This prayer of Manasseh is read during the Great Apodeipnon service (Great Compline) beginning with the evening of the Monday after Cheesefare Sunday (Clean Monday).
The prayer of Manasseh is read towards the end of the service. In the Septuagint this Book, which consists only of this prayer, is attributed to “Manasseh, the Son of Hezekiah”, who was indeed his father and the King preceding him in 687 BC. Manasseh was a very cruel king to his people and led them into needless wars. Eventually he was overcome by the Babylonians and taken captive. It was at this time that he offered this prayer to God. It consists of three parts, 1) the invocation to God, 2) his admission of sinfulness, and his repentance, and 3) the prayer for forgiveness.
It is an eloquent prayer and very appropriate for the Lenten season which is one of repentance.
It is an expressive example of Orthodoxy’s utilization of a prayer from the Old Testament in its worship services, for its words reflect the attitude of repentance required of our worshippers during Great Lent.
PRAYER OF MANASSEH, KING OF JUDAH
O Lord Almighty, the God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their righteous seed; who made heaven and earth with all their ornamentation; who set the bounds of the sea by the word of Your command; who closed the abyss and sealed it by Your fearful and glorious name; before whom all things tremble and fear because of Your power; for the majesty of Your glory is unbearable, and the wrath of Your threats toward sinners cannot be withstood; yet Your merciful promise is immeasurable and unsearchable. For You are the Lord Most High, and are tenderhearted, patient, very merciful, and who repent toward the evils of man. Therefore You, O Lord God of the righteous, have not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who have not sinned against You; but You have appointed repentance for me, a sinner, because I have sinned more than the number of the sands on the seashore. My lawlessness, O Lord, is multiplied. Yes, my lawlessness is multiplied, and I am not worthy to fix my eyes to behold the heights of heaven because of the multitude of my wrongdoings. I am bent down with so many iron chains that I shake my head over my sins, neither do I have any relief. For I have provoked Your anger and done evil in your sight. I have set up abominations and multiplied idols. Now therefore, I bow the knee of my heart, begging goodness from You. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my lawlessness. I ask and beg you; forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and do not destroy me because of my lawlessness; neither reserve evils for me, nor be wrathful forever; nor condemn me to the lowest parts of the earth; for You are the Lord God of those who repent. And in me, though I am unworthy, You will show Your goodness, and will save me according to Your great mercy. Therefore I shall praise You continually all the days of my life, for all the powers of the heavens praise You, and Yours is the glory unto the ages. Amen.