Do you know your home address? How about your phone number? What about your Social Security number? If you’re a football fan, do you know the star players on your favorite team? Can you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing the words to the Star-Spangled Banner?
I ask those questions because I’ve often heard people say, “Oh, I can’t memorize.” That’s the excuse they use for not trying to memorize passages from the Bible. But the truth is, if something is important enough to us, we can memorize it. A more critical question is, “Does the Word of God mean enough to you to want to try committing some of it to memory?”
More than 30 years ago, I would have counted myself among the “can’t memorize” crowd. The idea of memorizing a verse from the Scriptures seemed daunting. Until I attended a conference at our church and the speaker offered a shortcut.
He asked who in attendance had tried memorizing anything from the Bible, and some hands went up. Then he responded, “Okay, for those of you who didn’t raise your hands, I’m going to show you that you can memorize Scripture.” He proceeded to take us to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and said, “Here’s your verse: ‘Pray without ceasing.’”
I thought, “That’s it? Three words?” That was it, although the speaker suggested we also commit to memory the “address” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17. That way, if we ever needed to refer to the verse, we could find it in the Bible.
But the speaker wasn’t finished. “Now that you’ve learned that verse – three words – look at the verse preceding it: ‘Rejoice always.’” That was 1 Thessalonians 5:16. So in about a minute’s time, we had two verses in our memory bank, five words in all. Finally, he pointed us to one other verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “In everything give thanks.” Much tougher to learn – four words!
That wasn’t so bad. Three consecutive verses, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” My adventure in committing passages of Scripture to heart had begun.
But why even bother memorizing Bible verses? The goal isn’t to show how “holy” or religious we are. This isn’t about spiritual one-upmanship, showing off for a fellow believer. It’s about doing as King David wrote in Psalm 119:9,11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Remember the ‘WWJD” fad of years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” Not a bad question to ask in principle, but I often wondered, how can we know what Jesus would do if we’ve not read and memorized from the Bible what Jesus did?
Of course, most of the passages in the Bible are more than two, three or four words long. It takes effort and practice to memorize them, but I’ve found doing so much more rewarding than I could have imagined when I started. About that time I joined a small group Bible study that required memorizing a number of verses. We had built-in accountability, since every week we had to recite to one another the verses we had learned over the past week.
I can’t tell you how many times this practice has come in handy, whether sharing some truths from the Scriptures with a friend, talking with a non-believer about my faith, or trying to get God’s perspective about an important decision I needed to make.
For instance, a longer passage I learned became my “life verse,” one I reflect on often: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Recently a friend who is dealing with an advanced stage of cancer shared this verse, explaining how it comforts her as she faces an uncertain future.
A similar passage, Isaiah 26:3, affirms the confidence we can have as followers of Jesus: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Like a handyman being able to turn and instantly grab the right tool from the toolbox, having verses like this safely stored in our memory bank is a great source of comfort and assurance.
Even if there’s not a Bible readily available – as is often the case – we can have the Word of God accessible for our use in the proverbial “blink of an eye.” So the next time you come across a verse or passage that seems particularly meaningful to you, why not try memorizing it? You might need it again sometime.