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I’d thought about memorizing Scripture for a while, but a lack of time and energy had always felt like an overwhelming obstacle. And could I really do it? My mommy-brain felt stretched to the limit. Mostly, I wasn’t sure I had the discipline to follow through. When I actually started, though, I soon discovered that my own misplaced beliefs--that spiritual disciplines require tons of time and are more work than they’re worth--had kept me from one of the greatest joys in life.
We’re not always sure how to think of spiritual disciplines, because they can seem legalistic or only occasionally fruitful. And it seems that aside from fasting, the spiritual discipline that gets the worst rap or elicits the deepest feelings of guilt is Scripture memory. However, spiritual disciplines aren't rote tasks; they are doors that we can open to hear from God if and when He chooses to speak. And, yes, Scripture memory is one of those ways.
But how is it our joy? Imagine memorizing a passage of Scripture that you’ve not ever understood completely. As you imprint it on your brain, as you say it out loud, your tongue emphasizes words that you’ve not noticed before. As you say it day after day, you emphasize different words, you see the passage differently than you saw it the day before, and the phrasing reminds you of something you read or memorized in another section of Scripture. The Bible simply comes alive. And your mind is filled with truth that, as it’s meditated on, moves to your heart. You begin to value and treasure the Word and its fullness.
So I don’t challenge you to incorporate Scripture memory into your life, I invite you to experience joy through this discipline. Here are a few thoughts about what I’ve learned as I’ve done it and how you can get started yourself:
5 Tips for Easier Scripture Memorization
1. Believe That You Aren’t Too Busy
Who isn’t busy these days? However, no matter how busy we are, we all have “empty” time. For me, my empty time is in the shower, when I’m blow drying my hair, in the carpool lane, in the moments before I go to sleep at night, and as I’m standing at the stove corralling dinner. Today, they came to me during a drive that should have taken 20 minutes but took 45 because of traffic due to a car accident. Basically, my mind is working overtime as I carry out menial tasks or am forced to sit and wait.
Yours may be different. Maybe it’s when you’re riding home on the subway or commuting in the morning. Maybe it’s in the quiet before the kids awaken. Maybe it’s as you run on the treadmill or go for a walk in your neighborhood. Whenever it is, identify routine times when your mind tends to roam and claim that time for Scripture memory.
2. Identify Your Learning Style
Are you a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? The way you learn should inform the way you practice Scripture memory. Auditory learners can use a Bible on CD in the car and recite their verses along with the narrator. Kinesthetic learners can learn and recite on walks or jogs or in an environment where they can use their hands to help them remember. I am a visual learner, so I carry a printout of my passage in and out of my car and use visual cues to help me recall what I’ve learned.
3. Choose Carefully
After you’ve decided when you’ll memorize and recite, think carefully about what you’ll memorize. Choose Scripture verses or passages that you love or have been meaningful to you. If you love what you’re memorizing, you’ll have the motivation you need to get started and to stick with it at the most challenging time to be disciplined--the beginning.
4. Think Big
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Consider memorizing chapters or books of the Bible rather than verses selected at random. I know that sounds completely crazy, but I’ve found that it’s actually easier to memorize chunks of Scripture. Rather than simply memorizing a string of words, I’m memorizing words that flow around a theme or idea. So not only am I getting the words, I’m getting the point of the words. I’m studying and learning Scripture and how it all fits together as I commit it to memory. And it’s easier to remember that way. (The strategy I use for memorizing chunks of Scripture came from Dr. Andrew Davis and is found here.)
5. The More the Merrier
It is far too easy to give up on memorizing Scripture or to let what you’ve memorized go dormant. Invite a friend, family member, or spouse to join you in discovering the joy of Scripture memory. Not only will you double your joy, you’ll have the accountability you need to sustain your efforts over time.
Can you imagine living into old age and also having committed yourself to Scripture memory for many years? Can you imagine what it would be like to recite a book of the Bible and not only recite it but understand it in your heart? Can you imagine God speaking directly into a time of great despair with the very words you have committed to memory? All of these possibilities are very real. It can be done by faithful obedience over time in the empty times of your daily routines. I invite you to experience the joy!
Christine Hoover is the author of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart and the forthcoming book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. She has contributed to the Desiring God blog, In(courage), and Christianity Today, and blogs for ministry wives at www.GraceCoversMe.com. Christine and her husband Kyle, a church planting pastor, have three boys.