The Spiritual Discipline of Memorizing Scripture
Mar 8, 2017 · Christopher Hunt
Spiritual disciplines are like a workout for your faith. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, the Apostle Paul teaches that while physical training is good, it is even more important to train for godliness. We attain spiritual fitness through consistent practices like prayer, fasting, simplicity, silence, solitude, service, giving, and of course, study and meditation of the Scriptures. There is no single comprehensive list of spiritual disciplines in the Christian faith, but all of these disciplines find their foundations in Scripture. I’d like to share about a discipline that transformed my relationship with God’s Word and invigorated my spiritual life: memorizing Scripture. When prayerfully approached, this form of meditation helps lay a foundation for good spiritual health and godliness.
Why memorize the words of God?
Memorizing God’s Word helps us resist temptation
God calls us to bind his commandments as symbols on our hands and foreheads and to write them on our doorframes (Deuteronomy 6:8). Literally and figuratively, we’re commanded to place them on our heart (Deuteronomy 6:6). Why? So that we don’t forget the Lord who brought us out of the slavery of sin (Deuteronomy 6:12). Knowing God’s Word puts up a strong defense against sin: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11 NIV). It places the sword of the Spirit in our hands, so that, in a given moment, whether we have a physical Bible on us or not, we can drive off temptation to sin. That’s what Jesus did. He had Scripture memorized and he answered each of Satan’s temptations with a slash from the Word of truth (Matthew 4:1-11).
Memorizing Scripture deepens our understanding of God and his will
In my own experience, I found that far from my old concern that rote memorization would inhibit my understanding of God’s Word, it significantly enhanced it. As I worked at memorizing Colossians 3, for example, my eyes and my mind, and even my tongue, passed over the lines again and again, each one building steadily on the other; I found myself thinking about what verse 3 meant when it said “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ.” It dawned on me that to understand this important phrase made all the subsequent putting to death, ridding, taking off, putting on, clothing, forgiving, letting, submitting, and obeying in the rest of the chapter possible. To do any of it, I must first admit that I have been crucified with Christ and given new life held in trust in him. Through every bit of Scripture memorization I have ever done, I have gained greater wisdom of God and his perfect will.
How do I memorize Scripture?
Memorizing Scripture is challenging. There really isn’t an “easy way” to memorize Bible verses or passages. However, you can find methods and tools suited to your own learning style to help you succeed. Here are a few tips:
Start small – memorize one new verse a week
Start your new discipline by memorizing just one verse a week. Pray and ask God what to memorize and to help you do it. You might memorize standalone verses, a short passage, or a set of individual verses that develop a theme (like perseverance, for example). God may even lead you to commit to memory a full chapters or an entire book. Whatever your goal, start by adding just one new verse each week.
Build review into your memorization plan
As you add new verses, keep reviewing the ones you’ve already memorized. For example, if I memorized John 3:16 the first week, when I memorize John 3:17 the next week, I should also go back and review John 3:16. This will help you plant the scripture deep in your memory, especially if you’re memorizing a passage or chapter. Each week as you add a new verse, retrace your steps and recite all the verses you’ve memorized in your current plan to that point. Of course, if you go on memorizing over a long time, it will become too time consuming to review all the verses you’ve ever learned week-to-week. Instead, decide which passages you’d like to review while you work on your current memorization plan. This way, you can keep fresh even passages you’ve memorized long ago.
Memorize Scripture in context, out loud, and in company
Always start memorizing, whether just one verse or a whole chapter, by reading the passage in context, aloud if possible. Then read the verse you’re working on several times, carefully annunciating each word. Saying the verse out loud will help imprint the phrases firmly in your mind. Repetition works. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, like me, writing out or typing the verse might help. You can also print a verse, cut the words apart and then reassemble them. A number of digital tools to help you memorize are available online or in mobile app format. Working with another person, a family member or friend, adds accountability and lets you cheer on each other as you commit the Word of God to memory.
Memorizing Scripture renews and strengthens our minds. It tucks God’s own words deep in our hearts, and his Spirit brings them out when we need them. Committing Bible passages to memory puts them at our fingertips to encourage fellow believers and to share, lovingly, with those who do not yet know God. The act of memorizing is a form of meditation on Scripture. Many methods and tools exist to help, but none actually make it easy. After all, in the end the idea is to actually have the scripture permanently retained by memory. Scripture memorization will stretch you. But knowing God, his Word, and his perfect will is truly worth the effort.
To learn more about the value of studying and memorizing scripture listen to “Study & Memorization,” an episode of Groundwork.
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