The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

In Jesus’ Name, Amen: How does God feel about the traditional Christian sign-off?

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Growing closer to God involves a lot of critical thinking—a lot of stopping to ask, “Why am I doing this? What do I believe this will accomplish?” As a Christian, you have certain habits and routines that you don’t think twice about it. You picked up a lot of them in the religious culture of your church, and since you got them from church, you figure they’re good things. This is an erroneous assumption. Many of the habits and traditions you see Christians doing today are driven by some very wrong beliefs about God. When wrong beliefs go unchallenged and uncorrected, they become barriers to growth. It’s not your job to fix other people, but you can certainly put your own self under some healthy scrutiny and ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify wrong beliefs that need to be changed.

How you pray reveals volumes about what you believe about God. The language you use, when you pray, how you pray, what you do and don’t pray about, and how you end your prayers—examining these things under the Holy Spirit’s guidance can be very educational. In this post, we’re going to talk about the Christian tradition of ending prayers with, “In Jesus’ Name, amen.” This is the traditional Christian closeout when talking to God. But why do we use these particular words? If this is how you close your own prayers to God, then it’s time to do some critical thinking.

THE AMEN

Let’s start with the amen. We get this phrase from the Bible. It can be translated to mean an affirming “so be it.” Our first amen shows up back in Israel’s wilderness period, when Yahweh outlined a grisly procedure that a woman suspected of adultery would have to go through. It came down to her having to drink a cup of poison which was prepared by a Levite priest. If she was being falsely accused by her jealous husband, Yahweh promised to perform a miracle and cause the poison not to harm her. But if she was guilty, she’d end up suffering intensely. Before taking the first sip, the woman listened to the priest explain what would happen to her if she was innocent vs. guilty. Then she had to publicly agree with the whole thing by saying amen.

“‘And the woman must reply, ‘Amen, Amen.’” (Num. 5:22)

Later on in Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his farewell lecture to the Israelites before he dies and they go on to enter the Promised Land. It isn’t a very happy speech because the Jews have been rebellious little twerps for the last forty years. Moses reviews all of their rotten behavior and emphasizes how generous and gracious Yahweh has been towards them the whole time. Then Moses looks ahead at Israel’s future, which is more bad news. The people are going to continue to go astray. What can a dying leader do with this impossible group? Depressed by the whole scenario, Moses orders them to publicly review all of Yahweh’s commands as soon as they cross into the Promised Land. He’s hoping that a public ceremony in which all the people stand around saying amen to everything Yahweh wants might motivate the little punks to spiritually reform. It won’t, of course, but it’s all Moses can do at this point.

Moses also charged the people on that day, saying, “When you cross the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. For the curse, these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. The Levites shall then say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice,

‘Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to Yahweh, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’

‘Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deut. 27:11-16)

After many more curses, the list ends with:

‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deut. 27:26)

Now to appreciate what’s going on here, we need to realize that back in Bible times, verbal curses were believed to be very potent things. People thought their words really had the power to bring down blessings and curses. To bless or curse someone out loud was like casting a spell on them. This is why the verbal blessing of a dying father was such a huge deal to his son. This is why Abraham paid the king-priest Melchizedek a whole bunch of money after Melchizedek verbally blessed him (see Applying Hebrews 7: Melchizedek Madness). It was all just a bunch of silly superstition, but people really believed in it, just as Christians today think they can make God do something by quoting Bible verses at Him. Well, no, human beings need to get over themselves and stop thinking their verbal utterances are moving heaven and earth. But today you’ll find a lot of teaching in the Church which encourages you to cast spells on God through your prayers. We don’t use the word “spell” of course, because that’s satanic. We just say that if you pray a certain way using certain words, God will be forced to do what you want. It’s not a spell, it’s just…well, okay, it’s a spell.

Have you ever thought that Yahweh was being a little extreme to order the execution of a kid who lips off to his parents?

He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. (Ex. 21:17)

The reason for this extreme command is that Yahweh knew what curses meant to these people. If you sincerely believe that your words have the power to kill and then you curse your parents, you’re trying to seriously harm them. It doesn’t matter that you’re delusional about the power of your words—God judges you by your intentions.

If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother; his blood is on his own hands. (Lev. 20:9)

Yahweh isn’t being extreme, He’s actually being refreshingly just. Parents in this culture would be very upset by their children trying to call curses down on them. Exterminating the little twerps was Yahweh’s way of purging the group of those with murderous intentions. After all, if you’re not afraid to murder your own parents, you’re a threat to the entire community.

When we understand how superstitious the Jews were about the power of words, we see that this amen business was more than just a quick sign off. It was a way of publicly agreeing with blessings and curses which were believed to be very powerful.

