A few months ago, I wrote about Quality Time and Quantity Time. Too often, Quality Time is a fiction we imagine that we can produce on-demand when we run out of Quantity Time. That is, Quality Time is fictional in the sense that we think we can create it with Minimal Time: “I am going to spend some good Quality Time with my son today before supper.” Rather, Quality Time is emergent from Quantity Time. This is true with our kids, our spouse, and all of our relationships. Including God? Yes—at least from our human perspective—Quality Time with God is emergent from Quantity Time; it is beyond our control.
Of course, God can meet us however and whenever he wants. He can create Quality Time with us ex nihilo. And it is a wonderful surprise each time it happens. Sometimes God appears as a burning bush. Other times, running from our anxieties and exhausted by victory, we fall down before God (perhaps under a broom tree!). And even in such a time, God may meet us in a still small voice. Again, we cannot control Quality Time with God. From our perspective finite and fallible, Quality Time with God depends on Quantity Time.
This is why God himself urges us to seek him regularly and persistently in Word and prayer by his Spirit. But sometimes that may feel (I choose that word, carefully). . . boring. Sometimes we may even wonder, “Does God ever get bored with my prayers?” Though he may despise our shallow prayers, he does not get bored with the honest prayers of his children—but we might! We may find ourselves unbearably dull if every day we repeat the same concerns in the same ways: “Lord, I pray (yet again!) for Aunt Ethel and for Uncle Bob. Bless them, Lord. And all the missionaries.” Such prayers remind us that there may be wise and less-wise ways to pray. There may be ways to pray that can keep us fully engaged and expectant that God will create Quality Time in our Quantity Time. One of those ways involves praying Scripture.
Of course, praying Scripture can be approached in many different ways. I will suggest just one: pray through the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on one phrase each day of the week. Let me explain. By taking a phrase each day, I regularly pray for my family, friends, students, and those I am discipling through different lenses. Here is my approach. Keep in mind that this is only one way to use our Quantity Time with God in the hope of Quality Time.
My focus is the first phrase in Jesus’s prayer: “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name!” Here I both worship God as I pray and ask God that those I pray for would see, know, and delight in him more fully. I pray that they—and I—would not merely attend the “Worship Service” but actually worship in Spirit and in truth. For my friends who are preaching, I pray that they would worship along with their families and preach with God’s love for the congregation in the Spirit’s power and by the authority of the Word.
I pray, “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!” I pray this through the lens of Mark 10:45 — which reminds us that Jesus came to serve — because serving one another in such a way that others see Jesus and his gospel is one way God’s Kingdom will be realized on earth. I alternate between praying that I will serve those I pray for so they see Jesus — which is a miracle! — and that they will serve many in Jesus’s name.
Leaving the flow of the Lord’s Prayer, I pray from Genesis 2 (the first marriage) and Revelation 22 (the last marriage) for our marriages. I pray not merely that our marriages will thrive, but that they will do so because we are conscious of God. That is, aware of the privilege of displaying God’s triune nature and faithful character, we will guard our marriages for his sake. And for each of my friends who are single, I pray for their life as a single person before God, and that they would support the marriages of their brothers and sisters.
Again I pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” but on this day, I pray through the lens of Matthew 28:18–20, the Great Commission. So, I pray that we will respond to God’s call to be with him—engaged in his work on the frontlines, making disciple-makers. Lynne and I, my family, my friends, and many who are God’s but do not yet realize it—all these are made in the image of God, the representatives of his Kingdom, and the workers in his field. He does not need us, but what a privilege to be called to do this Kingdom work with him.
I pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I pray with different words and add something implied to what is explicit: “Lord, you have met our greatest need by giving us Christ and making us your own. So, as our Father, I come asking you to meet our other needs. But not only that! I pray that each of us will see that it is you, our God, who provides!” Having what we need is good; seeing that it is God who provides is very good.
I pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.” What a key concern is expressed in this prayer! One of the most tragic themes of biblical theology is that evil is its own punishment because, in God’s economy, evil brings with it a distortion of reality (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2). “Lord if we do not obey you, we will view your world through a kaleidoscope of sin, instead of the good lens of your Spirit! Let us enjoy your reality, rather than join Satan in his delusion. Save us from the Evil One and his distortions.”
I pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” In other words, I pray for myself and others, “Lord, make us forgiven, forgivers.” Forgiveness is truly the focal point of Jesus’s teaching on prayer; it is the only phrase that Jesus explains with emphasis (see verses 14–15). How critical it is that we are forgivers! And so how intensely I pray this for myself and for those I love!
Your approach will be different. But find a way to spend Quantity Time with God without getting bored. And from this Quantity Time, may God grant us Quality Time.
Rick Shenk, Ph.D.
Director of Non-Traditional Programs &
Associate Professor of Theology
Please pray with me for Bethlehem College and Seminary:
- That God will encourage, sustain, and grant wisdom to our leaders as they shape and direct the work of the school and all of our programs.
- That God will provide students who are qualified and a right fit for each of our cohorts in the Seminary, College Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, and the Evening Degree Completion and Master’s programs.
- That God will provide the remaining funds for our On The Double match.