For many people, Bible memorization is hard work. You’d be surprised at the excuses I’ve heard from people who said they can’t memorize Scripture. Yet I’m amazed to find they have memorized or filled their minds with many insignificant facts and statistics (e.g., Babe Ruth’s or Michael Jordan’s career averages and accomplishments; or names of every song on albums by recording artists from decades ago). Many of us have quickly learned new street addresses, e-mail addresses, passwords for various log-ins and security codes, and mobile phone numbers of our friends. But we don’t think we can memorize God’s Word nor have the time to do so. I have never heard a good excuse from anyone for not memorizing verses, and I’ve not heard a valid excuse for not studying the Bible, praying, or for spending special time with the Lord.
The Heart of the Struggle
Why is Bible memorization such a struggle for some of us? Is it because we lack the desire to do so? Do we really understand that we need to memorize and meditate on the Word of God? It is essential for our growth and maturity. Are we convinced that by memorizing His Word we will know our Lord and understand His will better? The only way we can really obey God is to know His Word. We need to continually bathe our minds in the Word (“Marinate our minds in the Word” is how Fred Kosin puts it!). The first step in being a successful verse-memorizer is to have a heartfelt desire to know God’s Word. You begin to understand that your time memorizing is really time with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the living “Word” and it is His Word you are memorizing!
It Takes Discipline
I remember that after I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and became a Christian I had the desire to read the Bible and pray. I wanted to soak up everything I could to learn more about Him. But then something happened: I found that if I didn’t discipline myself, my daily Bible reading and prayer time would often slip away. I found that other things of lesser importance would fill in the time. There was a competition for my time by many other worthwhile things, some of which pertained to ministry. (Sounds a little like Martha, busy with service and no time to sit at the feet of the Master to learn!) The “other worthwhile things” really couldn’t compare to Bible reading and prayer, my special time with the Lord, but I had to learn that I needed to develop a daily discipline to strengthen these proper desires. Therefore, discipline is the second step towards being a successful Bible memorizer.
It Takes Understanding
The main goal of Bible memory work is to learn the meaning of the verses so you can apply them properly. What good is it if you can recite hundreds of verses but don’t understand what they mean or how they can be used to help you or others? Proper application and understanding are essential. This is why we don’t use sledgehammers to swat at gnats or flies. The sledgehammer would be misapplied.
It Takes Meditation
Meditation is an essential ingredient when you are memorizing. Spend time with a verse. Purposely take a verse card and spend an entire week with it. Read it. Recite it. Think about each phrase. Pray while you are meditating on this portion of Scripture. Don’t rush through it. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what the verse means and how you can apply it. Can you use this verse to help others? Prepare your mind for the occasions where this verse can be appropriately presented to others. What does the verse teach you about the Lord? Did you gain any new insights about Him and His will?
The Bible Memory Program
Over the years at Fairbluff Bible Chapel in Charlotte, NC, we have had many Bible memory programs. Not all of them have been as successful as our most recent program. Of course, for anyone who participated in the programs of the past and grew in their knowledge of the Word and relationship to the Lord, we praise the Lord! But in our program, launched in 2008, success was measured by the following criteria:
- At least 40% of the fellowship participating
- 90% completing the program
- And subjectively: Is there a noticeable difference in our Prayer Time & Worship; Do we see noticeable evidence of application of the Word?
Changes to the Program
The Bible Memory Program is getting excellent results at our assembly. We began to make adjustments to our programs based on evaluating “what went wrong” in the past and the changes we have made have provided us with good results [as stated in the bullet points above]. The main changes made were the following:
- We introduced accountability. Every participant has a specific person he/she recites to. We called this person a “Hearer / Encourager” [HE]. The HE’s were carefully selected and saw the work they were doing as a ministry. They prayed faithfully for those who were memorizing; called the participants on the phone; e-mailed them; and had regular contact to be sure no one lagged behind. The prayer support and encouragement has made a difference! It has given opportunity for several others to use their spiritual gifts in the assembly for the Lord.
- We instructed our fellowship on the importance of the Bible Memory Program and its value. Memorization of the Word can keep us from sin and folly. It can cleanse our mind. It prepares us for service. It helps our worship and our prayer life. Many in our fellowship are now convinced of the value of Bible memorization.
