Ken Long

“Me, Memorize Scripture? You’ve Got to be Kidding!”

November 20, 2017

On August 14, 2017, a BCC blog entitled “Meditating on God’s Enduring, Wise Word” discussed the value of memorizing Scripture and then meditating on the verses in biblical counseling. We saw that in Psalm 1, God speaks of the blessings available for those who meditate on His Word.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Ps. 1:2-3).

He says that those who think deeply about His Word and then obey it will spiritually prosper in this life. All biblical counselors certainly desire for these practices and spiritual prosperity to characterize our loved counselees. 

Our Challenge Versus Reality

With these goals in mind, we tell our counselees to memorize Scripture so they can meditate on it and be blessed. We say this as if there is nothing to it. We try to encourage the faint-hearted by pointing out, “Since you have memorized your home address (which we know they have), you can certainly memorize a verse of Scripture.” Many of our people need more specific encouragement than this. In the beginning of practicing this new spiritual discipline, a method to follow will help them get off to a successful start.

Scripture Memorization Method

Here is a method used by The Navigators, a Christian ministry, when introducing a disciple to Scripture memorization. I have found this way most helpful in starting my counselees on a successful path toward effective Scripture memorization for life.[1]

  1. Before you start to memorize a verse read it aloud several times. Be sure to study the context of the verse so as to determine the verse’s true meaning. Remember it is the truth that will set us free (John 8:32), not what we would like the Bible to say.
  1. As you start to memorize the verse learn the topic, reference, and the first phrase as a unit. Having a topic for each verse helps your mind recall a verse at the time of specific need that the verse speaks to. You, or a friend who you are speaking with, may be struggling over whether a person can really have “assurance of salvation.” Having learned 1 John 5:11-12 with the topic “assurance of salvation” will certainly help you and the Spirit bring that truth to mind when wrestling over assurance issues. Also, others have found that a good memory aid to remembering the beginning words of a verse is to say the first words right after the numbers of the reference. In the future when speaking the verse from memory, it will just roll off your tongue in that time of helping.
  1. After you have successfully reviewed the topic, reference, and first phrase a few times, add the second phrase. Gradually add phrases until you know the whole verse. No need to rush the process by biting off big chunks. The work you are doing will be valuable for this lifetime and the next (1 Tim. 4:7-8). Learn each phrase and the whole verse word by word. This will also help in being able to recall exactly what the Word says in the time of need (Isa. 40:8).
  1. Work on the verses audibly whenever possible. Engaging as much of your mind and body as possible will help in the memorizing and recalling process. For most people, recalling where a verse is located in the Bible is a problem. Since the reference has a way of slipping first from the memory, say it two times, once after the topic and again after the actual verse.
  1. As you memorize and review the verse, think about how it applies to your own life. Memorizing is not a mechanical process of just getting some words in our minds but a spiritual discipline that we are asking God to use to change us (2 Cor. 3:18).
  1. Always review the verse in this sequence:
    1. TOPIC: “Assurance of Salvation”
    2. REFERENCE: “First John five, eleven and twelve”
    3. VERSE(S): “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
    4. REFERENCE: “First John five, eleven and twelve”
  1. The most critical element in Scripture memory is review, review, review. The most important time to review a verse repeatedly is right after you can quote the whole verse (topic, reference, verse, reference) without making a mistake. Review the verse a minimum of once daily after that, preferably several times a day. The more you review the greater your retention.
  1. The most important concept is the principle of overlearning. A verse should not be considered memorized simply at the point when we can quote it accurately. Only when we have reviewed it frequently enough for it to become ingrained in our memory should we consider a verse memorized.

Unashamedly, I admit that being taught this method helped me get off to a good start, which has enabled me to continue memorizing God’s Word for over 30 years even though I have trouble remembering my own address.

Questions for Reflection

How are your counselees doing in memorizing and remembering the verses you assign? How can you help each of your counselees internalize God’s Word for the Spirit’s fruitful use in their lives?

Ken Long (M.Div., M.S. Eng.) is a husband, father, author, pastor, and certified biblical counselor. He loves serving Christ, his family, and churches who desire to develop transformational ministries.

[1] This method is from The Navigators, Growing Strong in God’s Family: A Course in Personal Discipleship to Strengthen Your Walk with God ,The 2:7 Series, Book 1 (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2011), Loc 453 of 2913, Kindle edition.

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