And All God’s People said: “Amen.”
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20ESV
This morning we complete our study of the Westminster Larger Catechism, as we look for the fourth and final time at Question 196, which asks, “What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” The last part of the answer states: “The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen,) teaches us… with our prayers to join praises, ascribing to God alone eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency; in regard whereof, as he is able and willing to help us, so we by faith are emboldened to plead with him that he would, and quietly to rely upon him, that he will fulfill our requests. And, to testify this our desire and assurance, we say, Amen.
Prayer is a great and inestimable privilege for the believer. In prayer we come before the holy Creator of the Universe with the assurance that because of Christ He loves us, accepts us, hears us, and will do all that we ask that is in accord with His good will. But as we saw last time we must bring our requests to God believing that He is able and willing to help us. Jesus repeatedly taught the importance of believing in prayer:
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” (Matt. 21:22). “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you, (John 15:7); “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” (John 14:13-14); “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” (Mark 11:24); “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened,” (Luke 11:9-10).
As I said last time, we know how these verses have been abused, and we rightly want to avoid that, yet who can deny that they do indeed clearly teach the importance of having a confident, even an expectant faith when we come to God in prayer. Prayer must be according to God’s will, it must be in the name of Christ – meaning we are trusting in His mediation as we pray – it must come humbly and sincerely, but it also must include the kind of faith that believes God will grant it! Let us again consider John Calvin’s bold view of prayer. Commenting on Heb. 4:16 & Eph. 3:12 about coming boldly to the throne of grace in prayer, Calvin asserts:
“This confidence of obtaining what we ask, a confidence which the Lord commands, and all the saints teach by their example, we must therefore hold fast with both hands, if we would pray to any advantage. The only prayer acceptable to God is that which springs (if I may so express it) from this presumption of faith, and is founded on the full assurance of hope.”
Calvin concluded that this trait more than anything else is what distinguishes the prayer of believers from unbelievers. Christ seemed to have affirmed Calvin’s conclusion when he taught the importance of persistence in prayer through the parable of the unjust judge and the importunate widow. For after commending the widow’s successful persistence with the unjust judge, and illustrating from it our heavenly Father’s much greater readiness to grant the cries for justice from His elect, our Lord cryptically asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8b). That is, will He find people crying out to Him and believing that He will hear them and answer them? Today’s Catechism teaches us to actively stir up this kind of faith in our prayers by saying, “Amen.” The word amen means “it is true.” When we say “Amen” at the end of our prayers, it is not like saying “Goodbye” before we hang up the phone! Amen means it is true. When we say amen we are adding our own affirmation of our sincere desire and our real assurance that God will grant our requests. That is what the word means, the question however is, “Is that what we mean when we say it?” Do we pray with the real assurance of faith that God will grant our requests? May God grant that we would so wrestle with our doubts and hold onto His promises that we would, with full assurance of faith, say and mean “Amen!” when we pray.