And now I bend the knee of my heart

Prayer of Manasseh

1. O Lord Almighty, God of our fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and of their righteous seed,

2. You Who have made heaven and earth with all their adornment,

3. You Who have bound the sea by the word of your command, You Who have shut the deep, and sealed it with your fearsome and glorious Name,

4. You at whom all things shudder, and tremble before Your power,

5. for unbearable is the magnificence of Your glory, and not to be withstood is the anger of Your threat toward sinners,

6. and unmeasurable and inscrutable is the mercy of Your promise,

7. for You are the Lord Most High, compassionate, patient, and merciful, repenting from the evil deeds of people.

You, O Lord, according to the fullness of Your clemency, promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You, and in the fullness of Your mercies, You have appointed repentance for sinners toward salvation.

[συ κυριε κατα το πληθος της χρηστοτητος σου επηγγειλω μετανοιαν και αφεσιν τοις ημαρτηκοσι σοι και τω πληθει των οικτιρμων σου ωρισας μετανοιαν αμαρτωλοις εις σωτηριαν]

8. Therefore, You, O Lord, God of the righteous, have not given repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who had not sinned against You, but you have given repentance for me, the sinner.

9. For I have sinned more than the number of sand of the sea; my lawless deeds are multiplied, O Lord, multiplied, and I am not worthy to look and see the heights of heaven because of the multitude of my unrighteous deeds.

10. I am bent down by too many a bond of iron for the lifting of my head because of my sins, and there is no relief for me, for I have provoked Your wrath and done evil before You. I have set up abominations and multiplied provocations (idols).

11. And now I bend the knee of my heart, begging for Your clemency.

12. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my lawless deeds.

13. I am asking, begging You: forgive me, O Lord, forgive me! Do not destroy me with my lawless deeds, nor for all ages keep angry with me, nor condemn me to the depths of the earth, for You, O Lord, are the God of those who repent.

14. And in me You will display Your goodness, for, my being unworthy, You will save me according to Your great mercy.

15. And I will praise You throughout all the days of my life, for all the power of the heavens sing Your praise. For Yours is the glory, to the ages. Amen.

This is one of my favorite Biblical prayers, the Prayer of Manasseh, ranging from depths emotional, spiritual and physical, to heights of the same, and from human inabilities and failures to heavenly powers. But especially memorable, I think, is the entirely striking “And now I bend the knee of my heart.” Someone else agrees. You may have noticed an allusion to this prayer in Clement 57.1, where the phrase is καμψαντες τα γονατα των καρδιας ημων, “bending the knees of your hearts.” The Prayer of Manasseh is a kind of short and perfect treatise in repentance.

While the exact origins of this prayer are unknown, outside of it being very likely Jewish, rather than Christian, in origin, it was probably composed in Greek (though some oddities in it may be taken to indicate otherwise) in order to supply the prayer of King Manasseh of Judah, son of Hezekiah, mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33.18: “And the rest of the words of Manasseh, and his prayer to God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord, God of Israel, behold, they are in the Words of the Kings of Israel.” This prayer is recited daily in the Great Compline service in Eastern Orthodox Christian monasteries, and has been for more than a millennium.

The Greek text in verse 7 is that of a slight addition to the text which isn’t included in Rahlfs’ edition of the Septuagint, and so probably isn’t in most people’s hands, so I’ve transcribed it here. The Göttingen Septuaginta (which is actually Rahlfs’ own Psalmi cum Odis volume) indicates this extra text is found in Codex Alexandrinus and in Codex Turicensis (a rare purple-dyed manuscript of the Psalms and Odes). Most manuscripts lack it, but the Didascalia includes it, as does The Apostolic Constitutions (both with very slight differences), and the Vulgate includes the first half of it. The following verse also makes better sense with this addition. It’s hard to say how or even when it dropped out. Anyhow, there it is.

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18 Responses to And now I bend the knee of my heart

  1. Kevin,

    The prayer of Manasseh is a beautiful prayer. It is a shame that many people have never read it.

