If you’re like me, you feel pressure from everything within life to give our time and attention to. The idea of spiritual formation or the practice of memorizing Scripture, praying, meditating, etc seems too unrealistic.
The thing is, most of us don’t want to admit that our time management skills are the problem, we like the easy answer of, “I’m just bad at memorizing.”
If you know your name, address, social security or telephone number, or better yet the names and stats of your favorite sports athletes… then you can no longer say, "I just can't memorize."
We memorize words to songs, important dates, and the names of new friends. We certainly can memorize Scripture. The real question is how long it will take… and how long we are willing to give to the practice. For most people it will take about three consecutive days to put word for word phrases into long-term memory. I had a professor in college lay out this plan for us when we were voicing our struggles to him about memorizing Scripture:
1.) 10 minutes per verse to memorize it the first time. Memorize it well and correctly. Use more time if needed.
2.) 5 minute review right before bed, for three evenings (this allows your sub-conscience to work on it while you sleep).
3.) 5 minute review the first thing in the morning, for three days.
First, you'll want to pick a good translation. There’s no sense in memorizing from a translation you don’t understand. This doesn’t benefit anyone or anything. Reading and studying a translation that you cannot decipher doesn’t make you more “spiritual”, it makes you an ignoramus.
The New Testament writers didn’t write in ancient Hebrew, they didn’t write in classical Greek (so only the elite would be able to read it), they wrote in the common tongue. They wrote so that the governing official could read it just as well as the merchant, the fisherman, the scribe, the farmer, etc.
Bible translators today do the same thing, as language changes over time, so does our need to redefine certain phrases and words from the original ancient languages.
Second, read the text and its context aloud until you clearly understand its meaning. It is much easier to memorize words that make sense to you. Always memorize aloud because you incorporate multiple senses into your work.
Always work smarter, not harder!
By using both your eyes and ears, your brain is using multiple sections to work together to drive this message into your mind for good.
Read the first phrase of the verse. Then close your Bible and repeat it (aloud) over and over (about 10 times). Do it right the first time! It takes much less time to memorize it right the first time than to re-memorize it later. Then read the next phrase, close your Bible, and do the same thing. Then put the two of them together, repeating them both over and over until it becomes comfortable. Add a third phrase, etc. until you have completed the whole verse.
Close your eyes and try to picture the scene: Who said this? To whom? When? What was going on? How did he or she feel? etc.
Another way to add to this is to role-play the passage.
Now before you just write this off, stay with me… Pretend that you are the author, writing or speaking this for the very first time. You wouldn't be saying it in monotone or non enthusiastically.
These writers were excited to be saying what they were saying... well except maybe Jeremiah.
Nonetheless, they all wrote with a lot of emotion. Moses wrote forcefully. Isaiah rote with great expectation. Jeremiah wrote on tear stained scrolls. Paul wrote with immense passion and gratitude, and sometimes with a lot of anger (yep I'm calling you out Galatians)!
John wrote with such an encouragement and instruction.
And the Holy Spirit who is the true author of it all, has a very clear purpose and desire for each word.
So... remember the author as you memorize.
Act it out using lots of gestures, facial expressions, and vocal inflections.
How do you think actors and actresses get so good at their lines? They BECOME the character.
If we practiced doing that, we would get really good at talking like we imagine Paul spoke, thinking the way Peter thought, etc.
We need to allow the authors come alive through the words they penned down thousands of years ago.
There are many other methods to use or to add to this.
I’m curious, what methods do you use to memorize Scripture?
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.