Memorizing? That sounds like work! And in some ways, it is. But we have been memorizing things all our lives. From learning the words “mommy” and “daddy”, to the ABC’s, the Pledge of Allegiance, multiplication tables, and so on in school. In fact, we have not stopped memorizing. We are still doing it today – from memorizing new names and phone numbers to the latest new song lyrics – because knowing such things are either useful or enjoyable. Now maybe it is time we do the same with God’s Word.
You see we learn about God through His word in a number of different ways: someone tells it to us like the Pastor on Sunday morning, we read it for ourselves, we get out pencil and paper and study it, or we think/ponder it or maybe pray over it. But in addition to these, memorizing God’s word is another method that we can use to enhance our learning.
What NOT to Do When Memorizing
There are a number of ways to get started memorizing, but basically it can be divided into three methods. First, one can just start memorizing any favorite verse without a real plan, i.e., the haphazard approach. Been there, done that. Second, one can pick out a rather large section of God’s Word such as a small book in the New Testament like Philippians. Done that too. But probably the best way to get started is to memorize topically. What I mean by that is knowing Scripture verses on topics such as salvation, faithfulness, money, love, sexual purity, anger control, suffering, etc. What a help that can be at times!
Let me share with you one deeply personal experience where having a couple of verses memorized on the peace of God helped me handle a very difficult situation. My wife and I once lived in a fairly rural area. We had to drive 45 minutes to get to a decent hospital/doctor while my wife was pregnant with our first child. Things were not going well for the pregnancy. At six months, we made a visit to the doctor worried that the baby was not moving. We then discovered that the baby’s heart had stopped beating and that my wife in the next few hours would be induced to deliver a stillborn child. I had the duty of driving alone 45 minutes each way back to our apartment to get clothes, etc for my wife. My mind was racing and these two verses on peace came to my mind. I started saying them over and over and over on this short journey. The verses were Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in
you.” (NIV) and I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.” (NIV). These verses weren’t magic, they were God intervening. They kept my mind focused and helped me get through that day.
Another benefit to memorizing is that memorized portions of God’s word have come to mind while I was listening to a sermon or studying another part of the Bible. This added meaning and understanding to that experience. Other times I have had these memorized verses come to mind to convict me of something I did wrong or to help prevent me from doing something stupid. I praise God for that. Finally, practicing these verses out loud and adding feeling and hand gestures with them have helped God’s word come alive to me and enhanced my understanding.
How to Start Memorizing Easily
To get started on the path of memorizing, I highly recommend the two set of verses that the Navigators have put together. The first is the Topical Memory
System which is more on our being a disciple of Christ and the basis of Christianity. The second one is on Life Issues such as knowing God’s will, guilt, dealing with sin, money, anger, perfection, sex, suffering, etc. Both have meant a lot to me. This system recommends you learn each verse or set of verses word for word exactly as in the Bible. Your mind keys off of the previous words you
see. That is why you are often lost the first time you mess up a word if you memorized a long poem or speech. You typically could not continue. Also, memorize the reference (ex. John 3:16) with the verse so you know where to find it later.
As an additional thought, it is best to memorize out of the version or translation of the Bible that you use most of the time for reading/studying. This reinforces the
memorization. But I must stop and say that memorization is a bit different from reading/studying. I can pick up a different translation each month to read or study from and not have major difficulties, but with memorizing you typically stick to one version of the Bible and memorize the verses word for word with no variation. My personal experience with this came after I had been memorizing for 5 years in one version. I decided to memorize a small book of the Bible. But when finished, I wanted to easily recite these verses out loud and wanted the language to flow like in every day speech. So I read half dozen versions such as NASB, NIV, KJV, Living, etc. I picked the best choice in my opinion between accuracy/study and ease of language. Little did I realize how well this would serve me later – from having a Bible study with non-Christian international students one day and studying with mature Christians the next. You have to decide though what is best for you and then stick with it. It is very difficult changing your mind later.
The Tablet of Your Heart
Finally, no matter how you start or what method you use, God has made promises about the results of memorizing His word that I have underlined in the following verses. For example, Proverbs 3:1-2 “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity” (NIV) or Proverb 7:1-3 “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you, Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (NIV) When you memorize, you are writing God’s word on the “tablet of your heart”. May God bless your new adventure into memorizing His word and may your life be full.
Topical Memory System: Hide God’s Word in Your Heart, NavPress,
Topical Memory System Life Issues: Hide God’s Word in Your Heart,
“Scripture Memory made easy,” Hendrickson Publisher’s Inc. 1999.