I must admit that I do enjoy reading the apocryphal books (those included in the canon of the Catholic and Orthodox churches and even those excluded), but one of my personal favorites is the “Prayer of Manasseh” (another is the “Song of the Three Children” which offers a wonderful take on what happened to the three Hebrews thrown into the fiery furnace). I was reading it as part of my preparation for Bible study tomorrow night and was once again moved by the depths of the prayer (No, we aren’t studying the Apocrypha, but I thought I’d include the prayer because we are covering the life of Manasseh). While I have never had an issue with believing books such as this one belong to the canon (they certainly don’t), I still enjoy reading them for a rather moving account of someone’s perspective on ‘the rest of the story’ (to steal a phrase from Paul Harvey). I’m actually appreciative of whoever it was who composed this prayer to fill in 2 Chronicles 33:12-13.
O Lord Almighty,God of our ancestors, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous offspring; you who made heaven and earth with all their order; who shackled the sea by your word of command, who confined the deep and sealed it with your terrible and glorious name; at whom all things shudder, and tremble before your power, for your glorious splendour cannot be borne, and the wrath of your threat to sinners is unendurable; yet immeasurable and unsearchable is your promised mercy, for you are the Lord Most High, of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful, and you relent at human suffering. O Lord, according to your great goodness you have promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against you, and in the multitude of your mercies you have appointed repentance for sinners, so that they may be saved. Therefore you, O Lord, God of the righteous, have not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against you, but you have 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 not worthy 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 your wrath and have done what is evil in your sight, setting up abominations and multiplying offences.
And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge my transgressions. I earnestly implore you forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my transgressions! Do not be angry with me for ever or store up evil for me; do not condemn me to the depths of the earth. For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, and in me you will manifest your goodness; for, unworthy as I am, you will save me according to your great mercy, and I will praise you continually all the days of my life. For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and yours is the glory for ever. Amen.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.