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.

The “power” of the mind and prayer

The human mind is an incredibly powerful and amazing creation. When you think (pun intended) about the things the mind is capable of you have to wonder why the words I can’t are in anyone’s vocabulary. The subconscious mind controls the senses, the emotions, and the essential life systems and cycles of the body. The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste on some of the mundane silliness we seem to waste it on this days (ie. “Reality TV”)

If the mind is capable of creating an entirely parallel universe while you are dreaming and if we, as it is written, are created in the image of our Creator, how can anyone doubt, question, or even fathom the limits of the power of the mind? The even greater power of collective consciousness can even be physical felt by those around it, whether they wanted to feel it or not. Collective consciousness is, in simple terms, a group of people thinking and focusing on the same thing. The easiest examples are pep rallies, funerals, and even a business conference room. Think of the almost electric positive vibe you can feel at a pep rally, the somber sadness you can feel during a funeral, or the tension in a conference room when opposing parties are engaged in a serious ideological debate.

So what does this have to do with prayer?

When someone prays it is a deep mental process (unless it’s a shallow recitation or going through the motions). So depending on the depth of a person’s consciousness, a prayer by a single person can very easily change their mood and perceptions of their situation. Now, add a few people who have the depth of consciousness and who knows the possibilities. This is where some “prayer circles” may have the “power” to impact their surroundings. I’m not saying a group of people can form a prayer circle and eliminate cancer, however imagine if for a few moments the entire planet at the same time focused on the same topic… The outcome could be astounding. I realize this may seem completely irrational to the secular mind. To those people I revert to my previous examples of the energy at a pep rally and the somberness you can feel at a funeral and ask them to come up with a better explanation than collective consciousness.

Do you know someone who is extremely persuasive? You know, that friend who can talk you into anything or that sales guy who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Have you considered the fact that this is a person, whether they know it or not, had the ability to use their mind to influence yours? Think of the scores of motivational speakers, religious teachers, even regular teachers that with their words (which originate from their mind) plant seeds of hope and knowledge into the minds of the people they speak to. These seeds then grow into other thoughts based on that person’s perspective of what they thought they heard.

In today’s world people really don’t use their minds as much anymore. The rise of technology have made things like spelling and grammar to be unnecessary skills. Studying and reading have been replaced with television and video games. As smart as we think we are, we are probably less intelligent than people were just a century ago. Think of people like Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and even further back – Pythagoras. Do we have anyone even remotely comparable to these people? In ages past some people, like Nostradamus, were so in touch with their subconsciousness that they could pinch the ripple of time and predict events that would occur centuries later.

The power of human thought is immeasurable. Sincerely focused prayer from a non-dogmatic perspective is literally a person tapping into the innermost recesses of their mind and consciousness. The possibilities of those thoughts really could be limitless.

Think about it.

I went to church today…

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR)

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a while since I walked into a church, today I broke that streak.  My ability to write this blog rules out any indication that I was struck by lightning for walking in those doors.  I also regret to inform my Christian friends eager for me to be born again that that didn’t happen either.  I did enjoy the service very much though and as with any occasion when the person in the pulpit is actually well-educated in scripture in a non-dogmatic way, I learned something and was impressed with his perspective.  The service focused around Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how it was a testament to the importance of prayer.  The pastor wove the necessity of prayer into how it can affect our relationships with other people.  I don’t know if the folks were listening, but he pretty much blasted the notion of self-serving prayer and crisis hotline prayers – this was a very good message!   Naturally, I went on with my day and was looking forward to everyone going to sleep so that I could take the time to read the entire Letter of Paul to the Philippians just so that I could get the complete context – yes, I will always be skeptical of another person’s method of scriptural exegesis.  It is a very short epistle and I will have to admit it is one of Paul’s better writings.  I read it in its entirety in both the KJV and the NIV and was happy to see the pastor didn’t spin it out of context.  This was a nice discovery because my kids really enjoyed the youth activity that was going on while the “big people were in the big room”.

So why did I go to church?’

Well, to be honest my kids need more stuff to do and they have some really good friends that go there and my wife and I figured it would be a good thing for them.  Mind you my wife is about as secular as it gets so if she is telling me we should go to a church, it has to be divine intervention.  The kids had a blast and want to go back so we will.

What happened to me converting to Judaism?

I can’t go through a conversion because I refuse to go into anything halfway.  This means a conversion to really be legit, I would need to go Orthodox.  That kind of thing affects more than just me, it affects the entire family.  And while I thoroughly enjoy Torah study, I do not believe any writings of man to be infallible and I still found a lot of value in the New Testament and it is really hard not to admire the character of Jesus.

So am I a Christian?

If being a Christian means that I revere the character of Jesus, respect his teachings above all others, and believe that by following his example is the manner in which a person can live a moral life – than the answer would be yes.

If being a Christian means that I believe Jesus is God and should be worshiped, and that faith in his death and resurrection will wipe away all my sins and that is all I need to go to heaven – than the answer is no.

My mind is full of ideas for more posts – this may be a busy week here at The Quest so stay tuned.

A prayer for our time

Divine Author of all faiths,

Humbly we thank you for giving us life, family, and friends.

We pray that you watch over those who are less fortunate and guide them on the path to prosperity,

that you summon the courage within the oppressed to rise against their oppressors,

give strength to the needy,

give hope to the poor,

give happiness to those in distress.

Help all who have, learn the willingness to give.

Be with those who live for others and sacrifice themselves for the betterment of society.

Help us all to live in peace and harmony, dispensing all animosities that may exist.

To you we owe all that we have, so to you we humbly give thanks.

Amen.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light