If you have ever been in the setting where you are praying the Lord’s Prayer with Roman Catholics, you have probably experienced a difference in practice. While Roman Catholics simply end the Lord’s prayer by saying, “Amen,” the practice we have inherited adds the doxology, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever,” before adding “Amen.”
It is interesting to note that neither way of praying comes from the New Testament. The text of the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke does not include either the doxology or the Amen. Both are in fact are part of the way the Lord’s Prayer has been used in the life of the Church.
The Jewish practice of prayer ended with a doxology. A doxology is a statement that praises God. When Jewish Christians began praying the prayer that Jesus had taught, they continued this tradition by adding a doxology to it. The earliest text of the Lord’s Prayer that we have outside the New Testament comes from a work called the Didache, which means “Teaching.” It is a Jewish Christan work that probably came from Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D. Here the Lord’s Prayer ends with the doxology, “For power and glory are yours forever.” You will notice how close this is to the form we use.
The medieval practice in western Christianity did not include the doxology in catechesis. However, it did follow the practice of adding “Amen.” You will find that this word is not found in the biblical text either. It too was part of the Jewish practice that was taken over by Christianity.
The word “Amen” is directly based on the Hebrew word “Ameyn.” It describes that which is certain or sure. There is no prayer for which “Amen” is more appropriate because this is the prayer that Jesus himself has taught us. These words are certain and sure because they come from the Son of God.
Luther emphasizes this in the Small Catechism when he writes: “This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by him; for he himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.” We know for certain that these petitions please God. We know that he hears them because God gave them to us through his Son. And we also know that God has promised to hear them.
The word “Amen” expresses the confidence of faith. This is necessary because James says about prayer, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Prayer needs to be the voice of faith which turns to God in confident expectation.
Our confidence in prayer finds its ultimate source in the One whose passion we prepare during Lent to remember. Jesus did not simply teach us these words. He is the One who has made it possible for us to be speak them in the first place.
On our own we have no right to speak to God in these or any other words. We are people who are curved inward on ourselves. By nature, we are sinners who do not trust God and do not believe in God.
Yet because this is true God sent his Son into the world. As Paul tells us, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” All who are under the law are under a curse, because they are unable to do the law perfectly in thought, word, and deed.
As we celebrated at Christmas, God sent his Son into the world as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He took on our humanity so that he could take our place. Jesus received the curse that we deserved. In doing so he redeemed us – he freed us from the slavery of the law’s curse.
Our sin brought the curse of the law. It also brought death. The words of Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent reminded us of this fact: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God had told Adam that disobedience of the one command he had given would bring death. Then after the Fall, God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Sin brought death. But Jesus passed through the death of the cross in order to defeat death. We prepare to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. God raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated him as the Christ. He began the resurrection that will be ours, since Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. And then he exalted Christ as he ascended and was seated at God’s right hand.
The risen Lord who will return in glory has given us this prayer. He is also the reason that we can pray all of these petitions. Jesus is the reason that we can address God as “Our Father.” By his death and resurrection he has given us the status of being the children of God.
It is through the Spirit whom Christ sent that God’s name is hallowed as we believe his Word and lead godly lives according to it. God’s kingdom comes as the Spirit causes us to receive through faith what Jesus won. God’s will is done as he causes both of these things to happen on account of Christ in opposition to the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.
It is only as those who know the Father through Christ that we can recognize God as the giver of the daily bread we receive so bountifully. The forgiveness for which we pray has been won by Jesus for us, and therefore we know it is certain and sure. We also know that it is the forgiveness we share with others.
We trust that God will protect us from temptation because he is the God who acted in his own Son to save us. And we know that he will protect us from the evil one and all the evil he wishes to bring because in Jesus God has overcome sin, death, and the devil.
Our Lord Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer. He, the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ is the reason that we know that these petitions are pleasing to the Father. When get to end of the Lord’s Prayer we say “Amen” because these words are certain and sure. God has commanded them, and God has promised to hear them. And so, “Amen, amen means, ‘yes, yes, it shall be so.’”