Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is another devotional song, “Purify my heart”. Although relatively recent (like all the songs in this book – this one was written c.1990) it has become popular in many churches. Unlike yesterday’s song which was corporate (“Father, hear our prayer”) this one is personal (“Purify my heart”) and it fits the theme of Lent, as it asks Jesus (not named but it is obviously He who is being addressed) to “purify my heart” in various ways.
The first verse asks that I become “as gold and precious silver … as gold, pure gold”. This, and the chorus (addressing Jesus as the Refiner’s Fire) refer to Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, where the Lord’s messenger is said to be coming like a refiner’s fire to “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” to refine the descendants of Levi (i.e. the Temple priests) “like gold and silver until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3). In other words, it is asking Jesus to strip away all the impurities that are preventing me from serving him as I should.
The second verse is more direct: “cleanse me from within and make me holy … cleanse me from my sin, deep within”. It recognises that sin is not just my relationship with the outer world – the things I say and do wrong – but also my inner life, my thoughts, desires and attitudes. Those are harder to deal with, and that’s why I have to ask Jesus to deal with them. The other prayer in the chorus is that I should be “set apart for you, ready to do your will”. So the purification of the inner person is not only for my own sake but so that I can serve Jesus better.