Psalm 1:3 says that the person who meditates on God’s teaching is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (ESV).
One of the best things that I have ever done is to memorize an entire book of the Bible. It was the spring of 2010 and I was mowing the lawns of Capernwray Harbour, a Bible school in British Columbia. I chose 1 John, because the book is short and because I found it compelling. Every day I would memorize five verses. During the day, while working, I would rehearse in my head all the verses that I had already learned. Soon, I was able to rehearse entire chapters. The more that I learned by heart, the more I was able to see how certain words and ideas were repeated throughout the book. It was a fantastic way to learn and come to understand the Word of God, and it also gave me an incredible joy. I felt that my faith was growing at a good pace.
In fact, I so much enjoyed the exercise that, when I had finished memorizing 1 John, I chose another book – Paul’s letter to the Philippians – and continued the adventure. I succeeded in memorizing the words, but, even more importantly, in assimilating the message that Paul wanted to communicate. Again, I felt joy overflowing within myself. It was nothing short of meeting with the living God through His Word.
I am writing this article to encourage you to memorize the Word of God and to give you a few little tips.
Memorize at Your Rhythm
Since 2010, I have not again found the time to memorize an entire book of the Bible. I got married, and then I started theological education. Later, we had kids, etc. I see now that I could have done it if I had made it a priority. In fact, after a long interval, I am starting once again to memorize Scripture.
What I want to communicate is that it does not have to be an impossible burden. You can start small. Our church just started memorizing one or two verses per month – per month! That’s easy! All it takes is to set aside a few minutes per week and to know how to make good use of those minutes.
Yes, You Are Able
Nowadays, people memorize very little; less and less all the time, in fact. It was not always so. My parents’ generation memorized a good deal more at school than mine did, and in ancient times they memorized even more. As human beings, we have the capacity to memorize – I assure you.
As a student and as a professor, I have met people who think that they are not able to memorize. I don’t believe them. Often, the problem is that no one has ever shown them how to memorize. They put in a few minutes of arbitrary memory work, and when they encounter difficulties they pronounce themselves incapable.
I am going to share two secrets. The first is that memorization takes time. If you want to memorize a verse by reading it a single time, I think that you will be disappointed. You must put aside some time to rehearse what you want to memorize until you can rehearse it by heart without looking at the text and without mistakes. And then you must return to it the next day. And then again. And then again. You have to put more time into it at the beginning, and after a few days you can leave longer and longer spaces between rehearsing. Soon, it will be sufficient to rehearse a verse once per week. Then, after a while, once per month. If you ever stop rehearsing completely, the verse will escape you.
The second secret is to memorize a little at a time, and afterward to put the pieces together. If you want to memorize Psalm 1, it is not efficient to read the whole psalm and then try to rehearse the whole thing from memory. It is more efficient to read a single verse and to memorize that. When the first verse is solid, you can proceed to the second. Memorize the second verse alone. When you’ve memorized it, try rehearsing the two verses together before learning the third one. Each time, memorize one verse and then add it to the others to see if you can rehearse them all together. Do not advance until you can do them all without mistakes.
Find Yourself Some Companions
Many people find it easier to maintain discipline with one or more travelling companions. Our church has started memorizing one passage per month as a group. We put aside a few minutes during each service to rehearse the passage together. Of course, it is not sufficient; we still have to put in the time alone at home. But it is something that we are doing together.
A Tool for Memorization
I recently discovered a free online tool called BibleMemory.com. It is a system that allows you to memorize by typing on a keyboard. There are several options. I like the option that has me only type the first letter of each word.
The system starts by showing the entire text, and you simply copy it:
At the second step, the system shows only every second word, and you have to supply the rest from memory:
Finally, after a few tries, you get to attempt the entire text without any help:
The website has a good number of English translations whose text you can import automatically. If you want another translation, or if you want to memorize in another language – French, for example – then you can still use this system. For example, you can use a site like BibleGateway to find the translation you want and then copy and paste the text into the box.
Memorizing the Word of God is absolutely worth it. You are able to do it. There are tricks and tools to help you do it.
My prayer is that this short article will be an encouragement to you to put aside a little time and to throw yourself into this grand adventure.
This article is a translation from French. The original article first appeared on the SOLA – Coalition pour l’Évangile website.