One of my fondest childhood memories is the time that my Mom helped my brother and I memorize the 23rd Psalm. It wasn’t a special occasion, just an ordinary week night. I remember being in the kitchen as she would say a line, then we’d repeat a line. Then she explained what each word picture meant and then we’d repeat the process again. This was the beginning of what would become a lifelong process of memorizing Scripture as a Spiritual Discipline and hiding God’s Word in my heart.
As I grew up, the process continued. I remember memorizing Scripture to earn “credits” in “Cupbearers” class on Wednesday nights at church. (For those of you who don’t know, “Cupbearers” was the 1980’s Foursquare denomination’s co-ed version of “Girl’s Ministry” or “Royal Rangers" or "Awanas".) Growing up, the Christian school I attended also required us to memorize a different passage of Scripture each month and various passages of Scripture in our classes. As you can see, the practice of Scripture Memorization has played a BIG role in my life.
Perhaps even more importantly, the investment of time and energy into memorizing Scripture has proven to be very rewarding as it has reaped tremendous benefits in my life.
Because once it’s in your head; it’s in your head. It’s there, ready and waiting for the Holy Spirit to access at just the right moment to keep you from sinning, to help you make the right choice, or to give you the right words at the right time.
Think of it this way: What’s your favorite song?
I bet at the drop of a hat you can remember all the words, the tune, and even the background vocals. Why? Because it’s locked in your head just waiting for the right opportunity to come out.
The same is true of your favorite all-time quote from a movie or the catch-phrase of your favorite t.v. show.
At the drop of a hat most of us could finish this poem: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…… or recite our ABC’s.
All of these things are forever stored in our brains because of the amazing ability of the human brain to retain information. When it comes to building strength for our spiritual journey, we can use the extraordinary storage capacity of the human brain to store God’s Word in our minds so that it’s accessible whenever we need it.
Why is it so important that every Christian develop the spiritual discipline of memorizing Scripture?
Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
When we memorize Scripture, we are literally hiding God’s Word inside of our heart so that at just the right moment the Holy Spirit can retrieve it from our brain and bring it to our memory helping us to know what God wants us to do. Whether we’re facing a trial, a temptation, a tough decision, discouragement, or persecution, right when we need it most, the Holy Spirit can take just the right Scripture and bring it to your mind, bringing the light of God’s truth to the situation.
In that moment, the Word of God could help you overcome fear and gain the courage to do what God’s called you to do.
It could keep you from sinning by reminding you of God’s ways and commands.
The right Scripture could give you wisdom and discernment when an obvious choice isn’t clear.
Like a savings account set aside for an emergency situation, the Word of God hidden in your heart is set aside like a reserve that’s available when you need it, anytime, anywhere, on a moment’s notice. Whether season of life you’re in, when you’ve invested the time into memorizing Scripture, you can access the dividends of using God’s Word to gain strength for the journey.
Of course, the reason many people avoid the spiritual discipline of Scripture Memorization isn’t that they don’t see the benefit of it. Instead, most people don’t memorize Scripture because they are either afraid they won’t be able to do it or they aren’t sure how to start. They say they are too old or too young, too busy or too unintellectual.
However, all of these excuses are lies. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13 that you can do all things through Christ Who gives you strength. I can guarantee you that if you make the commitment to put the work into Scripture Memorization, He will give you everything that you need to succeed.
So how does one start Memorizing Scripture? Here’s some tips:
Start somewhere. Don’t get overwhelmed or stressed out about picking the right Scripture verse. Just pick a verse that has meaning to your life and get started.
Don’t try to memorize an entire chapter or book of the Bible right away. Start with one or two verses. Once you’ve got those down, you can move on to a different verse or continue on to the next two verses in the chapter. For instance, if you’ve decided to learn Psalm 23, start with verses 1-2, then when you’ve got them down, add verses 3-4. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to quote Psalm 119 right away, getting discouraged, and quitting. Instead, just like you would with any physical exercise, start slow and increase gradually.
Okay, back in the day, the old-school method of memorizing Scripture was to write the verse on a piece of paper and place it where you’ll see it throughout your day. Whenever you walk past it, stop and read it out loud until it gets into your head. Speaking from experience, this works really well (but then a lot of old-school methods work for me.)
A more modern method would be to put the Scripture among the notes on your phone or computer (maybe even make it your screen saver) and read it aloud every time you see it pop up. For instance, if you looked at my computer right now, you’d see a post-it note with Psalm 116:16 written out on it (all the words, not just the reference). It’s a modern twist on an old idea.
As I said, when I was growing up, I attended a Christian school. Each month, we were required to memorize a certain Bible verse and recite it to the teacher. To help all of students with this process, every morning, we would read all the verses we had to recite together as a group. After 4 weeks, of reading the same thing over and over again, it was pretty hard not to remember it.
My advice: If you’re new to memorizing Scripture, read the verse you’re memorizing out loud every morning and every night. Give it a try and see if it doesn’t soon start to sink in.
Several years ago when I was taking the test to become a licensed minister, I had to memorize the Assemblies of God’s 16 Fundamental Truths. To pass the test, you had to be able to write them down using the exact phrasing they required. Let me tell you, I was overwhelmed!
Then a friend advised me to sit down and write out the entire list every morning and every night until the test. Boy, did that work well! When it came time to take the test, I was able to remember and write down every word. Why? Because I’d done it so many times before.
This same practice would work well with Scripture memorization. If you develop the discipline of writing down the Scripture that you want to memorize twice a day, before long, you’ll have that Scripture memorized and be ready to move on to another!
This tip is especially helpful if you’re going to try to memorize Scripture as a family. You could turn it into a game. You might write the verse out on flashcards, leaving key words blank, and quiz each other.
A few years ago when I taught a class of elementary school girls, we made up motions to go with the words of the verses. (True it was a little silly---but they remembered it.) Some people use music, other’s use a reward system. The important thing isn’t really how you memorize Scripture, it’s that you develop the spiritual discipline of memorizing Scripture, hiding God’s Word in your heart, and ultimately building up your strength for the journey.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”