Search me, O God, and know my heart. ~ Psalm 139:23
Ireland, New Zealand, Aborigine, Maori, Australia. This was the path and the stops on the way to this song becoming well-known. Of him, Billy Graham wrote: "Dr. J. Edwin Orr, in my opinion, is one of the greatest authorities on the history of religious revivals in the Protestant world.” Orr earned this accolade. He was born in 1912 in Belfast, Ireland. As an adult he immigrated to America and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1940. Orr educational resume’ is impressive. He earned degrees at Northwestern University(MA), Northern Baptist Seminary(ThD), Oxford University(PhD) and the UCLA(EdD). He was one of the five original board members of Campus Crusade for Christ. During his lifetime he conducted revivals, lectured, and did workshops in 150 world countries.
Revivals in 1935 took him to 33 countries and all 48 states. He continued his whirlwind travel in 1936 by going to New Zealand and Australia; then on to South Africa and Rhodesia. Orr was only 24 years old when he held a very successful Easter revival in New Zealand. Before leaving for his next revival four Aborigine girls sang him a lovely Maori Song of Farewell. It had a haunting melody that burned itself into his mind and he was taken by the tune. The words in English were: “Now is the hour when we must say goodbye. Soon you'll be sailing far across the sea. While you're away oh, then, remember me. When you return you'll find me waiting here.” Bing Crosby’s secular recording hit the top of the Billboard Magazine charts in 1948, where it stayed for three weeks, and remained on the charts for 23 weeks.
As he waited in the post office of Ngaruawahia, New Zealand, he quickly scribbled the lines of this song on the back of an envelope. It is based on Psalms 139:23-24: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” In Australia Orr introduced it at his next revival campaign. It went on to become one of the best songs of revival, spiritual awakening, and commitment…
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 every sin, and set me free.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee.
Send a revival - start the work in me.
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need.
For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
- J. Edwin Orr, 1936
Copied from Sing to the Lord © 1993 by Lillenas Publishing Company
Hymn commentary courtesy J. D. Sherrow