A Simple Way to Store Up God’s Word
Scripture | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
A Lesson from Billy Graham
On Sunday we walked through Psalm 119:11 and the importance of “storing up God’s Word in our heart that we might not sin against him.” You can listen to it here if you missed it. This post is a follow-up to that sermon in hopes of offering practical help in how to begin stockpiling the riches of God’s Word in your heart this year.
A 2006 interview with Bill Graham (the most well-known evangelist of the 20th century) in Newsweek reported the following:
‘If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. “The greatest regret that I have is that I didn’t study more and read more,” he says. “I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now.”’
Think about that. Billy Graham wished he would have memorized more Scripture. There’s something to learn here. I took that to heart when I first read it and I’ve thought about it ever since. I remember saying to myself, “If this is something that the greatest evangelist of the last 100+ years feels at the end of his life, how likely is it that I will feel the same way unless I make some changes now?” Answer: Very likely. By God’s grace, albeit imperfectly, I’ve been attempting to work that out ever since.
I once heard a pastor say that he’s never had to memorize scripture in his life because he has a photographic memory. That’s not very helpful for all of us non-photographic-memory-types. What about the rest of us who forget our phone number or where we put our keys, let alone how Psalm 23 ends? Years ago, as I was attempting to reinvigorate my practice of scripture memorization, I came across this by John Piper and this article by Andrew Davis, “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.” I have been influenced by both.
A Simple Way to Memorize Scripture.
I started memorizing scripture when I first began to follow Jesus at the University of Washington, but it was slow going. Previously, I was marking my progress by how much I could remember and because it didn’t stick right away it led to discouragement and, eventually, abandonment of further attempts. But, I discovered something in 2006 that forever changed how I approach this means of grace. What changed?
I stopped focusing on perceived progress and just kept track of daily time spent working on a verse, trusting my brain will get it when it was ready. Operate off of this principle: if your brain reviews something enough it will learn it. No question. Of course, all our brains are different. Some will memorize more quickly than others. Some will need to get more creative than others (e.g. songs, images, etc.). But, in time, it will come. Honestly, even if it doesn’t, no time in the Word is wasted.
Here’s how it has worked for me. I try to get at least an hour of personal time in the Word every morning (25-30 minutes in the Bible, 20 minutes in prayer, and about 10 minutes focused on scripture memory).
If I’m memorizing a large portion of scripture, I’ll focus on one verse a day, with the exceptions of Wednesdays and Fridays when I review the verses/sections previously committed to memory. Here’s how it works:
- REVIEW 10x’s: When I begin, I slowly repeat the verse(s) I worked on the previous day out loud ten times without looking at the text. You may need to look at the old verse briefly to remind yourself. That’s ok and normal.
- READ 10x’s: Then, I move onto the next new verse and read it carefully and slowly out loud ten times. As I do so, I try to imagine embossing the verse into my brain as I read over it.
- REPEAT 10x’s: After, reading the new verse ten times, I will then repeat that same verse out loud ten times without looking at the text.
- Note: As you memorize, you’ll want to set aside a day or two every week to review, rather than memorize new verses. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. If you hang in there, you’ll actually begin to learn how your brain memorizes best.
That’s it. That will take 5-10 minutes. You can do it anywhere, whether at home, at work, or on the road. Repeat that every day, or whatever days you have set aside for it, and you will be surprised by how your brain absorbs what you’re doing, over time, even if you don’t feel like its working. It is working. When you hit a hard patch you may need to focus on the same verse/section for a couple of days. Don’t be hard on yourself. The point is to be chewing on God’s Word.
Think about it this way. Psalm 23 has six verses. If you did the above over the next week, you would have it pretty well memorized in 6-7 days. It may take you another week to have it polished. Davis, above, has some great recommendations for how to cement sections of scripture into your memory after you’ve memorized them so that you don’t lose them. (i.e. repeat Psalm 23 once every day over the next 100 days and you’ll never forget it) You’ll have to find what works for you.
A Transformative Means of Grace
Personally, this has been an incredibly transformative means of grace (i.e. spiritual discipline). But, we do have to watch our hearts. The goal is not merely to memorize for the sake of memorization, but to trust and treasure Jesus more by hiding His Word in our heart. This practice has changed how I pray, what I think about, how I think about what I think about, where I turn for hope, how I read and understand the Scripture, how I offer hope and encouragement to others and more. Give it a shot. You may be surprised by how the Spirit may use even 10 minutes a day in your life as you internalize His Word.
Christ is All,