Dealing with guilt and shame (Prayer day 10)

As David discovered, it is often harder to deal with one’s own betrayal and failure, than forgiving another’s vindictiveness and treachery. A soul that is burdened by guilt and shame feels dirty, depressed, down and deserted by God. But God is forever ready to forgive and restore.


Psalms 51:1-19 A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had sinned sexually with Bathsheba and orchestrated the death of her husband Uriah.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


  1. Describe David’s emotional state in writing this Psalm. (v8-14)
  2. Look at verses 1-2.
  • What is David’s chief motive(s) for this prayer?
  • How does David know God to be, and on what basis does David approach God?
  1. What does David want from God? (v7-14)
  2. What does God want from David? (v17)
  3. Who was involved in this sin of David? (see the heading of the Psalm before verse 1). But against whom does David say he sinned? (v4) Why does he write that?
  1. What is the root cause of David’s sinful acts? (v5)
  2. What is the David’s hope to overcome his sinfulness? (v6)

Personal reflection and Prayer

David’s conscience constantly convicted him of his lust and betrayal of his marital vows to his wife, his leadership entrustment for Uriah, his kingship entrusted by God and his devotion to his Lord. In his guilt-ridden state he felt dirty, depressed, down and deserted by God. But he knew God to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15) and humbled himself before God who hears.

  1. Try to imagine yourself before God after committing adultery and murder. Do you have the same confidence as David that God would show you mercy? Ask God reveal himself as the God of Mercy to you.
  2. In which way can you identify with David’s betrayal of his wife, his soldiers, his convictions and his God? Have you been there? Speak to God about that. Ask him for “a new spirit” and “truth in the inward parts.”
  3. Can you presently identify with David’s feeling of guilt and shame before God or others? Follow the pattern of this psalm and pray your own words to God, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness and a new nature. Pray until you feel the burden of guilt lift.

Dealing with betrayal and disappointment (Prayer day 9)

David was a renown warrior, a celebrated king, religious reformer, bright inventor and architect, and an exceptional poet and songwriter.  Yet this successful man suffered the agony caused by betrayal and the loss of friendship.


Psalm 55:1-2,12-22 – A Maskil (instruction) of David.

1  Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!

2  Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan.

12  For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him.

13  But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

14  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.

15  Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol [the place for the dead] alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

16  But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.

17  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

18  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.

19  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old because they do not change and do not fear God.

20  My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant.

21  His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.

22  Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Observation and Reflection

Context: This Psalm expresses David’s emotive prayer after Ahithophel (one of David’s most trusted advisors and close friend) abandoned him and joined the rebellion lead by Absalom.

  1. Rephrase David’s plea to God in your own words (v1-2a). What does he ask of God?
  2. David’s soul is in anguish; apart from fear for his life, describe what other emotions lie heavy on his heart in this psalm. [note v12-13, 20-21]
  3. A Maskil is a teaching psalm. What is the main lesson in this Psalm? [hint: v22]
  4. In verses 12-15 and again verses 20-21 David expresses similar emotions about the same person and situation. What does that suggest of (a) our emotions and (b) our prayers?

Personal Reflections and Application

David suffered the pain of betrayal; the sense of loss broke his heart and sent world spinning.  The fact that this Psalm was written during a life-threatening rebellion says much about the primacy of relationships in our human existence: companionship is our life, and relational conflict and pain brings stress and anguish to our soul. The substance of our prayers should be the life in our relationships, rather than the necessities for our daily existence.

  1. Consider your relational life. Note the joys, the concerns, the conflict. Which relationship presses heaviest on your heart?
    • Bluntly tell God about the situation and express your feelings to God. Try to name or describe what you feel.
    • What would you like God to do? Declare your trust in God as David did.
    • Ask what does God want you to do in this situation.

Note: It is wise and sometimes absolutely necessary to talk to a mature Christian friend or counsellor about the personal pain such as betrayal, abandonment and shame caused by failed relationships.