The most effective action we can take to improve our lives is Scripture memory. Reading the Bible empowers us, but memorizing the Bible ratchets up that inner power to an extraordinary level. There is nothing like it. Nothing.
The challenge is actually succeeding with memory work. People often say things like, “I can’t memorize Bible verses; I’ve tried.” I used to feel that way, too. It always looked to me that certain people had a special gift to memorize Scripture, and they could rattle off Bible verses like Teddy Ruxpin. But me? I wasn’t one of them. I couldn’t remember one little verse, no matter how hard I toiled away at it.
Things have changed. Now I can memorize the Bible relatively easily, even long chapters of it. The more I plant to Word in my heart, the more I am blessed by spiritual growth. And, boy, do I ever need to grow …
I have compiled two lists of the steps I took to improve Scripture memory. Today’s list involves the BEGINNING to memory work and the next list will be the PRACTICE of memory work.
These are the changes of mindset that must take place in order for us to begin memory work:
1. Speak in positive terms. Saying things like, “I am no good at Scripture memory,” will definitely keep you stuck without results. I used to say that very thing about myself, but now I know it wasn’t true, at all. Changing your words will start the process of changing your ability. Try to say, “I am working to become better at Scripture memory.” Now, that is true, right? Eventually, you WILL become better at it.
2. Chip away at the wall. I think there is a spiritual wall or blockade in us when it comes to Bible memory, but I have found that it slowly falls away. Every time a new verse becomes “ours,” we are breaking down the wall a little bit more. Memorizing will NOT always be this difficult. It will become easier and easier with every verse. Eventually, the wall in our brains will be completely gone and memorizing will feel natural. Actually, it’s supernatural.
3. Choose a verse that you really need right now. If you begin by trying to memorize a grand doctrinal verse that encapsulates your Christian faith, you might not make progress as fast as you will if you choose a verse that applies to your current need. Several years ago, I began this memory process with “The Lord grants sleep to those He loves.” Why did I start there? Because I was so, so tired and had arthritis that was keeping me awake night after night. I whispered the verse over myself every time I woke up in the early morning, tossing and turning. Now I know it by heart. To this day, I still look for specific verses for specific needs. Do you want to know the verse I need this week? “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” I find myself repeating it all day long because it’s a reminder I need right now. Practicality makes all the difference. Pick a verse that will help you in an immediate way, and it will be easier to memorize.
4. Focus on the words. I don’t memorize specific verse numbers. I just like to have a general idea of the book or chapter. The important thing is getting the concepts into your heart, not remembering exactly where they are located in the Bible. I have no idea where most of the verses I have memorized are found. I know the words, not the numbers. If I need to find the verse number, I can always Google the words or go straight to that book of the Bible to scan for the verse.
5. Decide if you need to rely on one translation for memory. I did not make serious progress with Scripture memory until I admitted that my mind is wired for the New International Version. The language pattern “fits well” in my mouth. Maybe this is because it is the version I read as a child. Today, I exclusively use the New Living Translation and The Message to read at home and I exclusively use the English Standard Version and New King James Version as study tools at church and in graduate school. I hardly ever read from the NIV anymore … but this is what I use to memorize. I STRUGGLE when I try to use any other version. I thought this was only me, but a friend of mine told me that she can only successfully memorize from the New American Standard Bible, although she uses contemporary translations for everything else in her life. She has always thought it is because she read from the NASB as a child. Apparently, there is something to this. If you do not have a childhood history of using the Bible, then pick the translation that has a language pattern that you like, and make that your “memory version.” But if you had any acquaintance with the Bible as a child, then just double-check to see if the version from your childhood is easier for you to memorize. At any rate, pick a “memory version” that feels comfortable, and then stick with it. Jumping around might make it more difficult to memorize. It does for me, anyway.
Those are the key changes that will facilitate a thriving practice of Bible memory. In my next post, I will show you how I go about memorizing. Until then, may God’s “Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.”
And that probably would be found somewhere in Psalms.