When life is uncertain – and when is it not? – I often struggle to know how to pray. Prayer, as I understand it, is simply a dialogue between the human and divine. I often pray while I’m walking as my mind tends to be activated by my feet. Thankfully, as far as I know, there is no Scriptural reason to fold your hands and close your eyes or I might walk into something.
On my walks, I often thank God for the beauty around me as I follow the wide Kennebec River on its tidal journey south. I might ask for peace and comfort and protection for those I love or for those I read about in the news. And I ask for wisdom.
Author Anne Lamott famously wrote about the only three prayers you’ll ever need: help, thanks, and wow. I love these. But, the other day at dinner my recently-turned 2-year-old reminded me of one I find even more significant.
“Would you like to pray?” I asked my youngest son, Ezra, as his older siblings exchanged amused looks around the table.
Pleased to be picked, Ezra bowed his tufted blond head and squeezed his eyes tight (some habits are deep-rooted). Only, instead of speaking in hard-to-distinguish baby talk, he began to sing. “A-men, Mama. A-men, Mama,” Ezra chimed over and over.
His prayer-song lasted for at least a minute. At first I was tempted to laugh at this sweet imitation of a goodnight song I sing to him. How cute! But as this song continued, my soul quieted as his benediction of trust and affirmation washed over me.
“Amen,” I realized, may in fact be the only prayer you’ll ever need. “Your will be done,” I have heard it sometimes translated, a full surrender of my will to God’s.
Originally from Hebrew, “The specific word “amen” appears to be derived from a verb, “aman,” which means “he confirmed, supported, or upheld,” according to the nifty online resource Catholic Answers. It is also associated with the word for truth, “emet.”
A poignant example is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (1:20). As God speaks and acts, we come alongside him in prayer to support and affirm what he is doing.
Amen – I accept that you are God.
Amen — I admit my need for you.
Amen – I affirm your sovereignty over my life.
While asking for help and saying “thanks” and “wow” are wonderful, what I need most is to be still and acknowledge God’s dominion over all of life’s uncertainties. As I seek wisdom, I need to acknowledge that his promises are true. No matter what my personal concerns or experiences or anxieties, a simple “yes” in agreement with God is the purest prayer possible.
Amen Mama, indeed.