Memorizing Scripture: The Why Helps the How

Have you ever struggled with memorizing scripture? Over the years I have talked with people who have come into Christ desiring to memorize scripture but not knowing where to start. While there's many resources that can give you methods how to do it- not many posts go into why you should memorize scripture. I believe like so many other endeavors in life – when we know the why, the how becomes clearer. In this post I want to give some insight to help you approach memorizing scripture in a way that brings life instead of another item on your to do list.

We often approach scripture memorization like we would other scholastic endeavors, attempting to memorize using solely the faculty of our mind and other self-lead methods we have learned. However, the one thing that separates the Scriptures from other historical pieces of writing is that the scriptures are the word of God, and the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).

When we approach memorizing scripture from the perspective of learning like we would Shakespeare or The Odyssey, we are missing the opportunity to engage with the Author of our faith.

Written Under Inspiration

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, forinstruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17

The scriptures that we ruminate and pore over were created by the inspiration of God. The Greek word for inspiration in this scripture is God breathed. Realizing this means you approach reading and memorizing scripture from a relational standpoint and not merely a scholastic one. It’s not a textbook or a literary work, although it teaches us and is also filled with a plethora of literary styles ranging from history to poetry. The 66 books of the bible are 66 records of the God of all the ages revealing Himself to man and through man.

The words that lay on the pages of your paper bible and on the screens of your phone are uniquely empowered to bring about change, conviction, and are the tool God uses to reveal Himself to mankind over the ages.

One of the best places to start in your journey of memorizing scripture is getting an understanding of what scripture is.

The Word is Alive

For the word of God is quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

As you approach memorizing scripture, understand that as you read it, it will read you. Hebrews 4:12 teaches us that it will read the thoughts and intents of our heart. To memorize scripture is not just an exercise for the mind but your very heart is meant to be involved in the process. In Psalm 119:11 the Psalmist wrote, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You”. When memorizing scripture, it is not just meant to find residence in your mind, but the Word’s ultimate home is your heart. We often try to approach memorizing scripture in our mind, only affecting our thoughts, but the most impactful method to memorize scripture is to hide it in our heart, where the seat of our affection is.

As the word makes it way to your heart, it leaves its mark as it confronts and weeds out old mindsets and thought patterns. As it travels to the deep places in your heart where your true affections reside, it will cut away at and judge what doesn’t belong on its way in. It’s not meant to just be a sentence memorized but it is an eternal seed that grows roots. To allow the word into your heart is to give your affections unto its residency. Once the word is hidden in your heart, the journey alone is what breeds the capacity to host it with tender affection and reverence once there. From that place, your conscience begins to be affected as the convictions and chastisement of the Holy Word of God are enthroned in your heart now.

Work with the Helper

 

A common approach to scripture memorization is to take it on as our own initiative. While this is a noble task and we are encouraged to prove ourselves to be good students of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), we have also been given the Holy Spirit who will teach us all things and bring to our remembrance the words of Christ (John 14:26). Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher knowing exactly where we are in our walk and what we need to continue into maturity. Before you tell God what you are going to do and memorize, acknowledge Holy Spirit and ask Him to lead you into what you should be focusing on. Ask Him to illuminate the word for you and to enlighten the eyes of your understanding. When scripture has been illuminated and your heart understands it beyond your mind it’s much easier to remember it.

 

Now that we’ve gone over a little bit of the why of scripture memorization, here are some practical ways that I have practiced the how of scripture memorization:

 

  1. Write it down: One of the most beneficial ways for me to memorize scripture was to write it down. Sometimes it’s in notebooks, other times on index cards and chalkboards. In my home you’ll often find scriptures on post it notes and index cards taped in various places. As I go throughout my normal routines of the day, I have opportunities to reflect on the word that it is written. I also have included a place in my planner for weekly scripture recording and reflection. 
  2. Meditation and memorization go hand in hand. As you meditate on the word, it becomes familiar to you, aiding in your ability to memorize it. (Read and meditate on Psalm 119 to shape your perspective on the Word).
  3. Look for ways to apply the Word to your life and don’t be surprised when it’s tested. It does no good to hear or read the word but have no intention to obey it. (James 1:22-25) Also, be mindful of the life lessons that come when you begin to memorize scripture. For example, if you are meditating on and memorizing a scripture about faith- you can expect to have more opportunities than usual that require faith.
  4. Pick one translation and stick with it. When you read too many translations at once it can be harder to remember what the verse says exactly. When attempting to recall the scripture you may find yourself beginning with one translation and crossing into another by the end. For ease of memorization, pick one translation to be your dominant reading translation. I recommend NKJV or ESV.

 

Reflection:

Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4) – Be honest. Do you see the scriptures as absolutely necessary for life or optional and a good suggestion? If you see scripture as necessary for your life, what changes should you make to put it in its proper priority?

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