I know you probably think that I’m bananas for claiming to like memorizing Scripture. And yes, I am more than a little bit nerdy. I admit that. But hiding God’s Words in my heart isn’t about having an outlet for my nerdy tendencies. Like exercise, Scripture memory is always work. And most of the time I don’t feel like doing it.
But it’s worth it.
Here are four reasons why.
Reason #1: It Helps Me Meditate on Scripture
Depending on your background, the word meditate may trigger images of Eastern Mysticism, an empty mind, or someone sitting cross-legged chanting “Ooooommmm.” None of these comes close to the biblical definition of meditation.
A better picture is a cow. While not very classy, the lowly bovine captures the essence of meditation perfectly. A ruminant animal, the cow has four stomachs and must digest its food four separate times through “chewing the cud.” In fact, our English word “ruminate” (a synonym of meditate) derives its meaning from this process. To meditate on Scripture, we must chew on it repeatedly and “digest” it very slowly over the course of time.
And I stink at it.
While I love my morning quiet time with my coffee, toast, and Bible, I must admit that I don’t meditate on the Word during that time like I should. Yes, I pray through a text and try not to move too quickly through a verse or paragraph. But it doesn’t stick with me through my day like when I’m memorizing a passage of Scripture.
The process of memorization requires repetition. If I memorize a verse one day and come back to it less than twenty-four hours later I often have almost no recollection of the verse. So, I must remind myself what it was, review it a few times and move on to the next verse. Repeating this process day after day, week after week, requires my mind to meditate on the passage—often without realizing I’m doing it. After a few days or even a week of working on a passage, I start to find that certain words or phrases are just “in my head,” like a catchy song. Concepts and ideas that I would never have spent time thinking about suddenly snap into focus because I have been meditating on Scripture through the process of memorization.
Scripture memory isn’t about acing a verse test or getting an AWANA badge. There will be no quiz in heaven to see who has the most verses memorized. While Scripture promises benefits for having God’s Words hidden in your heart, the process of putting them there comes with its own dividends as well. A mind that’s dwelling on Scripture is just one example.
Reason #2: It Renews My Mind
Have you ever wondered how many lies you hear, watch, or read in one day? If we could track such a thing, I think the number would astound us. We probably don’t even notice half of the falsehoods that assault us on a daily basis. From the undercurrents in TV ads to song lyrics to social media posts to headline news, we are inundated with error. It makes sense since the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) is also the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Why wouldn’t his sphere of dominion be ruled by equivocation?
We must fight back. But how?
In Romans 12, Paul exhorts believers not to be “conformed” to the world system—not to believe the lies that flood their ears and eyes. Instead, the apostle says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). This mind renewal comes only by wearing new neural paths in our brains so that we stop following the old ones, carved by the lies of the enemy.
In short, do battle against the lies of the devil with truth. Committing God’s Word to memory gives you a sharp sword ready to be drawn at a moment’s notice. Scripture itself promises great power to those who store up God’s Word:
I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you. (Psa 119:11)
Without a storehouse of Scripture, a renewed mind is still possible. But this advantage is one reason that I love to memorize Scripture. It’s so useful in the heat of battle—like a soldier carrying a gun that’s already loaded when he puts his boots on the ground in enemy territory.
Reason #3: Scripture memory gives me better understanding of the text.
I’m an advocate for inductive Bible study, a proponent of marking key words and asking good questions of a text, and a firm believer in going deep into a passage of Scripture. However, I think the single most valuable Bible study tool is not a colored pencil, a Greek/English dictionary, or the right study by the right author. The most valuable tool for Bible study is memorization.
Memorizing long passages—like entire chapters or entire books—provides better understanding than even the deepest Bible study. Because you’re constantly reviewing and meditating on the whole thing, you’ll start to make connections and see themes that may have remained invisible to you if you hadn’t put in the time and effort to memorize the book.
Because of the time you spend investing in a given book or passage, you’ll start to feel like an expert on that material. You’ll no longer feel the need to consult the commentaries or study Bibles quite so much (not that there’s anything wrong with those). You’ll have confidence in what you know because you’ll know it so well.
Maybe you think that it’s too late for you, that you’re too old to memorize or too busy or just plain bad at it. My advice to you is simple: Do it anyway. If you spend the rest of your life memorizing just one book of the Bible, you will know that one book and own it in a special way. When you have to fight for every line and every verse, it will sink into the very marrow of your bones; and you’ll understand it inside, outside, upside-down, and sideways.
That’s something you won’t regret.
Reason #4: Scripture memory changes the way I pray.
It’s surprising enough for me to claim that Scripture memory might be my favorite spiritual discipline. It would be more surprising still if I claimed that prayer topped that list. But I make no such claim because, like you, I struggle to pray well. But that struggle gets a little easier when I stop and pray back God’s own words to Him.
Of course, you don’t have to have a verse memorized in order to pray it. Praying with an open Bible is an excellent practice, and one that I highly commend. But many times, we hear of a need and are moved to pray when our Bibles are far from us. We need to enter the throne room right now. What requests will fill that prayer?
While God hears and cherishes the weak, stammering, simple, and fragile prayers of His children, prayers drenched in the words of Scripture contain special efficacy. Consider Jesus’ promise to His disciples in John 15:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. (Jhn 15:7)
When you memorize and thereby meditate on and understand Scripture, a natural byproduct is that it will start to enter your vocabulary. Don’t use prayer as a means of showing off all the verses you have memorized—that’s Pharisee stuff—but allow the Scripture hidden in your heart to come out in the language of your prayers. Let your prayers weave together the burden of your heart and the words of God Himself.
Memorizing Scripture may never be your favorite spiritual discipline. That’s okay. But don’t let that keep you from trying it. The rewards that it brings make it well worth the effort. Why not give it a try this year and see for yourself?