As we continue through Scripture, we find more incidents of people saying amen to emphasize their agreement with things and to underscore the importance of their own words.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. (Ps. 41:13)

And blessed be His glorious Name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. (Ps. 72:19)

Blessed be Yahweh forever! Amen and Amen. (Ps. 89:52)

What’s with the double amens? Well, Hebrew is a language which uses repetition to emphasize a point. Where English speakers would raise their voices and shout, Hebrew speakers just say it again. The Jews were a very dramatic, theatrical people. They were always weeping, wailing, shouting, and tearing their clothes in public. With so much drama already happening, they needed something more than extra volume to make a point. So they repeated themselves—a lot. And when Yahweh and Jesus are talking to Hebrew speakers in the Bible, we find Them repeating a lot as well.

Now let’s jump ahead to the New Testament. Here we find our Jewish writers using the term amen mostly in a “so be it” sense.

…to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)

To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 5:11)

Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philip. 4:20)

We also learn that the early Christians liked to amen each other’s prayers and praises in public. In speaking of the gift of tongues, Paul points out that praising God in a foreign language doesn’t do much for those around you. If no one understands what you’re saying, how can they publicly agree with you?

If you praise with the spirit, how will the uninformed person say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? (1 Cor. 14:16)

In speaking of how Christ is the fulfillment of many of Yahweh’s promises, Paul says:

For as many as are the promises of Yahweh, in Christ they are yes; therefore also through Christ is our Amen to the glory of Yahweh through us. (2 Cor. 1:20)

Here Paul turns “Amen” into a title for Christ. Clearly many Jews grew accustomed to this title for Christ because we find Jesus later using it when describing a very Jewish series of visions in Revelation.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of the creation of God, says this…” (Rev. 3:14)

Now whenever you’re reading a series of visions from God in which He depicts Heaven as a glorious Jerusalem, you know He’s talking to Jews. Revelation is filled with imagery that is only thrilling to a Jew who was raised under the Old Covenant. For starters, God’s heavenly throne room is a replica of the Holy Place in the Tabernacle—complete with a golden menorah and an incense altar. If you’ve been taught that the Heaven described in Revelation is how Heaven will actually be, you’ve been taught wrong. The imagery Jesus puts out in Revelation and the language He uses are designed to thrill Old Covenant Jews who converted to Christianity. This was who the apostle John was, and John was the fellow Jesus gave the vision to. The reference to Hades being thrown into a lake of fire is a reference to the erroneous Jewish belief that the land of the dead was located in the middle of planet earth (and you could get there by going through gates that were located on the ocean floor). There wasn’t really a Hades—the Jews just made it up. But when God talks to us, He uses our cultural superstitions to His advantage.

Now by the time we get to Revelation, we’ve learned that the Jews really like to amen things. Given the fact that Jesus is talking to a Jew when giving the visions of Revelation, it’s hardly a surprise to find a lot of amens happening in Heaven.

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,

“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” (Rev. 5:13-15)

Notice how the four living creatures keep repeating their amen.  How very Jewish.

…and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped Yahweh, saying,

“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 7:10-12)

Are there really a bunch of angels and old people in Heaven saying amen every two seconds? Of course not. There won’t be aging in Heaven because we won’t have physical bodies. People aren’t going to be speaking Hebrew, English, Greek, or any other language of earth because souls don’t communicate in verbal languages. But Jesus is speaking to a Jew, and Jews viewed their elders with respect. Jews also liked to say “so be it” to each other’s praises, so that’s what we find the people and angels in Heaven doing. Everyone’s acting like Jews because God is talking to a Jew. If He’d been talking to a Chinese man, the angels and people would have been speaking Chinese and using modern Chinese expressions. The point is that there’s nothing holy about using the term “amen.” It’s just a phrase we picked up from the ancient Jews.

YOUR USE OF AMEN

So now that we understand where we got our amen from, why do you say it today? When praying in groups, ending a prayer with amen is often our way of cuing others that we’re done talking. When we mutter amen as other people are praying, what we really mean is, “Yes, I agree.” Is this a good thing? Should you be constantly agreeing with the prayers of others? It depends what they’re praying for.

If you’re amening everyone just to sound supportive, you’re probably affirming a lot of requests that God doesn’t like. Far too often our prayers are attempts to direct and instruct God when we should be focused on submission and alignment. When someone prays “God, please heal my friend,” and then you say “Amen,” what you’re really saying is “Yeah, God, get on it.” Does God like this? No, He doesn’t. You are not God’s boss, and you are out of line to tell Him what to do, or to amen someone else telling Him what to do. Now because prayer is so badly taught in the Church, many Christians don’t hear how mouthy they’re being when they pray in the traditional way. Here is where you want to ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can improve the way that you pray (see Lifting Each Other Up in Prayer).

