Purse-Dumping Prayer

Posted on: September 10, 2010 Written by
Purse-Dumping Prayer
Photography by: JackF from iStock          

You know those times when your purse gets too full and you simply cannot find what you want?  You fish and dive, but your search comes up empty-handed, or worse yet, with junk that you did not want to remember.

So you take the whole purse and dump it out on the counter.  For me, the exercise means straightening out the pieces, tossing wrappers and old grocery lists and pieces of paper, sorting out receipts and filing them away neatly in a drawer, tossing more trash, finding things I had forgotten I had.  The end result is satisfying.  I have dealt with all the junk in my life, exorcised my frustrations, and I am ready to praise God again.

Prayer is rather like purse-dumping at times.

The other day, my friend’s Facebook recorded this feeling: “I rode by and through and around the site of my husband’s scooter accident this morning (deja vu).  I think I relate most to the imprecatory psalmists today.”  Then, of course, everyone asked her what ‘imprecatory psalms’ were.

She knows because she prays them.  It was only a few months ago that her oldest daughter was blown into eternity when a truck crossed lanes and demolished her commuter car.  My friend and her husband returned to the USA for the funeral; as a global community, we grieved the loss of one of our favorite ‘kids.’  After weeks of painfully closing down their daughter’s world, with emotions still raw, they returned to Asia.

And then, barely a month later, a scooter plowed into her husband riding his scooter, and he landed in the hospital with fractures, a head injury, and other major problems.

Time for imprecatory prayer.

Genuine, gut-wrenching prayer is like dumping your purse on the kitchen counter.  Preachers tell me that prayer should be a nice acronym: ACTS—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  Somehow, as I read David’s psalms of prayer, it seems like he starts at the other end.

He dumps.  There is no other way to describe it.  He dumps all he is feeling out on God and begins to sort through it, piece by piece.  Some things get tossed as worthless.  Other ideas are more important and get filed away for future reference.  The good stuff gets put back in place.

By that time, he has moved through supplication (aka the big dump, or that technical word ‘imprecatory’) and reached some thanksgiving.  Often along the way he confesses his own wrongs and lays them out on the table too.  Finally, he moves to adoration as he reflects that God, and only God, is above all and can do all.

I am quite certain David did not have a purse.  He traveled light.  The purse of his heart and mind, however, got overloaded, and he liked to dump.  The good news is that God seems not the least disturbed by his dumping, and their relationship is the stronger because David felt free to throw it all on the counter.

I may never have as much in my purse to dump as my friend does, but I am daily thankful that God understands my purse-dumps, listens with care, and gently leads me back to praise.

©2014 Thrive



About the author

Anna McShane* directs an English program and lectures at a large public university in China. Over four decades with SEND International www.send.org, she traveled as a journalist in all of SEND’s 20 areas. She can also be found speaking to women’s conferences and sharing her life with college students. In addition to writing for THRIVE, you can find her at: www.themissionsblog.org/author/anna-mcshane/ and www.whileiwasgoing.blogspot.com *for security reasons, this is not her actual name.

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