The Prayer of Manasseh

But while we’re on the subject of pseudepigrapha, there’s one Hebrew Bible pseudepigraphon that I think is absolutely wonderful. I’m not alone. Scholars from Jerome through Thomas Aquinas, although they knew the work was apocryphal, thought is was so beautiful that it couldn’t be allowed to die.

O Lord Almighty, God of our fathers,
God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and their righteous offspring;
He who made the heaven and the earth
with all their beauty;
He who bound the sea
and established it by the command of his word,
He who closed the bottomless pit
and sealed it by his powerful and glorious name;
You before whom all things fear and tremble,
especially before your power,
Because your awesome magnificence cannot be endured,
none can endure or stand before
your anger and your fury against sinners;
But unending and immeasurable
are your promised mercies;
Because you are the Lord,
long-suffering, merciful, and greatly compassionate
and you feel sorry over the evils of men.
You, O Lord, according to your gentle grace
promised forgiveness to those who repent of their sins,
and in your manifold mercies
appointed repentance for sinners as the way to salvation.
You, therefore, O Lord, God of the righteous,
did not appoint grace for the righteous,
for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
those who did not sin against you,
but you appointed grace for me, who am a sinner.

For my sins exceeded the number of the sands of the seas;
and on account of the multitude of my iniquities,
I have no strength to life up my eyes.
And now, O Lord, I am justly affliced,
and I am deservedly harassed;,
already I am ensnared.
And I am bent by many iron chains,
so that I cannot life up my head;
for I do not deserve to life up my eye
and look to see the height of heaven,
because of the gross iniquity of my wicked deeds,
because I did evil things before you,
and provoked your fury,
and set up idols and multiplied impurity.

And now behold I am bending the knees of my heart before you,
and I am beseeching your kindness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and certainly I know my sins.
I beseech you,
forgive me, O Lord, forgive me!
Do not destroy me with my transgressions!
Do not be angry with me forever
do not remember my evils;
and do not condemn me and banish 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 grace;
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 sings to you forever and ever.

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