Prayer: The God of the Amen
In Luke’s Gospel (18:1-8), he shares with us Christ’s parable of the importunate widow. In this parable, a widow cries out for justice from an unjust judge. Although the judge does not fear God or care about people, he grants her request so that she will stop bothering him. Jesus says that if an unjust judge will act in this way, how will our Father act when his people cry out for justice? He will act quickly. The Scriptures tell us what Jesus wishes to communicate, “that [we] should always pray and never give up.” Jesus says to the oppressed, those who need justice and who cry out to him, that he hears. He tells us that he is trustworthy. He is faithful and true. When we pray properly, we pray in belief—with the persistence and patience of faith. “But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8, NLT).
Now, we are sometimes confused at how Christ speaks about faith in the Scriptures. His ye-of-little-faiths are scattered throughout Scripture and usually come after someone’s failure to perform something wonderful. We are confronted also with Christ making statements about faith such as the following: “And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6, NLT). (Of course, God is able to do whatever he wishes regardless of our belief. But if we don’t believe, we’ll miss the significance of the sign.) Or in another exchange: “‘The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.’ ‘What do you mean, “If I can”?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes.’” (Mark 9:21-23, NLT). Understand that Jesus isn’t saying, “Man! Anything is possible for you if you just believe!” He’s saying, “O Man, nothing is impossible for me. Do you believe?”
Is God trustworthy? Is he faithful to his promises? Do you know the God of the Amen? We must pray with the patience of faith. We must not lose heart or hope, or begin to falter in our trust of God. He is near. He hears. Trust him. Faith is not something magical, such that whatever we believe will happen if we really truly believe it. God is not our genie. Our faith does not make him act, but it does allow us to recognize his activity and magnify him when he has chosen to act. (See Mary’s response to the archangel and her Magnificat in Luke 1.)
We live, move, and have our being in the God of the Amen. “Amen” has the same root in Hebrew as “believe.” When we say “amen,” we are affirming what we have heard. As Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, says, “Your [amen] is a personal signature, affirming your faith” (Sermon 272). So “amen” may be understood both as our faith and God’s faithfulness. He is literally the God of the Amen, or “the God of truth,” as the NLT and others put it (Isaiah 65:16, NLT). He is trustworthy.
Recently, my family has been praying every night for one of my daughters who, after having had tubes in her ears removed, has liquid still in one ear and might need to have another tube put in and have her adenoids removed if the current medication she is on proves to be ineffectual. We are praying for healing. We believe God is able to heal her. Yet when she goes to the ENT, we will more clearly understand God’s will for her in this matter. What will we do if God has chosen not to heal? We show her his love in our love for her, by standing with her through her ordeal. We hug her tightly. We hold her hand. We watch with her for the beauty that God desires to bring about in her life. Even so, we say, God is still the God of the Amen.
I am reminded of Daniel’s friends when they are commanded to worship the gold statue of Nebuchadnezzar. They profess the beauty of their faith: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. . . . But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18, NLT). Whether he rescues us or not, we will be faithful to the God of the Amen. God is faithful. His name is wonderful. He loves us. “But when the Son of Man returns,” says Jesus, “how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Kyrie eleison. Always pray. Don’t give up.