In 2 Chronicles 33 we read the story of the evil King Manasseh. In a time of distress Manasseh seeks God and prays. God responds and restores King Manasseh to power (2 Chronicles 33:12-13, 19). In response, King Manasseh undoes many of the wicked things he had done earlier in his life.
Though the book of 2 Chronicles does not record Manasseh’s prayer, it has been preserved for us in this short book, Prayer of Manasseh, which the KJV calls The Prayer of Manesses.
This short, fifteen-verse prayer contains three parts. The first is praise; the second, confession; and the third, seeking forgiveness.
Prayer of Manasseh is an Apocrypha book and not included in all versions of the Bible. The Revised Standard Version (RSV), Common English Bible (CEB), Wycliffe Bible (WYC), Greek Orthodox Bible, Ethiopian Bible, and the original Authorized King James Version (KJV) all include Prayer of Manasseh. However, Prayer of Manasseh was removed from the KJV almost two centuries after it was first published. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, which was widely used in Jesus’s day, also contains Prayer of Manasseh.
For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”
Prayer is communication with God. This can be through spoken words, written words, thoughts, meditation, or song.
God desires us to commune with him; prayer is one way of doing this.
Prayer is not intended for us to selfishly ask God for things (as in “give me this”) but to honor and glorify God by spending time with him.
Many people think of prayer as being one-directional — us talking to God. Yet prayer should be bi-directional, with us also listening to what God has to tell us. God can speak to us through the Bible, through others, through circumstances, but especially through his Holy Spirit, who can put specific words and thoughts in our minds and even communicate via audible words. (For some verses on God’s audible communication, see 1 Samuel 3:4-14, Psalm 18:13, Luke 3:22, Acts 9:4, 2 Peter 1:18.)
Intercession is a prayer to God on behalf of others.
Also, intercession is done for us by Jesus (Hebrews 7:25) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). An example of Jesus interceding for us is in John 17:20-26.
[Read verses in the Bible about intercession and intercede.]
As I read the Psalms in the Amplified Bible this week, a curious phrase jumped out. The writer says to God, “Make me understand the way of your precepts.”
Notice, he didn’t ask for assistance by saying, “Help me.” He was direct; he implored God to “Make me.”
The NIV reads, “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts.” That’s not as strong as “make me,” but it’s still much different than “help me.”
I’m dismayed to admit that while I often ask God to “help me,” I’ve never once implored the Almighty to “make me” do anything.
Saying, “help me” suggests I’m in charge and merely want God’s assistance. Saying, “make me” acknowledges his power and relinquishes control to him, letting him be in charge instead of me.
I think I’ll reform my prayers. Instead of asking God to help me, I’ll allow him to make me. What a profound difference.
When the nation of Israel was in the desert, God provided food for them each day. The Israelites called it manna and it miraculously appeared every morning. The manna would provide them with the sustenance they needed for that day. If they tried to gather extra and stockpile it, it would turn bad (except for the Sabbath). God gave them what they needed for that day but no more; it was essentially their daily bread.
Later on, Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for God to give them their “daily bread.” The disciples surely connected that with Moses and the manna in the desert, and as a result they were assured God would faithfully provide for them each day.
This is just one of many amazing ways the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are connected.
Manna is the daily bread that God faithfully provides.
[Exodus 16:14-32, Matthew 6:11]
For much of my life when I would stumble upon a confusing section in the Bible, I would rush through it to reach something else that made more sense. Lately, I’ve been doing the opposite. When I reach a confusing passage, I linger, seeking to dig deeper, contemplate more fully, and discover hidden truths.
Such is the case with Luke 11:13. Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on prayer, about how to pray, what to pray for, and God’s goodness in answering our requests, when he throws a curve ball. He concludes by saying God will give the Holy Spirit to all who ask.
Wait, where did that come from? Jesus was talking about praying for our daily needs, for food, and for forgiveness and protection from evil and stuff like that, when suddenly he mentions praying for the Holy Spirit. Why?
I’m still contemplating this, but have a few initial ideas:
- Of all the things we can pray for, asking for the Holy Spirit (his guidance, filling, control, or whatever word you wish to use to understand his functioning in our lives) is perhaps the most important request we can make.
- We need to first have the Holy Spirit to properly form all our other prayers.
- We can be assured Father God will give us the Holy Spirit when we ask.
- Our parents know how to give us what is good, even more so with God, who knows the best gift is the Holy Spirit.
I suppose there’s validity in each of these statement and I suspect there’s even more we can glean from this verse. I will continue to meditate on it and encourage you to so the same.
The Lord’s Prayer contains a curious phrase that gives me pause. Frankly it makes me uncomfortable every time I say it.
The passage in question is “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” We mean the first part, but do we really mean the second part?
When we ask this of God, are we implicitly requesting him to forgive us only to the degree we forgive others?
If so, I want to make sure I’m not holding any grudges or have any unforgiveness in my heart towards others.
The consequences are too great for anything less.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, he gave them a short little example. It’s commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer” (though some suggest “The Disciples’ Prayer” would be a more appropriate label.) Others refer to it as “Our Father” after its opening phrase.
Did you know there are multiple versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible? Matthew records the most common version. It’s found in Matthew 6:9-13. In the NIV, it’s only 53 words long and 66 words if you include the additional text at the end that is not found in all manuscripts:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (53 words)…”for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen,” (13 more words; 66 total).
The Lord’s Prayer is also found in Luke 11:2-4. Compared to Matthew’s version, it omits two phrases and simplifies others, so it is even shorter, at only 34 words.
“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation,” (34 words).
I’ve never heard anyone use Luke’s version. But it is in the Bible and is worth considering. However, it doesn’t really matter which of these three versions of this classic prayer we follow, for I don’t think Jesus intended us to recite it verbatim, but to use it as a model or a template to form our own prayers.
What wording do you prefer for the Lord’s Prayer?
In my post, The Implications of Omnipotence, I noted that there is nothing that an all-powerful God can’t do, yet, not every prayer is answered — at least not the way we think it should be.
However, before we criticize God, consider:
- Maybe our request is contrary to God’s nature, such as, asking him to harm another person.
- Perhaps what we ask would require someone’s freewill to be superseded, such as, to make someone do something they don’t what to do.
- What if God said “yes” to everything? (Consider the movie “Bruce Almighty” for a demonstration of how bad that would be.)
- If God answered every prayer every time, immediately solving all our problems, getting us out of jams, and shielding us from the consequences of our actions, God would become our grant-a-wish-genie, literally spoiling us rotten.
When Jesus was teaching about prayer, he noted that even flawed parents know how to give good things to their children, so even more so, our heavenly father will give good things to his children.
- Just as parents may wisely withhold some things for the long-term good of a child, God will do so, too.
- Children need chance to learn, grow, and mature, sometimes through failure or disappointment, so too do we.
- Doting and indulgent parents keep a child from maturing and becoming stable adult. God loves us too much to let that happen.
Sometimes, “No” is the best and most loving response.
However, when it’s in our best interest, there’s nothing God can’t and won’t do for us when we ask. That is his nature; he is omnipotent.
In my prior post, I made a couple of tweaks to the prayer of Jabez. The original text reads:
Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
Consider my paraphrase:
Jabez was a man of honor and integrity, but his mother had nicknamed him “hemorrhoid’ and always called him a “pain in the butt,” because his birth was so painful. And Jabez pleaded with God: “Bless me abundantly — so that I may bless others — and grant me much influence; keep me on the right track, so that I may do good things, and no longer be viewed as a pain in the butt!” And God said “yes!” to his petition.
That’s what the prayer of Jabez means to me.
[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]