You can memorize Scripture!
One of the deepest, richest spiritual disciplines is memorizing Scripture. Memorization aids our fight against sin, reinforces the soul-stirring beauty of the gospel in our hearts, and, as Don Whitney says, is “like reinforcing steel to a sagging faith.” It allows us to store truth in our hearts to which we have access at all times to encourage, correct, sustain, strengthen, and delight our souls.
But many people do not memorize Scripture. Why? Some say they are too busy. Some claim that they “just aren’t good at memorization.” Some perhaps want to but have not been motivated or challenged to do it. It remains on that list of “things I should probably do but haven’t gotten around to doing.”
I want to encourage you: you should and can memorize Scripture! Like with anything else, what you need is some encouragement, some counsel, and a plan. Here are some considerations I have found helpful in growing in the discipline of Scripture memory.
1. Start small and easy
An error many people fall into with Scripture memory is the same one people fall into with resolutions to lose weight. They look at that sag in the mirror and announce in a moment of inspiration, “I’m going to eat right! No more sweets! Water instead of Coke! Go to the gym 5 days a week!” Those promises last about as long as the next time someone brings in donuts to work. They want to lose 40 pounds in a week and start off harder than they can maintain. The same often applies to the discipline of Scripture memory. We start by biting off more than we can chew.
So start slow. Set a goal that is less strenuous than you think you can handle. Try a verse a month. That may not sound like a lot, but at the end of the year, you’ve memorized 12 new verses (which is likely 12 more than you memorized last year)! Don’t try to memorize a whole chapter in a month right off the bat. People tend to overestimate what they can do in a month and underestimate what they can do in a year. Start small, do something less than what you think is manageable, and go from there.
2. Seize idle time throughout the day
When I tried to set aside extra time to memorize Scripture, I found that time was often squeezed out by the busyness of the day. What helped me grow in regularity was to seize time during the day where I already had idle time and use that for Scripture memory. Instead of immediately turning on the radio on your ride to work, spend the first 5 minutes on Scripture memory. While you’re waiting in line somewhere, instead of scrolling on your phone through Twitter fights, sports news, or Facebook pictures, focus your mind on your verse. Find time where your mind is doing nothing during the day and seize it for memorization.
3. Get the tools you need
Like most things, we accomplish best the things for which we plan. How will you keep your verse close to you so that you can seize those idle times? There are several Scripture memory apps you can download for your phone. Some use notecards. Prepare for Scripture memory by getting what you need to keep it close to you.
4. Go over the verse in multiple forms
When we use different parts of our brain and body to memorize Scripture, it helps strengthen the connections and aids in memorization. Recite the verse in your mind. Other times say it audibly. See how fast you can say it. Slow down and recite it as if you were explaining it to someone. Write it down from memory. Sometimes I make hand motions on parts where I get stuck. Draw a doodle that helps you remember it. The more ways you stretch out and utilize your mental capacities for Scripture memorization, the more cemented it becomes in your mind.
5. Have a weekly Scripture “weigh-in”
One of the reasons why weight loss systems like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers were so effective is because they combined their goals with community and accountability. Grab a spouse, friend, family or church member (it should be someone you see on a regular basis without special planning for the best results) and set a regular time to rehearse the verse you’ve been working on. I have found that when I am reciting my verse to my kids or my wife, the times where I miss a word and they correct me helps to strengthen my grasp of that particular part. If I miss a word, I find that I don’t miss it again because the correction of knowing, “Oh, it’s not this, it’s that,” or, “That part comes after this word,” helps me to remember it in the future.
So, friends, you can memorize Scripture! Take a small chunk, redeem that idle time, make plans, use your whole brain and body, create regular “weigh-ins” and you will find that you can commit God’s word to memory, one verse at a time!