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The Why and How of Memorizing Scripture

Jun 19, 2023

This post is by Courtney Cohen.

 

Scripture memorization isn’t merely for so-called spiritual giants – it’s for every follower of Christ so we can constantly line our minds up with God’s reality. Intimate familiarity with Scripture increases our ability to discern God’s voice and helps renew our mind with Truth. It’s not about checking off another “good Christian” box. Rather, this is a powerful, life-altering tool that equips us for the real battles of life. This is the why, but let’s dig into the how of memorization because different tactics tend to work best in varying seasons of life.

When my teenagers were small, we practiced scripture memory in every way I could imagine. We put scripture to simple tunes or would repeat a verse in multiple silly voices. Hand motions, however, have been our primary go-to method. Taking a half verse at a time, I began teaching my kids Psalm 23 as they sat in highchairs pulled up to the dining table. I dreamed of the day when my children would know this favorite passage of mine by heart just like I had as a child. I gave every few words a corresponding hand motion to help my little ones remember. I still tear up at the memory of my daughter, around age three, finding me so she could recite the entire psalm on her own – hand motions and all! I cried enormous, proud, happy tears.

Now, my littles are teenagers, my baby is five, and we still do the same thing. As part of our family bedtime routine, we gather and work through our current verse. Everyone offers up ideas on hand motions and, if we do nothing else at bedtime, this is the one thing we do.

Joshua 1:8 says to “study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (NLT). What is biblical meditation? The Hebrew word for “meditate” here means “to speak with oneself, murmuring and in a low voice, as is often done by those who are musing” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). Vocalizing what we want to memorize brings our mouth, ears, eyes, and mind into one accord.

As a commuting college student, I used long commutes to memorize 2 Timothy over several months. Each day, I added new verses, beginning with chapter 1, verse 1 and going as far as I possibly could, speaking along with the narrator. Later, while walking between classes, I would meditate on (literally muttering quietly) every verse I could remember until the day finally came when I could recite the entire book by memory. Even twenty years later, if I hear the tiniest passage from 2 Timothy, I easily identify it and can often narrow it down to the correct chapter. Those passages feel more intimate, more tied to memory and living, than many other sections of the Bible, simply because of the long investment years ago.

And during those busy days of early motherhood, I wrote verses on index cards and stuck them to the cabinet door right above the spot where I meal prepped. There I would stand for 10-20 minutes, chopping veggies and minding the stove while I read, spoke, and repeated.

Other simple methods: journal your scriptures, compete with a friend to see who memorizes more in a month, or play “ping-pong” with a friend going back and forth word-by-word.

These days, I love learning scripture through slowly and deeply studying a very small passage. When I spend days or weeks on just 5-10 verses – looking up theological terms, journaling what each phrase means, studying the Hebrew or Greek – it’s much easier to recall every word by memory because the text has come alive to me.

This simple reminder rings true: “Repeat [scriptures] again and again…Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NLT). In all of this, scripture memory steps up from being merely a mental exercise in memorization to a spiritual exercise of transformation.

 

 For Courtney Cohen, everything comes down to two questions: Who is God? And who has He designed us to be? Whether she’s writing, speaking, or homeschooling her three children, these questions propel her forward. As a speaker and author of multiple books, including Refining Identity, The Sacred Shadow, and Where Your Beginning Began, Courtney passionately helps people encounter the reality and nearness of God in everyday life. Along with her husband Steve, Courtney co-founded and serves at Now Found which equips, empowers, and encourages people to love God and love others through spoken, written, and wearable resources. Stay in touch with Courtney on IG @iamcourtneycohen and at NowFound.org.

Photo by Nic Rosenau on Unsplash

 

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