Each summer, my husband works with an organization that brings to Israel young Jewish men and women who are unfamiliar with their faith. For nearly two weeks, these young people connect deeply with the land of Israel, the people of Israel, and their heritage. It is a true journey home as they tour the Holy Land and learn about the Jewish faith at the same time.
I usually join the group for the Sabbath that they spend in Jerusalem. I’m always inspired as our guests share their experiences and I often tear up as they realize for the first time how much their faith means to them. Last year, however, I received much more than some inspiration.
We tried something new in 2016. As we sat down to our Friday night Shabbat meal, the leader of the group announced that we would go around the table and each person would say a prayer to God from their heart in their own words. It could be out loud or whispered privately. The only rule was that when the person was finished praying, everyone present – about forty of us – had to answer “amen.”
Amen is one of those words that Jews and Christians share. It is a Hebrew word that, loosely translated, means that we agree and support the prayer that has been offered. The word is the root of another Hebrew word, “Emunah,” which means faith. And it has been taught that the three Hebrew letters that form “amen” create an acronym for the words “El Melech Ne’eman,” meaning “The Lord is a faithful God and King.” So when we answer “amen” to a person’s prayers, we are affirming our faith that God can make that prayer come to fruition. The Jewish sages attach a huge amount of significance to that one little world and suggest that it is powerful beyond our comprehension.
Now, back to my story. I have written quite a bit about my new home in Israel – the first my husband and I have purchased in this, our historic and biblical homeland – and it all came about as the result of the power of amen.
Just weeks before our Shabbat in Jerusalem, my family faced our fourth move in eight years. I expressed to my husband that buying a home in our city was just not possible, as buying a home in most built-up parts of Israel, including ours, is extremely expensive and challenging. There was no way we would ever be able to fulfill our dream of owning a home in Israel and were destined to wander from rental to rental. I had made peace with that reality.
But then, as we went around the table that Shabbat night listening to each other’s prayers and answering amen I decided to give it a try. When my turn came, I expressed my heartfelt prayers for my husband and children, for peace in the world, some other things I can’t even remember, and also for a home for our family. Everyone answered with a resounding “amen!”
Looking back, it seems that was the moment when the wheels began to turn. One event led to the next, one conversation to another, and before I knew it we were about to purchase a home! What I had declared impossible just weeks earlier was quickly becoming a reality before my very eyes.
Exactly one year later, we have moved into that new home I had written off as a hopeless dream. With God’s help I will plant trees and celebrate life events in my home in Israel. But that’s not the point of my story.
The message of this story is about the power of the word amen and the power we can wield as a group when we come together in prayer. I don’t know for sure if it was those young Americans on a trip to Israel that made all the difference, but it certainly seems that way. At the very least, I know they helped. Which makes me wonder…who knows what else we can accomplish when we declare “amen” together?
Let there be peace in our world….Amen!
Let all the sick be healed….Amen!
Let God bring joy to all those who are suffering…Amen!
And may God’s glory be manifest on earth so that the entire world will declare His praises and join us in saying “amen!”