When praying alone, many Christians use the term amen to let God know they’re done talking to Him for the moment. It’s rather like pressing “end call” on your cell phone—we hang up in God’s face and mentally disconnect from the fact that He’s standing right there with us. We then go on with our lives virtually ignoring Him until some new problem arises, at which point we dial Him up again with, “Dear Lord…” Does God like this style of praying? No, He does not. Suppose you were having lunch with a friend. During a lull in the conversation, she just up and leaves without any explanation. Would you find this enjoyable? Not hardly.

If you’re in a habit of verbally hanging up on God, now is a good time to start breaking that habit. Stop saying goodbye to God, because He hasn’t gone anywhere. God knows when you’ve finished a thought, so there’s no need to cue Him with your amen. God wants your prayer life to be a continuous conversation. Sure there will be pauses—sometimes long ones. But so what? You and God are still together. You don’t have to be always saying something to Him in order to appreciate His Company.

If you went on a four hour hike with a friend, there would be a lot of silence after the initial exchanging of news. But you’d still be very aware of him, and there would silent communing happening between the two of you. This is where we want to get with God: going through life consciously aware of the fact that He is always with us. None of us are going through our days alone—God is intimately involved in everything that we do. It takes time to become aware of this, so don’t be discouraged if you keep feeling like hours are passing in which you don’t think about God at all. The Holy Spirit will keep moving you in the right direction if you’re serious about pleasing Him. Meanwhile, the verbal hang ups and formal sign offs when you’re praying alone need to go. There’s no point in saying goodbye to a God who never leaves.

IN JESUS’ NAME

Now let’s talk about this habit we have of ending every prayer with “in Jesus’ Name.” We obviously picked this up from the New Testament since no one had heard of Jesus in the Old Testament. And as is often the case when we start invoking God’s Name, our use of Jesus’ Name is driven by some very wrong theological assumptions.

For centuries, Yahweh told the Jews that He was the only God in existence. He lied. There are actually three Gods: Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Now Yahweh knew He was lying and He had good reasons for doing so. But His Jewish followers never dreamt that there could be another Being as magnificent as Yahweh in existence. Then along came Jesus. Talk about a theological crisis. Yahweh had drilled it into the minds of His followers that to worship anyone other than Him was an outrageous offense. But now this Jesus Fellow was claiming to be Yahweh’s equal and saying that everyone ought to worship Him as well (see Know Your Bible Lesson 58: The Second I AM). Well, sorry, but no way! Serious Yahweh followers couldn’t afford to get mixed up in worshiping a false god or they could end up on the wrong side of eternity.

How comfortable would you be if some nobody stood up in your church one Sunday and announced that he was a fourth God who was equal to Jesus in every way? And suppose this man then announced that unless you started worshiping him as enthusiastically as you worship Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, you would lose your salvation and be thrown into Hell? This was the extremely upsetting situation that the New Testament Jews found themselves in. A serious Yahweh follower couldn’t just buy into the idea that Jesus was God right off. He needed a whole lot of convincing that Yahweh approved of Jesus’ outrageous claims.

So how could Yahweh and Jesus go about convincing souls that it was correct to worship Jesus as a new God? Yahweh calling down His approval of Jesus from Heaven would certainly help, so He did that several times. Miracles would also help—miracles which were perceived as being done by the power of Yahweh through Jesus. Casting out demons was a classic example. But just to drill home the point that He was a Divine power in His own right, Jesus instructed His disciples to cast out the demons in His Name, not in Yahweh’s. What a shock it was when that new system worked. People were being cured of demons and many other ailments in the power of Jesus’ Name. The more Jesus demonstrated His control over Divine power, the closer the Jews got to accepting that Jesus was God. This is why Jesus started this tradition of His boys doing miracles in His Name: to convince them of His Divinity, as well as to draw public attention to Himself. After all, if Peter casts a demon out of you in the Name of Jesus, as soon as you recover, you’re going to ask, “Who is Jesus?”

Now towards the end of His ministry, Jesus dropped another bomb on His disciples. There was a third God as well: the Holy Spirit.  And to advertise the existence of all three of our Gods, Jesus then instructed His disciples to baptize new converts in the Name of Yahweh and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus wants all three of our Gods to be exalted and glorified.

When we don’t understand what a theological crisis Jesus started, and when we don’t understand that He claimed to be a second God, not just another version of Yahweh, then we misunderstand why He told His boys to use His Name so much. Instead, we slip into a spell casting mentality and we start thinking that the actual words “in Jesus’ Name” have power. Of course they don’t. For starters Jesus wasn’t even the Name that Jesus used on earth. His parents called Him Yeshua, and Yeshua was a very common Hebrew name. Just as there are many Johns in the English speaking world today, there were a lot of little Yeshuas running around in Jesus’ day, so it’s ridiculous for us to pretend that God’s human Name is some kind of rare, magical word. Of course today English speakers don’t say Yeshua, they say Jesus. Among Catholic Spanish speakers, Jesus (HAY-soos) is an extremely popular name to give your son, so today we’ve got a ton of Jesuses running around just as there were a bunch of Yeshuas running around in New Testament times.   All of this demonstrates that a word is just a word, and no matter how emphatically you say a word, it has no power to heal someone.

