Manasseh is recorded in the Bible as one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah (2 Kings 21:1–18; 2 Chronicles 33:1–9). Chronicles, but not Kings, records that Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 33:11–13). While a prisoner, Manasseh prayed for mercy, and upon being freed and restored to the throne turned from his idolatrous ways (2 Chronicles 33:15–17). A reference to the prayer, but not the prayer itself, is made in 2 Chronicles 33:19, which says that the prayer is written in the “history of the seers.”
The prayer is considered apocryphal by Jews, Catholics and Protestants. It was placed at the end of 2 Chronicles in the late 4th-century Vulgate. Over a millennium later, Martin Luther included the book in his 74-book translation of the Bible. It was part of the 1537 Matthew Bible, and the 1599 Geneva Bible. It also appears in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible. Pope Clement VIII included the prayer in an appendix to the Vulgate stating that it should continue to be read “lest it perish entirely.”
The prayer is included in some editions of the Greek Septuagint. For example, the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus includes the prayer among fourteen Odes appearing just after the Psalms. It is accepted as adeuterocanonical book by some Orthodox Christians, though it does not appear in Bibles printed in Greece. The prayer is chanted during the Orthodox Christian and Byzantine Catholic service of Great Compline. It is used in the Roman Rite as part of the Responsory after the first reading in the Office of Readings on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (along with Psalm 51). It is used also as a canticle in the Daily Office of the 1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The text from the King James Version is as follows:
O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment; who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name; whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power; for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne, and thine angry threatening toward sinners is importable: but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; for thou art the most high Lord, of great compassion, longsuffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee: and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied: my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities. I am bowed down with many iron bands, that I cannot lift up mine head, neither have any release: for I have provoked thy wrath, and done evil before thee: I did not thy will, neither kept I thy commandments: I have set up abominations, and have multiplied offences. Now therefore I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: wherefore, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquities. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me to the lower parts of the earth. For thou art the God, even the God of them that repent; and in me thou wilt shew all thy goodness: for thou wilt save me, that am unworthy, according to thy great mercy. Therefore I will praise thee for ever all the days of my life: for all the powers of the heavens do praise thee, and thine is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.