- We made the structure of the program manageable. Each week of the program, the verse or verses to be meditated upon and memorized are what can fit on a card — a business card! The program is not intimidating, the cards are convenient to carry around, and we emphasize the importance of meditating on the Word. We don’t see the value in last-minute memorizing like some of us might have done in cramming for a final exam.
Our Program in Action
The adjustments mentioned above also can be used as good techniques by anyone who is developing his/her own memorization program on an individual basis. Find an accountability partner who knows what you are doing and will encourage you and pray for you as you memorize. Regularly have a time you can meet so you can recite the verses learned. You can also use the time to explain to your accountability partner what the verses mean and how they can be used. Perhaps even specifically, how they helped you! Pray together about your memory work and any difficulty you may be experiencing.
Write in your journal or on a piece of paper to be kept with your Bible, the value you see in memorizing Scripture. Write down your goals for doing this, and define your heart’s desire. You might explain this as if you were writing a note to the Lord. Affirm that you know you are obeying Him by doing this. Review what you have written on a regular basis and begin to record the things you learn as you meditate on each verse. Perhaps, write these things on the back of the cards you make for yourself.
Keep the program manageable for yourself. You should be thinking about a lifelong discipline — a marathon race, not a sprint. Bible memorization is something every believer should be involved with all the time. Each day we should be meditating on a portion of the Word, why not the portion we are trying to commit to memory? Some people have the ability to memorize a verse a day, or even more. Don’t measure yourself by what others are doing. Remember that the importance of Bible memorization is for you to know the Word so you can apply it properly and grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Choosing the Right Club
I like to golf but am a very average golfer. Nonetheless, when I go golfing, I have a bag of clubs I carry with me, and each club has a different purpose. I have a driver to use off the tee box when a long drive is needed, other clubs for approach shots, others for when I’m around the green or in the sand, and a putter for when I’m on the green and trying to put the ball in the hole. It wouldn’t be very helpful to my game if I used only the driver on the course, it wouldn’t be appropriate for every place or shot where my ball was lying.
The same thing holds true for Bible verses. Most believers know John 3:16; they can recite it word perfect. But John 3:16 is not the verse for every situation. It would be good for you to have many other verses available [which have been committed word perfect to your memory] that you can quote when the right situation presents itself. In the same way that I pull out a different club for different shots needed on the golf course, you should be able to pull other verses out of your memory for many situations: verses pertaining to evangelism; verses for encouragement; verses for times of temptation; for holiness; and many more!
I have also been surprised by believers not knowing where to even look for a suitable verse in their Bible because they haven’t attempted to memorize or meditate on Scripture. Time spent memorizing the Word will help you find your way through the Scriptures. Meditating helps you to understand the context. As a believer, you already know that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17-17, NASB). A verse like this should remind us of the great value in committing many verses to memory because of all the areas we can apply the Word to our lives.
An Urgent Call to Action
There are many places in the world today where it is illegal to have a Bible. Persecution of believers who follow Christ is very real, and there are those who lay down their lives for following Him. How much value do you think they have placed on the Word of God? If our Bibles were taken away from us, would we be able to recite vast portions of it to help others? How would we witness to others without a Bible to open? Would our efforts to paraphrase something we think resembles a verse be convincing proof of the power of the Word? We must memorize His Word! Who knows where we will be or when we will need it, and a Bible may not be handy!
There are many places you can go to find useful resources and tools to help you with Bible memorization. I found several useful Web sites rather easily by doing a search online. Going to trusted sources like the Navigators can also be helpful. There usually are verse packets that can be purchased inexpensively at Christian bookstores, but you can easily make your own cards too. Some people prefer to hand-write their cards as it helps them immediately in the memorization process. However, don’t let decisions like making cards or purchasing them be a stumbling block to you. Get started right away to meditate and memorize the Word of God!
I don’t know anyone who ever felt Bible memorization was not worth the effort. Everyone who commits to this grows in his or her relationship with the Lord, especially if the desire is to honor Him and not be puffed up with pride by the number of verses learned. I suppose I should clarify one point concerning this: I have known unbelievers who have memorized many verses without having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Lord willing, this knowledge will one day help them to come to trust Him for salvation, “For faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This article has been written for every believer with a view to encourage you — it is well worth the effort to memorize God’s Word. The rewards for doing so are priceless!