Jesus is God, not just a name, and as God, Jesus does not take orders from His own creatures. If you use the term “in Jesus’ Name” today as a means of trying to grab God’s attention and make Him do something, you are acting foolish and irreverent. God is not controlled by noises we make, and since He’s already paying attention to you all the time, there’s no need for you to try and make Him notice you by using special words.

Now many Christians really struggle to grasp that God is actually listening to them and paying attention to them at all times, so they think they need to tag “in Jesus’ Name” on the ends of their prayers to ensure those prayers will make it through Heaven’s spam filters. But no, this is not necessary at all. Not only does God listen to everything you say, He also knows what you’re going to say before you say it. Prayer is not about trying to get God to notice us, it’s about communing with a God who is already giving us His full attention.

So now we’ve talked about two wrong reasons to say “in Jesus’ Name”: trying to control the flow of God’s power and trying to make Him notice you. On the internet today you’ll see Christians using the acronym IJN, which means In Jesus’ Name. You’ll notice the old IJN gets tagged on the end of a lot of requests for miraculous healing. Now in group settings, some Christians say “in Jesus’ Name” as a way of saying “I’m done with my prayer”—it’s like an alternate “amen.” But when we’re typing to each other on the internet, it’s quite obvious when we’ve finished a thought, so why do we add IJN? Because we believe that some mystical power can be unleashed if we fling our Savior’s human title about, even in a truncated form. Once again, we’re trying to manipulate Him. Does Jesus like this? Of course He doesn’t.

You have three Creators—Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Jews who wrote our New Testament documents were uncomfortable with the idea of multiple Gods.  Some of them flat out rejected the idea that anyone could be equal to the magnificent Yahweh.  The apostle Paul, for example, taught that Jesus was merely a human who is temporarily reigning with Yahweh and acting as a special Mediator between humans and God (see The Great Offense of Paul: Rejecting the Divinity of Christ). The author of Hebrews also presents Jesus in a demeaning light, suggesting that He is a mere created being.  Both of these men encourage believers to keep praying to Yahweh–the only real God–but to send those prayers through Jesus, who functions like some kind of middleman. Well, no, this is absolute rubbish.

Once you are accepted by your Gods, you have direct communication with all three of Them, and there is no need for the Holy Spirit or Jesus to translate your prayers. So if you are ending your prayers with “in Jesus’ Name” because you’ve been taught that you have to pray through Jesus specifically in order to be heard, then it’s time to do some unlearning (see Intercession: Exposing the Lies). Once we buy into the ridiculous notion that everything written in the Bible is infallible truth, we park our brains on a shelf and just believe what we read. As a result, we end up with all kinds of wrong beliefs about who our Gods are and how They interact with us. Today some Christians think the Holy Spirit has to fix their prayers to be more in alignment with God’s will before sending them on to Heaven. Other Christians view Yahweh as some distant, foreboding Figure who sweet Jesus shields us from. All of this is utter rot which will only get in your way as you try to move closer to your Gods. All three of your Creators love you, and all three of Them are involved in your life.

When it comes to casting out demons and healing people, Jesus is hardly alone in His powers. Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are just as capable of performing miracles as Jesus is, so it’s really inappropriate to call on Jesus specifically in such moments as if He is some kind of higher God. Our three Creators are equal in power and we should be revering Them all the same. To elevate One over the Others is inappropriate. To only ever pray to One while ignoring the Others is only going to keep reinforcing wrong beliefs in your mind. Since They can tell when you finish a thought, and since all three of Them are hearing every prayer you pray, why would you close a prayer with “In Jesus’ Name”? What exactly is that phrase supposed to accomplish? You don’t need to use any special name to pray to your Creators. Your prayers aren’t like letters that need to have a stamp put on them before they can be mailed. This tradition we have is utterly useless.

Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three glorious Beings who work in perfect unity with Each Other. They are all involved in our lives and that They are all listening when we pray. Our Gods are all-knowing. You can’t possibly say something to Jesus that Yahweh and the Holy Spirit don’t hear. So if you really want to move forward in your prayer life, start talking to all three of your Gods instead of praying only to the Father in the Name of Jesus. You have three Creators and the sooner you see yourself acknowledging this truth in your prayers, the closer you will feel to Them.

FURTHER READING:
The Power of a Righteous Man’s Prayer
Asking & Aligning: The Two Stages of Prayer
Christian Prayer Groups: Why God Isn’t a Fan

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