And why do we say it?
It happened in Religion class in grade 3.
The week before, the priest that taught our group stood at the front of the class leading us in the Lord’s Prayer.
At the end of the prayer, we all said “Amen” together. Then he asked us to think about the meaning of this word and we would discuss it together as a class the following week.
That afternoon at home, I asked my brothers what the word Amen meant. They said it meant “all men” — as in all men agree.
Equipped with my response, I was the first to put up my hand in class to answer the question I knew the priest would ask.
“What does Amen mean?”
Then he picked me. “Kimberley?”
I bravely exclaimed, “It means ‘all-men’.”
“Kim, this was a serious question. You’re not being funny by saying ‘all-men’.”
With that abrupt reprimand, my face went beet red. Mortified, I wanted to crawl under my desk.
I hadn’t meant to poke fun at the question. I wasn’t acting badly. It was the answer my brothers had given me.
As a shy student, I vowed never to stick my neck out again. The priest’s firm dismissal of my answer was seared in my memory.
Years later, as I reflect on that day, I can see why the priest thought I was mocking him.
Some people pronounce “Amen” as the letter ‘A’ and then the word ‘men’. While others pronounce it like, “All-men”. He thought I was just saying it in a different way, making fun of the word.
I can laugh about it now.
But what does the word Amen actually mean?
It’s not a way to end a prayer like saying, “I’m done”. It’s not like ending a phone call with, “Bye-bye”.
What it means is that we are in agreement with the prayer that was just said. It is a declaration of agreement. A firm and authoritative, “So be it! Let this be done!”
Whether you pronounce it “A-men” or “All-men”, it is a way to add your “yes!” to the end of a prayer.
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