Question and Answer

Should the Congregation Sing the "Amen"?

Question:

1. Should the congregation sing or not sing the AMEN after a hymn or psalm?

2. Is there a general practice in the OPC one way or the other, and if so, what is it?

Answer:

Thank you for your questions.

The OPC does not have a rule on this. The Directory for the Public Worship of God does not prescribe a particular practice. In the entire Directory for Worship, "Amen" appears only twice: once in Chapter IV (where it appears as the end of a benediction spoken by the minister) and once in chapter V (where it appears at the conclusion of words spoken by the minister to a person making public profession of faith). The question of whether the congregation should sing "Amen" at the end of hymns is not addressed.

Scripture does not seem to embody a consistent pattern for a congregational "Amen." For instance, you find it in 1 Chronicles 16:36, and Psalm 106:48:

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said, 'Amen' and 'Praise the LORD.'" (1 Chronicles 16:36, New International Version).

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, 'Amen!' 'Praise the LORD.'" (Ps. 106:48, NIV).

Yet at the same time, the Psalms, rightly used in congregational singing and responsive readings, do not always contain an “Amen” at the end of them. Some do have an "Amen" at the end:

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, 'Amen!' Praise the LORD." (Psalm 106:48, NIV).

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen." (Ps. 41:13, NIV)

"Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen." (Psalm 72:19, NIV)

"Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen." (Psalm 89:52, NIV)

But others do not.

Similarly, some of the Psalms and hymns of the Trinity Hymnal were originally written with the "Amen" and others without.

My expectation would be that the pastor’s sense of what is better for the congregation may play a role here, and it may be worth asking about. If the pastor has instructed the pianist to play the "Amen," then we should sing it. But if he excludes it, he is not committing any foul.

You would find that church practice on this may vary from church to church within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and there may even be some diversity within a particular church upon occasion.

One final thought: "Amen" is an affirmation, affirming that we believe that what God said is perfect, absolutely true, and faithful, and affirming the certainty that our prayers and petitions, when asked in accordance to God's will, will be done. This is brought out in the final question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ("... in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say 'Amen'") and the final question of the Heidelberg Catechism ("'Amen' signifies, it shall truly and certainly be: for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God, than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of him").

That is, when we sing we are to sing with sincerity of heart and with a conviction that what God says in His Word is true. See 1 Corinthians 14:15, NIV: "So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind."

What is ultimately important is not whether the congregation sings or says "Amen" aloud, but whether in our hearts we testify that we affirm the truth of what is sung or said. In the New Testament, when Jesus prefaced His comments with "Verily, verily" (King James Version) or "Truly, truly" (most modern English versions), in a similar way He was attesting to the truth of what He said. (The original Greek for "Verily, verily" or "Truly, truly" is "Amen, amen," which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word.)

Let us also with sincerity of heart affirm the truth of what we sing to the glory of God, whether or not we sing or say the word "Amen" aloud at the end. And let us rejoice that God's promises are faithful and true (see Rev. 3:14b, NIV: "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness ...").

I hope this helps.


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