Give Me a Clean Heart

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This text has its roots in Psalm 51:10, but goes in a different direction than the psalm, focusing on the high priority of holiness over against more common human priorities such as wealth, fame, and feeling good. The blessing of a God-made, re-made clean heart will help us follow and serve God and be used for greater acts of love.


Sing! A New Creation

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s children are not called to come before God’s throne with a list of accomplishments, or merits or goodness; they are called, says Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 26, to come with the humility that “…offers nothing but our need for mercy.” Such a cry for mercy comes from our “dying-away of the old self” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 88) which expresses that we are “genuinely sorry for our sin and more and more…hate and run away from it” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 89).

The gifts of renewal and pardon come only “through true faith” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 20) and are “gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merits” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 21). The very act of faith is to plead for his mercy.


Give Me a Clean Heart


Almighty God,
you despise nothing you have made,
and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.
Create in us new and contrite hearts,
that, truly repenting of our sins
and acknowledging our brokenness,
we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy,
full pardon and forgiveness,
through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
[prayer written by Thomas Cranmer for the Book of Common Prayer (1549), alt., PD]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[BCP, p 355],alt.,PD]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

A Prayer for Lent
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, you forgave those who killed you. Forgive me too. I am not worthy, not worthy, not nearly worthy of all your blessings. I am soiled by my sin and stained by my past. I’ve got scorn in my heart, arrogance in my heart, contempt for people whose heart is purer than mine. So give me a clean heart, Lord, and I will follow thee. Amen
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Merciful God, we cannot stand before you
unless our hearts are cleansed and our spirits are made right by your redeeming.
Thank you for your merciful forgiveness,
and even more for your transforming love
made known to us in Jesus the Savior. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Give Me a Clean Heart

Tune Information

E♭ Major
Meter refrain


Musical Suggestion

Douroux wrote “Give Me a Clean Heart,” a beautiful, lyrical song of confession, in 1970. The tempo of the song should be moderate to slow. I’ve heard it sung with the pick-up notes taken much too fast by people who are not familiar with the performance practice of this piece. It needs to be sung almost like a long-metered spiritual. A good metronome marking is eighth note = 60. The song can be played effectively on organ or piano. I prefer organ because of its sustaining ability and the solemn and secure quality it brings to this composition.
Typical of this style, the refrain is for the congregation, and an additional solo part develops the theme. It can be sung with a soloist who is not afraid to improvise, a common practice with gospel music. The notes are written as a reference point. Two precautions—the soloist must improvise within the chordal and rhythmic structure. If you do not have a soloist with jazz or gospel singing experience, the notes that are written will be sufficient for congregational singing.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 54)
— Charsie Sawyer

The way this song is sung varies from community to community. Once the song is known, the leader may improvise other harmonies. It is customary for the stanzas to be sung by a solo voice. It is not necessary to sing the refrain between the two stanzas.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Give Me a Clean Heart

Composer Information

Nolan Williams (b. 1969) is a musicologist, theologian, American songwriter, and producer whose professional career defies conventional boundaries.
Best known for his work as Chief Music Editor of the bestselling African American Heritage Hymnal—a critically acclaimed compendium of music, with sales now surpassing 300,000 books worldwide, Williams is a noted scholar who has lectured extensively, including keynote addresses for the National Academy of Religion, Yale University’s Parks-King Lecture Series, Festival Musica y Filosofia (Naples, Italy), and Georgetown University Law School. He has also been featured on PBS, BET, the Word network, and internationally in the UK, France, Italy, and Slovenia.
Williams has written and produced music for television, film, and live events of national and international prominence. His eclectic compositional library includes: songwriting collaborations on numerous Grammy-nominated projects; commissioned compositions by Georgetown University and the National Symphony Orchestra; musical works performed by some of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Charleston Symphony, Memphis Symphony, and Kennedy Center Opera House orchestras; and, original gospel songs featured on his debut CD, inSpiration, released nationwide in 2010. He has collaborated with a range of industry artists—from Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and India.Arie to Denyce Graves, Yolanda Adams, and Michael McDonald.
Through NEWorks Productions, Williams has produced inspirational arts programming with the Smithsonian Institute, the U.S. Army, Georgetown University, the Arts and Humanities Council of Washington, DC, and the Dallas-based Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Williams and NEWorks have been especially privileged to collaborate with the Kennedy Center on a number of landmark projects, including musical direction of the finale for the 77th Birthday Tribute for Senator Edward M. Kennedy and production of the 105 Voices of History HBCU National Choir concert. Most recently, Williams has worked alongside Garth Ross, Director of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone program, to plan an unprecedented nine-day celebration, as the Artistic Consultant for Joyful Sounds: Gospel Across America. Williams is also the Artistic Director for the National Symphony Orchestra’s first-ever full concert of African American sacred music on Saturday, April 24, 2010.
Williams serves as Minister of Music at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He also consults with numerous churches across the country on matters of music ministry and worship. In October 2010, Williams will return to his alma mater, Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio), to conduct master classes and serve as Music Director for the Northern Ohio Hymn Festival.
— Kennedy Center

Author and Composer Information

Margaret Douroux (b. 1941), daughter of the late Rev. Earl A. Pleasant and Olga Pleasant, was educated in the Los Angeles public school system. She then attended Southern University and obtained a B.A. degree at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned an M.S. degree, obtained teaching credentials, and an advanced Master’s Degree at the University of Southern California. Her Ph.D. was earned at the University of Beverly Hills. During her 13-year career with Los Angeles City Schools, Dr. Douroux served as an elementary school teacher, guidance counselor, and school psychologist.

Her professional education career was one of two major aspects of Dr. Douroux’s life. The other began at an early age when she performed as an accompanist with the children’s choir at a Baptist church where her father served as pastor. She went on to become the accompanist for the Sunday School Baptist Training Union and the Young People’s Choir. For 12 years she was director and accompanist for the Young Adult Choir and Orchestra at Mount Moriah Baptist Church, Los Angeles. During these years, Dr. Douroux was influenced by her love for Gospel music.

She composed hundreds of Gospel music renditions. Many have become world known and are performed by leading vocalists, instrumentalists, and recording stars. Many of these songs are frequently aired over Gospel radio and television stations throughout the United States.
— GIA Publications, Inc. (http://www.giamusic.com)

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