Devotional Practices for Memorizing God's Word

Reclaim this lost discipline.
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My workshop topic for the Renovaré International Conference in Denver was Scripture memorization. Since I was unknown to most of the attendees and would be speaking in Korean, which would be translated into English, I thought few would attend. But when the doors were closed, there were close to fifty people in the room.

The first ten minutes went well, but then people, perhaps as many as a dozen, began slipping from the room. I thought it was the multilingual presentation or even the perennial difficulty of the topic. The real reason, I later discovered, is that they were looking for a 101 quick-tips-and-tricks-to-memorizing presentation—ideas that could apply to memorizing anything from Scripture to phone numbers to facts and figures.

When I asked the remaining crowd if they found me difficult to understand, they said no. They even asked me to continue in English. Then in halting phrases I spent the next forty minutes presenting my plan.

My main message: to memorize the Bible, we have to pray the Bible first. Nothing easy, nothing quick about it. Those who stayed in the workshop seemed genuinely moved.

Why Memorize The Bible?

I can think of four reasons.

To know God. All we need to know about God, at least on earth, the Bible tells us. It records God's life and his works. It quotes Jesus as saying that in eternal life we will know more about God. But for now the Bible is our best source for learning about God.

The whole world should be filled with the knowledge of God.

"They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). Hosea echoes the same note. "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings" (Hosea 6:6).

David strikes a similar chord. "Taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him" (Psalm 34:8).

It's one thing to know about God the way we know any fact, but it's quite another thing to meet God. To meet God is to love him. But how can we love him if we can't see him face to face? How can we love a person we don't know?

To imitate Christ. Everyone in the New Testament who personally received Christ was called a disciple, and with that came a responsibility. Disciples must emulate their teacher. They must imitate the teacher's way of thinking and acting. As the disciples do this, they become more like Christ himself. But it doesn't happen overnight; it's a gradual, never-ending process.

Beyond believing in the Lord, a true disciple will come to know him. Beyond knowing him, each disciple will come to love him. Paul says as much to the Ephesians. In loving him we mature "to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Disciples of Christ have to go to school. They have to become apprentices studying under the divine Master and learning Christ's key teachings as recorded in the Bible. Living in a later century we too, if we want to become disciples of the same Lord, have to go to the same school. We have to memorize the same passages. We have to learn them heart and soul before we can teach them to others.

When we commit the Word to memory and abide in it, we receive spiritual insight. Only when we see straight and deep do we bear fruit. We have this on the authority of Jesus himself: "As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty" (Matthew 13:23).

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