The Prayer of Manasseh

I have done some studying lately of the “Apocryphal” Scriptures and I must admit, a lot of them are better than some of the writings that are in the “official” canon.  Once such work is the Prayer of Manasseh.  This is an unbelieveably beautiful prayer that (like almost every other book of the Bible) has unknown authorship.  It predates the birth of Jesus by over 100 years.   According to the Books of Kings and Chronicles (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9), Manasseh was one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah .  According to Chronicles, Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians. (2 Chronicles 33:11-13) While he was a prisoner, Manasseh prayed for mercy, forgiveness and deliverance.   A reference to the prayer is made in 2 Chronicles 33:19, which says that the prayer is written in the “chronicles of the seers.”  While the prayer itself is lost to antiquity, this prayer is a result of what a Jewish sage likely felt was prayed.

The prayer was placed at the end of 2 Chronicles in the late 4th-century Vulgate (Pope Clement VIII wanted the prayer in an appendix to the Vulgate “lest it perish entirely.”)  It also appeared in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible in 1611.  My guess as to why the Jewish Canon excluded it was that it was a prayer of perpetual repentance which kind of nixes the Yom Kippur celebration (and the tithes and sacrifices that came with it).   

While the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches include it somewhere in their Bibles (whether within the context or as an appendix) and it does appear in the liturgy of some of the Eastern churches, the Protestant Churches reject it entirely.  My guess is that because it expresses repentance and forgiveness without a mediator  (this is true of Psalm 51 as well) that it somehow threatens the necessity of atonement by the Messiah.

The above being said – I love this prayer and I pray it every day now. 

Perhaps you may do the same.

The Prayer of Manasseh (RSV)

O Lord Almighty,
God of our fathers,
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous posterity;
thou hast made heaven and earth with all their order;
who hast shackled the sea by thy word of command,
who hast confined the deep
and sealed it with thy terrible and glorious name;
at whom all things shudder,
and tremble before thy power,
for thy glorious splendor cannot be borne,
and the wrath of thy threat to sinners is irresistible;
yet immeasurable and unsearchable is thy promised mercy,
for thou art the Lord Most High,
of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful,
and repentest over the evils of men.
Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness
hast promised repentance and forgiveness
to those who have sinned against thee;
and in the multitude of thy mercies
thou hast appointed repentance for sinners,
that they may be saved.
Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous,
hast not appointed repentance for the righteous,
for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
who did not sin against thee,
but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea;
my transgressions are multiplied,
O Lord, they are multiplied!
I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven
because of the multitude of my iniquities.
I am weighted down with many an iron fetter,
so that I am rejected because of my sins,
and I have no relief;
for I have provoked thy wrath
and have done what is evil in thy sight,
setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
And now I bend the knee of my heart,
beseeching thee for thy kindness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my transgressions.
I earnestly beseech thee,
forgive me,
O Lord, forgive me!
Do not destroy me with my transgressions!
Do not be angry with me for ever
or lay up evil for me;
do not condemn me to the depths of the earth.
For thou, O Lord, art the God of those who repent,
and in me thou wilt manifest thy goodness;
for, unworthy as I am,
thou wilt save me in thy great mercy,
and I will praise thee continually all the days of my life.
For all the host of heaven sings thy praise,
and thine is the glory forever.
Amen.

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