses - anyone who supported a child (1). Inherent in the word is a reminder of our loving father who upholds us, his children adopted through faith in Christ.

What We’re Really Saying

When we put all of this together, we realize that what we’re really saying when we recite, “In your name I pray, amen,” is, “Jesus, I remember your name when I ask you for these things. I recognize that I need a Savior, and that Savior is you. I know your name because you have revealed it to me—you are my Savior. I am asking you for things according to what you want, because I know you, and I love you. I believe that you have heard these things that I (or we) have brought before you. I believe your promise that you will give according to what we ask for in your name. And I, in faith, support what my brothers and sisters are asking for in prayer because they, too, are found in your name. We are beloved children of the Father, and we trust him.”

Brothers and sisters, let us never forget that these oft-repeated ending words of our prayers speak volumes of truth about God to our hearts.

 

1. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, LL. D. 1857
2. Ginzberg, L. (1906). Amen. In The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from Jewish Encyclopedia: http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1383-amen
3. Thurston, H. (1907). Amen. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01407b.htm

Ashley Ross

Ashley is a member of Cornerstone and serves as a Web Content Editor.

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