I jogged around the neighborhood one afternoon and felt lethargic the entire time. I wanted to quit altogether. Instead, I used a tactic my dad taught me when we used to train together when I was in high school: I pushed myself to run just to the mailbox, then to the tree, and then to the street sign, and before I knew it, I made it back home, running the whole way.
A thought bounced around in my mind as I ran. This is so good for my health; I will feel so refreshed when I've finished. I knew it was a good activity to practice, but I needed a dose of inspiration.
The same is true for memorizing passages of the Bible. We may have read of its value, but just like with running, we need more encouragement. If we only memorize Scripture when we feel like it or when there is nothing else on our to-do list, we will hardly ever find the time.
To memorize Scripture effectively, we must be intentional and consistent in our practice. The Bible reinforces this truth in Joshua 1:8, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (New International Version, emphasis mine).
I asked my dad, who had just completed a marathon, why he jogged. He gave me some insight. "There is joy in running, especially when I'm running 'in the groove,' and I always feel good when I finish," he told me. "I'm glad for the long-term impact on my life."
He approaches Scripture memorization similarly. I have vivid memories of when I was a young girl watching my dad flip through index cards while driving on a long trip or waiting in line at the post office. As I got older, I realized he was memorizing verses from the Bible. When I recently asked his reasoning, he said, "I enjoy the Lord more and meditate on Him and His Word better, and I am more inclined to avoid sin."
His response motivated me to discover the benefits of memorizing verses from the Bible.
First of all, God's Word renews our mind and gives truth. Recently at a conference for teenage girls, my friends and I encouraged the girls to identify a lie they believed about themselves, such as "I need to be thin to be beautiful." Then we encouraged them to find truth from God's Word that shattered the lie. As we memorize Scripture, we transform our negative thinking into thoughts that are "excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8, NIV).
God's Word also keeps us from sin or temptation. In Praying God's Word, Beth Moore writes, "In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul listed the whole armor of God. Only one piece of armor is actually a weapon .... The sword of the Spirit, clearly identified as the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God." As we call to mind the verses that we have memorized when we are anxious, tempted to gossip or lust, we are able to stand against sin. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You" (NIV).
Finally, God's Word encourages others. For me, one of the joys of living in a dorm room at a Christian college was waking up to notes with Scripture verses scribbled with markers hung on my door from friends. They reminded me of God's promises from His Word before a job interview or relationship decision. I have tucked many of their notes into my Bible and every time I come across them, I am still encouraged.
When I was jogging with my dad, I often asked him to give me practical tips to be a better runner. He suggested pointers such as taking long strides and beginning with attainable goals. Similarly, to memorize Scripture, we often need the insights of others.
Here are a few ideas to keep you motivated:
- PUT VERSES TO MUSIC. In Sunday school when I was in third grade, I learned the words to the song Thy Word, taken from Psalm 119:105. I can quote the Scripture word for word today because the tune is forever stuck in my head. Teresa Zeltwanger, a mother of four, also recognizes the benefit. "My third-grade daughter's teacher put all their verses to catchy [theme] songs like Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch," she says. "That helped Alyssa tremendously."
- CARRY VERSES WITH YOU. Write verses on note cards assembled with a clasp or ribbon and keep them in your purse, backpack or car. When you have a few spare minutes, flip through the verses. In addition, write verses in places you frequent often—the bathroom mirror, the kitchen windowsill or your office desk. Seventy-nine-year-old Mel Gerrard, who has memorized more than 800 verses in his lifetime, organized a system with business cards to help him memorize verses. "I write the reference in the right corner and a hint about the verse in the left corner," he says. "And then I review eight verses a day."
- PRACTICE WHILE EXERCISING. Traci Anderson, a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ, says her favorite way to memorize Scripture is while working out at the gym. "As I rode the bike, I would concentrate on memorizing longer portions of Bible passages that I copied onto a folded sheet of paper." Others take note cards with them when they go for a walk.
- GRAB A FRIEND. As with all other disciplines, we need one another's help and accountability. Merrielle Buckner, also a staff member with Campus Crusade, says, "My running partner and I work on learning a passage and then repeat it throughout the run together." Repetitively reviewing verses with a friend will cement them in our minds.
One last piece of encouragement: Don't give up. Just like with running, memorize Scripture step by step. If you keep on the path consistently, you'll be surprised at the joy you feel and the distance you've run.