    Thank you for reminding us again of the beauty of this prayer.

    Claude Mariottini

  2. You’re very welcome!

    We both have excellent taste! Clement and the Romans and Corinthians would agree!

  3. Linda says:

    This prayer is aweson! Why don’t pastors teach their congregations this prayer. I am 56 by surfing the internet I found it. I’m so glad I did, I want to be close to the Lord and need info like this. Thank you!!!

  4. You’re very welcome, Linda! I’m happy to have been helpful.

  5. Gabino SuArez says:

    Me maravillO cuando lo leI en un libro de los textos apOcrifos.
    Truly spiriritual.
    El mundo entero lo necesita.
    I’m happy it can be found in the internet too.

    • Yes, Gabino, there are some wonderful things in the “apocrypha.”

      The Prayer of Manasses is prayed in Orthodox monasteries and parishes during Lent, in the Compline/Apodipna service. It’s a beautiful service, my favorite of the “small” services.

  6. James E. York Jr. says:

    What a clear demonstration in the Old Testament to the expectation believers had of God’s grace which was fulfilled in Christ. Paul preached a radical Gospel “good news” of God’s grace. From one who can really relate to Manasseh, from the sin and repentance side, I am glad these words have been preserved. It is a wonderful Old Testament prooftext to Jesus admonition that we “forgive as we have been forgiven.” I think Mary, the woman at the well, Simon Peter, and Paul would have cheered as they read of King Manasseh’s prayer of repentance. From one who can relate to Manasseh’s emotions of sorrow over his sin to the joy of knowing with confidence that our Lord Jehovah would forgive even him. Hallelujah!!!

  7. johnsonponraj says:

    i wish to lord this prayer spread all over the world and it come from all mouths of all mankind.all glory to god only.thank you for your efforts.may god bless you.

  8. Andy says:

    Verse 8 is reason alone for this supposed prayer of Manasseh NOT to be included in Scripture.
    8. Therefore, You, O Lord, God of the righteous, have not given repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who had not sinned against You, but you have given repentance for me, the sinner.
    If you can read that verse above (#8) and NOT have a problem with it, I question your knowledge of Scripture in which God will never contradict himself. Do you honestly think that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob NEVER SINNED against God and did not need repentance?!?!?!?!?! Jesus is the only man (although without ceasing to be God) that has ever lived a sinless life on this planet!!! Otherwise, your theology sounds suspiciously like that of the Muslims which think that all their prophets (although we know the quran is not of God) were “without sin”. “The prayer of Manasseh” may be an interesting read but it is definitely not biblical!

  9. You’re wrong in several ways, Andy, the first being that the Prayer of Manasseh is indeed part of Scripture, just not part of your modern, deformed, truncated post-Protestant Scripture. It is most certainly Biblical, as it does and always has appeared in the Bible of Eastern Christians, from whom everyone else received the Bible and since done various awful things to and with it.

    You erroneously combine a hyper-literal reading of this verse with a not-so-literal reading of Genesis. Where in the text does it state that Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob sinned against God? Give one example. The Prayer of Manasseh is likewise pre-Christian, predating the New Testament. This perspective is thus not surprising, as it was written by someone with a great familiarity with the Scriptures, greater than your own, it appears.

    You obviously aren’t familiar with the kinds of reading that this verse is subject to within the context of Orthodox theology, which of course does not deny that the Patriarchs sinned, but that repentance eliminates sin, making it as though it has never occurred.

    Likewise, a reading of this verse commonly follows a comparative/superlative track. While it is understood that the Patriarchs sinned, their few and minor sins were as though they had never been committed in comparison with those of the character praying this prayer, the wicked King Manasseh, who effectively outlawed worship of God in favor of idols, and persecuted the prophets, including killing the Prophet Isaiah. Greater sins require greater repentance. That’s where the importance of this verse lies, not in a putative sinlessness of the Patriarchs.

