Hymn of the week: O for a heart to praise my God

Today’s hymn of the week is one of Charles Wesley’s earlier hymns, published in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1742). Its inspiration is Psalm 51:10:

Make me a clean heart, O God:
and renew a right spirit within me.

In most modern hymnals the hymn comprises five verses of the original eight. (Cyberhymnal has all eight.)

Typically Charles Wesley reads Psalm 51 through a Christian lens, as Companion to Hymns and Psalms observes: “Now the heart is clean because it is set free from sin, and Christ is to reign in it and have his name written on it.”

We sang this hymn at the end of Café Worship on Sunday evening, which had the theme ‘Written on the heart’. Based on the lectionary passages Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Psalm 51 we were invited to meditate on the question ‘what word does God want to write on our hearts’? Charles Wesley’s prayer in the final verse of the hymn offers a most powerful answer.

O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free,
a heart that always feels thy blood
so freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer’s throne,
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone.

A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
believing, true, and clean,
which neither life nor death can part
from Christ who dwells within.

A heart in every thought renewed
and full of love divine,
perfect and right and pure and good,
a copy, Lord, of thine.

Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart;
come quickly from above;
write thy new name upon my heart,
thy new, best name of Love.

Charles Wesley

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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