Praying Our Guilt – Gospel in Life

Praying Our Guilt

Tim Keller |  March 12, 2000

Download Agreement

By downloading this file, I confirm I understand Gospel in Life's Copyright & Permissions policies and agree to only use this file for personal usage and will not upload it to any third-party platforms.


  • Sin
Psalm 130:1-8
RS 111-4


Psalms give us a unique gospel way to deal with our emotions and feelings — it’s different from secular and religious approaches. Psalms tell us we’re supposed to pray our feelings. Not just pray about our feelings, but to actually take them before God and pour them out in a pre-reflective way and process them in the presence of God, in the light of who he is and who we are.

Today we look at guilt and shame — those feelings that come over you when your heart is broken under a sense of failure and unworthiness. We see guilt and shame likened to a hole, to something we’ve sunk down in (verses 1-2). We’re also shown a rope you throw a person — that’s available for a person who’s in that hole of guilt and shame (verses 3-4). Then we see a little bit about the process of how you climb out with that rope (verses 5-6).

Psalm 130:1–8

The Psalms teach us a special way of handling our emotions. Instead of hiding our feelings or letting them take over, they show us how to bring our emotions to God and work through them with Him. Specifically, they give us guidance on how to handle guilt and shame, comparing it to a sinkhole and showing us a way out.

1. The sinkhole

The Psalms use the pictures of sinking and standing to talk about guilt and shame. It’s important to understand that guilt is about breaking rules, while shame is about not living up to our personal goals. Even though our culture encourages us to decide our own right and wrong, we still feel a deep need for forgiveness and understanding of our emotional and spiritual depths. This makes us ask how we can solve our society’s deep-seated guilt and shame.

2. The rope

The sinkhole picture is used to explain guilt and shame, emphasizing the value of having a community and moral standards, as shown in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”. Some guilt can lead to positive changes, but it’s important to know which guilt to accept, using God’s moral law as our guide. The battle with guilt and feelings of unworthiness, the difficulty of accepting love and forgiveness, and the search for worth in God rather than in our achievements or others’ approval, all point to the need to focus on God, the real savior who loves us without conditions.

3. The climb out

Change is a journey that needs patience and hope, like watchmen waiting for the morning. It’s about moving from old habits to new ones, a transformation best done with the help of a supportive community. This journey should be taken with a respectful fear, a happy awe of God’s love, and the awareness of our forgiveness through Christ.



The War Between Your Selves (Part 2)

By Tim Keller

Mission and Meaning

By Tim Keller

The War Between Your Selves (Part 1)

By Tim Keller

June Book Offer

Deepen and Strengthen Your Marriage!

Marriage is one of the most profound human relationships — but it can also be one of the most challenging. So Tim and Kathy Keller designed a devotional book for married couples to use together.