Thursday, December 24, 2009

Amen Revisited

The following quote from Mother Teresa came from the World Prayers website I mentioned in my last post on prayer. 

Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,
at his disposition,
and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.

mother teresa - in her own words

Yeah...I like that.  I'm not there yet, of course, because my prayers are often made up of "please help me" and "please do...or do not (depending on the situation)...allow this or that happen." But "thank you" peppers my prayer life as often as "please" so I am getting there.  This quote also reminds me of a tidbit definition I found while looking around the world wide web for commentary on the word "Amen."

From Questions and Answers on the Liturgy of the Church of England

Q. What is the meaning of Amen at the end of this and other prayers?
A. It means, so let it be, or, my heart agrees with my tongue.

Hmmmm....something to think about.  How many times does the heart disagree with the tongue?! And not just in prayer...but in our everyday interactions with others...our family, our friends, our peers? How many times are our words insincere...simply "lip service" meant to appease, convince, placate, manipulate?  And what about the opposite end of the spectrum?  Those who, without hesitation, "speak their minds" with little thought of who might be hurt?  Sometimes in our human interactions "telling it like it is" might not always be the best policy?

But when we pray...especially when we pray....shouldn't our hearts agree with our tongues? It's not as if he is unaware of what dwells within each and every heart. Eloquent, pious, high sounding words offered up in the best "king james english" are not going to fool him one bit. When we pray I think it is best to "call a spade a spade" and bare our hearts to God.  Another snippet from a book called Religious Instruction For Young Children by Elizabeth Mayo touches on that thought...

The meaning of "Amen" is, "So be it," or "So it shall be;" and when we use it, we declare that we believe what has been said to be true.  We give our assent to it.  By this word, we mark, that we have joined in spirit in the prayer or praises offered up by another.  What mockery and impiety to use this solemn word at the end of prayer, when our thoughts and wishes have been wandering after other things. 

And in another snippet from The Companion to the Book of Common Worship by Peter C. Bower

......"Amen," a Hebrew word meaning "So be it!" or "I agree!"  "Amen" does not mean, "I'm finished now, so you can open your eyes."  Rather, "Amen" means "I am with you" or "I concur," and, therefore, belongs by definition, to the assembled congregation.  "Amen" is a word to be spoken or sung by the people, not the leader. 

So perhaps we should not mutter "Amen" during corporate worship if what we've been contemplating is nothing more spiritual than what entree we will order when we hit Denny's for lunch after the service.

More on Amen in my next post....

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