Memorizing Scripture is so hard! Especially these days with what the Interwebs is doing to my brain according to the 2008 article in The Atlantic called Is Google Making Us Stupid?. Plus, I’m a busy, busy person. Besides, I have so many different translations and Bible helps available at the swipe of a finger on my smartphone at any time.
Why would I even consider investing serious time and energy in memorizing Scripture? Great question!
The reasons are many! Here are just a few:
- It is necessary for meditation. “…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
- It is the “vocabulary of the Spirit” to guide and warn us. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
- It is key for effective prayer. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
- It gives us deep words to help the weary. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” (Isaiah 50:4a)
I remember a rich season of spiritual growth in my life as a college student back with the Navigators here at K-State when I was in the music education department. As I reflect back on this time of growth one of the key aids in helping my roots grow deep was Scripture memory. I don’t think you can get more bang for your buck from any other spiritual discipline than you can from Scripture memory. It does take work though. I have fond memories of walking to and from campus with my hand-written Scripture memory pack in front of me working through verse after verse. It was wonderful and has proven to be so helpful to me over the years.
I remember when I shifted the majority of my Bible reading and study from the NIV translation to the ESV translation when that came out in 2001. I had to face the question of what to do with all the passages I had memorized and was memorizing. Do I switch those over to the ESV or keep them in the NIV (in my brain that is)? My answer came when I accidentally washed my entire hand-written pack of 100 card 2”x3” cards in the washing machine. I still remember the exact moment I opened the washing machine to see snippets of Paul’s words and the Psalms and Old Testament prophets (all in the NIV) strewn on all sides. My heart sunk because I had worked so hard writing all of that out. But then I decided to rewrite them all…in ESV (see the picture above). What a fun memory! I also remember laboring over memorizing the book of Philippians at Old Stadium, on the New York subway, and everywhere else I went for a decent amount of time. Eventually I got the whole book stored up in my brain (which meant it was in my heart too!). That was great!
As the seasons of my life have come and gone since college over the last 13 years I’m ashamed to admit I’ve largely failed to invest in Scripture memory. Not only have I forgotten vast amounts of what was once hidden in my heart I’ve not continued to memorize new chunks of Scripture. I’ve not given the roots of my life what’s needed as they’ve struggled to connect to the source of life. I want those roots to grow even deeper! Not to dry up. I’m personally beginning to take steps again towards Scripture memory and want to invite you into that journey as well.
I want to invite you to take a scary and specific step of faith. This is something you can do with your whole LIFE Group, your Discovery Group, a circle of friends, your family, or really any group of folks! I took this idea from Gary DeLashmutt’s workshop at the 2017 Xenos Summer Institute entitled Facilitating Small Group Inductive Bible Study and Bible Memorization (check it out for free online!).
Here’s how it works. Each person in your group selects a currently relevant verse/passage—from the previous study OR from their own Scripture reading. Don’t try to all memorize the same passage. That’s a great thing to do but isn’t what this particular step is getting at. Memorize a passage that God is using in your life in particular in this season. The passage I most recently memorized was 1 Peter 2:18-25 for reasons mentioned during my sermon on Psalm 23, Jesus is My Shepherd.
Give your group about two weeks to work on their passage before getting together. Break your group into smaller groups of up to six people and take time to walk through the following questions together.
- Why did you choose this passage?
- Recite your passage.
- How did memorizing this passage affect you?
- What helped you to memorize this passage?
During this time of folks sharing their passage and why they chose it the rest of the group can respond with encouragement, other questions, how this passage just spoke to them, etc. This activity provides accountability for Scripture memory and also an amazing window into each other’s soul to see where God is at work. It gives you a great context to walk alongside each other. So much fruit could come from this type of scary step together. And it is a scary step! Memorizing Scripture and reciting it in front of others, even trusted friends, is indeed scary (for most people). Be patient with each other when quoting Scripture while also striving for excellence. Then after your group meets look for opportunities to share your passage and what you’re learning with others. You’ll be more well equipped for meditation, being guided and warned by the Spirit, effective in prayer, and able to offer words to the weary.
If you’re interested in memorizing whole books of the Bible attached below is a great booklet called An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Dr. Andrew Davis. It includes a chapter on help with overcoming excuses for not memorizing which might be just what you need! I know it’s a helpful section for me.
I’d love to hear what passage you’re memorizing and why. Feel free to be in touch!