It’s Time To Revive Scripture Memorization

Recently my church did a survey as part of the process of looking for a new pastor. We’re quite deliberate about this, and I’m glad. First we are taking stock: looking at what Scripture says about the qualifications of a church leader, a shepherd of God’s people, and then looking at ourselves as an organization to see who we are and what we need most.

Recently the pastoral staff asked us to fill out a demographic survey. When they had compiled the results, they passed them along to us. As it turns out, we are an older congregation (no surprise there — a quick scan on a Sunday morning tells you this) but also a fairly mature one. The stat that jumped out at me was in answer to the question about reading the Bible daily. Seventy-five percent of those filling out the survey said, yes, they spend time reading God’s Word. Of course, not quite half of those who attend our church filled out the survey, so I suspect that number may be a little high for the entire congregation. Nevertheless it reflects the emphasis our pastoral staff put on Scripture reading the past three years.

Noticeably absent was Bible memorization. Absent. As in, it wasn’t on the survey. Prayer was. Church attendance, participation in a fellowship group (i. e. Sunday school class) or Bible study, participation in a ministry, meditation (in disguise), witnessing (also in disguise), and fasting all made the list. Not Bible memorization.

I suspect Bible memory went the way of old technology about the time educational professionals began disparaging memorization as a learning method. No more rote learning for us! That’s not real education!

I could argue that point, but I don’t really need to. Even if it were true, Scripture explains the benefits of knowing God’s Word intimately — meaning that even if all other memorization was worthless, learning what the Bible says, still has value. “Your word I have treasured in my heart,” Psalms says, “that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

Take a look at a few others:

The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip. (Psalm 37:31)

I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)

Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7)

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. . . . then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD (Deuteronomy 6:6, 12a)

Are these “heart” verses necessarily talking about memorization? I think a case could be made against that position, but I don’t think anyone could show that memorizing Scripture leads away from a person becoming intimately involved with God’s Word.

Here’s the thing. As I’ve said elsewhere, I believe prayer is most effective when we pray for the things we know God wants for us and for us to do — things we learn about in the Bible. How can we effectively pray according to God’s revealed Word if we don’t know what His Word says?

How can we formulate a Biblical approach to politics or romance or work or suffering if we don’t know what the Bible says about these matters? Yes, reading the Bible and listening to preaching that explains it are huge parts of our being equipped to face our world.

But the fact is, when someone pulls me aside to tell me the latest bit of gossip, my pastor isn’t there beside me to remind me what God thinks about that. When I’m ticked off and looking for someone I can voice my complaints to, my Bible isn’t going to pop open to the verses about grumbling.

These are things I need to have as a part of me. They should be part of an ever expanding body of knowledge that the Holy Spirit can then bring to my remembrance when I need them. Because He is present when I face temptations or when I’m bowed in prayer. How powerful when He works by calling up the verses I need.

God’s Spirit bringing God’s Word to bear on the needs of God’s children. I’d say it’s time to bring back a little Bible memorization.

Published in: on January 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. When I was a young Christian I memorized Bible verses enthusiastically in the King James Version which was the Bible that everyone I knew used. When the ever-changing list of popular new Bibles came along, I started to wonder— should I start memorizing in some new version? Which one? Should I re-memorize verses I know in the old version to be consistent?
    And then as years past the popular new translations fell by the wayside to be replaced by new ‘translations’ that sometimes made the Bible verses unrecognizable, they were such loose translations, I wondered what would happen when the child memorizing verses today became old and recited the verses to their grandchildren. They’d wonder what was the strange old book Granny memorized from instead of God’s Word, The Message.
    Then of course I lost faith and became a Norse Pagan and all I had to worry about was which translation of the Poetic Edda to use for memorization.
    And now I’m Catholic. And know I know exactly which Bible to use for memorizing verses: the KJV.(the ‘with apocrypha’ edition). I came to that conclusion while on a message board for Catholic converts when I asked about which version for Bible memorization. One member, not yet a convert, said that if he ever did decide to swim the Tiber (become Catholic) he’d do so with the good old KJV strapped to his back. Reading that, I decided to do the same.


  2. I was just thinking about this very topic today, Becky. I have close Christian friends that don’t see the value of memorizing. I think it’s fear of a little good, old fashioned hard work 😉 We are a generation of lazy people.

    I’ve seen the value of it in my own life. Verses I memorized as a kid have been the foundation for guiding me through life. I thank God for this!


  3. Nissa, I think the KJV is by far the most poetic version I’ve read, but I have to admit, I prefer a translation that’s more accessible. I believe it’s important, however, to get a translation that’s concerned with the closest word-for-word translation from the original as possible. Because of that I’ll never like something like “The Message,” which I don’t believe to be a translation at all. It’s a paraphrase, no matter what the writer might call it, and it does distort a lot of the original meaning of various passages. Interesting how your own journey brought you back to the KJV. 😀



  4. Eve, thanks for your input. I had to share my own experience after reading yours and Nissa’s. I love hearing how God’s word has impacted people. And yes, sadly, I think memorization might seem like too much work. Plus, I don’t think enough people are telling others about the benefits. We don’t even talk much about the benefits of reading the Bible. From my perspective, nothing will make a bigger impact on a Christian. How can we grow closer to the One we say we love if we don’t do whatever we can to know Him better? 😀



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