If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

The inspiration of a thrilling revival in New Zealand prompted the late J. Edwin Orr to blend the 23rd and 24th verses of Psalm 139 with a lovely Polynesian melody that has since become one of our most challenging hymns of revival. Dr. Orr’s text opens with the prayer that the revival begin in him. Then he reminds us that revival begins only after God’s people recognize their sin, receive cleansing from it and surrender their “will, passion, self and pride.” The hymn ends appropriately with the assurance of knowing that God will hear and supply our needs.

J. Edwin Orr has been widely known as a challenging evangelist and a noted scholar of historical revival movements. He has written many textbooks and was a professor of world missions. He also lectured and held workshops throughout the world while visiting 150 countries.

“Cleanse Me” was written in 1936 after a stirring Easter convention in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand. Fervent meetings sprang up throughout the city. Inspired by this intense movement of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Orr took time as he left New Zealand to write the verses of “Cleanse Me” on the back of an envelope in the post office. The tune he used was the lovely Maori Song of Farewell, sung to him by four Aborigine girls as he was leaving. In following campaigns in Australia and other parts of the world, Dr. Orr often used this hymn to encourage new spiritual awakenings. His ceaseless prayer was that the people of God would be stirred to pray for yet another world-wide awakening.

Search me, O God,
and know my heart today;
try me, O Savior,
know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
cleanse me from ev’ry sin
and set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord,
for cleansing me from sin;
fulfill Thy Word
and make me pure within.
Fill me with fire
where once I burned with shame;
grant my desire to
magnify Thy name.

Lord, take my life
and make it wholly Thine;
fill my poor heart with
Thy great love divine.
Take all my will,
my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord—
in me abide.

O Holy Ghost,
revival comes from Thee;
send a revival—
start the work in me.
Thy Word declares
Thou wilt supply our need;
for blessings now,
O Lord, I humbly plead.

Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (251). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.