Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Prayer of Manasseh

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
His prayer, and how God received his entreaty, all his sin and his faithlessness, the sites on which he built high places and set up the sacred poles£ and the images, before he humbled himself, these are written in the records of the seers.   2 Chronicles 33:19 (NRSV)
As the 13th king of Judah, Manasseh was one of Israel’s most wicked kings ever.  He was captured by the Assyrians in the seventh century BC and, while sitting in prison, prayed for God to forgive him. 
That he repented and prayed is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33, but the prayer itself is only recorded in the Apocryphal books (the records of the seers).
It is a good prayer; I have borrowed it for my own:
In your great goodness, Lord, you have promised forgiveness to sinners, that they may repent of their sin and be saved.  And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart, and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my wickedness only too well.  Therefore I make this prayer to you:  Forgive me, Lord, forgive me.
Do not let me perish in my sin, nor condemn me to the depths of the earth.  For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, and in me you will show forth your goodness.
Unworthy as I am, you will save me, in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing your praises, and yours is the glory to ages of ages.  Amen.[1]
Martin Luther included Manasseh’s prayer in his Latin translation of the Bible in 1599.  I’m not surprised.  Before Luther made his break with the Catholic Church he was a priest who went to confession every day; sometimes more than once.  The story is that he was overwhelmed by a sense of guilt for past sins that he was not quite able to see as “forgiven”.  At one point the priest hearing Luther’s confession for the “umpteenth time” responded, “Martin, go home; go home and get a new sin to confess.”

Today…for you

Do you let God forgive you?

Are you holding on to what you’ve confessed (perhaps many times)?

Apocryphal prayers, Biblical prayers, the prayer your pastor gave you, or led you through….and the prayer you simply let bleed out of your heart….all good! 

But, did you believe God when you were done…as much as you trusted Him when you began?  Or is the self-imposed guilt still freezing you in that place of the unforgiven?  

Are you paralyzed from participating in the last phrases of Manasseh’s prayer?

Unworthy as I am, you will save me, in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.

That’s the part of Manasseh’s prayer I am borrowing today.  It goes along with my favorite line from that great old hymn:

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth[2]

Join me in that peace?

[1] Prayer of Manasseh
[2] Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Words: Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923, Music:  William M. Runyan 1923

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