    And as it is read in Great Compline which is celebrated only in the midst of Lent, a time of repentance, this focus is understood by those who have inserted it into the liturgy as well as everyone who hears it. In fact, until your message, I’d never even heard such an absurd suggestion as you make. I would suggest that you need to learn to read the Bible better, or at least more consistently. Convert to Orthodoxy!

  10. Donna says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful prayer Kevin with all of us who have been raised using the “truncated” version of the Bible- I agree with your response to Andy- apparently he isn’t too familiar with Genesis, at least he isn’t familiar with the first two chapters-

  11. jerry perry says:

    IT IS EARLY MORNING AND I COULD NOT SLEEP, I WAS AWAKEN BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IN WHICH DIRECTED ME TO COME UP STAIRS AND GET ON THE COMPUTER AND LOOK UP THE NAME MANASSEH. I HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING WITH WHO I AM THERE FORE EVEN THOUGH MY SIN IS NOT GREAT I STILL SIN AND EVERYDAY I REPENT ,THIS PRAYER IS A PRAYER THAT I WILL PRAY ON A DAILY BASIS. THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING GOD TO USE YOU TO PUT IT BEFORE ME

  12. Kevin, I appreciate your brief overview of the Prayer of Manasseh. I found this blog searching for a picture of the Prayer for a blog I posted last night (I did not find one). I too have been gripped by the phrase “and now I bend the knee of my heart.” What an unforgetable expression … as gripping as anything in that other great penitential prayer, Psalm 51.

    I read through the comments too. I think getting into a debate about the “canonicity” of the Prayer is to miss the point. There is, historically, some doubt that the work was considered canonical (and it was not part of the LXX) but there is no doubt it was greatly treasured by the church and it was used in worship. And the Prayer has been historically in more Protestant Bibles than Roman Catholic. It is in Luther’s German Bible, Matthew’s Bible, Geneva Bible, Bishop’s Bible, King James, Revised Version, RSV, NRSV etc. It is not in the Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, Knox or Douay (Roman Catholic translations). It is true that most Evangelicals, sadly, have practically no knowledge of this spiritual classic.

    One more matter. For the writer to say the Patriarch’s never sinned is simply poetic license. This is POETRY! Poetry excells in hyperbole. And the writer is expressing an emotion. His sinned is “killing” him and compared to others they are blameless. I see this as no different than when Yahweh himself declares to Satan himself that Job is “blameless” and “turns from evil” (Job 1. 8). Surely this does not mean that Job was ontologically flawless and without a speck of sin and never embraced sin a single time. Poetry is poetry. Besides the appeal to the Patriarchs is not that much different to Paul saying that Israel is “loved on account of the patriarchs” (Rom 11.28, NIV).

    Thanks for a great post. I invite you to examine my overview of this great text called “The Prayer of Manasseh: The Heartbeat of Jewish Spirituality” posted last night (this morning!). Here is a link: http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/2011/07/prayer-of-manasseh-heartbeat-of-jewish.html

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  13. Neal says:

    I like this translation. I got here from Wikipedia. The poet (Manasseh) also says that He is the “God of those who repent” and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They lived in repentance. Manasseh had never repented of anything before this – when none of his ‘gods’ could save him from the Assyrians. I am reminded of the parable of the two men at prayer.

    Thank you.

  14. The prayer is very beautiful, but so are many prayers that have been written in the last 2,000 years. Being that the prayer is not even considered canonical within the whole of Eastern Orthodoxy, let alone the rest of the Church, it is best not to pretend it is canonical while at the same time bashing those who are not Eastern Orthodox. Manuscript evidence does not support its canonicity and neither do the testimonies of the majority of Church Fathers.

    • On the contrary, the prayer is “canonical” to the Orthodox Church in that it is prayed during the Great Compline service, a service typically held during Lent. It appears amongst the Odes, most of which are various songs/poems out of the Old and New Testaments. A prayer in an Orthodox worship service is about as canonical as it gets, regardless of questions about whether it belongs to someone’s biblical canon or not.

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