If you’re regularly attending an evangelical church, it’s a safe bet that at least once a year you’re going to hear about how you should memorize Scripture. Maybe try a book like Philippians or Colossians. Maybe a series of passages on specific topics. Or maybe…
But, you get the idea.
At one point, I had the entire book of Philippians memorized. Basically, I spent several weeks working through individual verses using a combination of writing and speaking to help make them stick. The great news is, it worked. The bad news is I didn’t keep up with it. And because I didn’t, I lost it. I still have pieces of it floating around, but I can’t say with integrity that I still have it memorized. At best, I have a strong familiarity with it, which is better than nothing.
We talk about memorization a lot at my house. Emily and the kids recently memorized the Apostles’ Creed. They did it using a song, which is a great approach. So now, when they recite it, the girls actually sing it, which is kind of fun. And this got me thinking about how easy and difficult it is to memorize Scripture.
Memorizing Scripture is easier than you think
Memorization is actually pretty easy. Seriously. If you’re in your mid-30s, I guarantee you’ve got dozens of one-liners from The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, and/or Arrested Development rattling around your noggin. Why? Because the one-liners stuck with us. I have a friend who was just diagnosed with mono, and Emily immediately asked, “Are you sure he wasn’t just really bored?”1
In the same, way, memorizing Scripture is actually pretty easy. The trick is finding a way to make it interesting for us. By that, I don’t mean that the Bible is boring. I mean the process. So in the same way we used a song to help the kids memorize the Apostles’ Creed, why not use songs to memorize Scripture? The Rizers albums are really helpful for this (and are ideal for kids). Similarly The Verses Project is a terrific tool to help you memorize passages of Scripture. (They also offer visual art to aid with memorization.) Using songs—especially catchy ones—you can probably memorize a few verses of Scripture in no time at all.
Memorizing Scripture is harder than you think
At the same time, memorizing Scripture is actually a lot harder than you might think. You might find a technique isn’t working quite the way you’d hoped. Maybe you went too big too quickly and fell off the wagon. Maybe your biggest problem is simply keeping up on your practice. Maybe you still feel like you aren’t capable of memorizing anything. (Despite, again, having a ton of pop culture references in your head.)
And then there’s what Paul calls “the flesh” which will war against you as you try to fill your mind with God’s Word (the same thing that happens when you’re trying to pray, fast, study your Bible…)
These are the discipline parts of memorizing Scripture. And as much as I’d like to think otherwise, there are not easy solutions to the challenges they bring. You need to find techniques that work for you. You need to choose wisely as you decide what to memorize (maybe Romans it’s the best place to start right out of the gate, huh?). You need to create some sort of reminder system about practicing, which may include accountability from friends or family.
And more than anything else, you really, really need to pray.
God wants you to know his Word. He wants you to meditate on it. To “store it up” in your heart and mind as the Bible says. Memorizing Scripture is an essential way of doing this. The work is easier than we might think. The discipline might be more challenging. But the rewards are so much sweeter than we realize.