The Secret to Successfully Memorizing Scripture
By: Katie Stone
I grew up memorizing scripture but truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it. Memorizing was something I did because I was encouraged to by my parents and Sunday school teachers.
When I was around 17, I stumbled across a YouTube video of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth quoting scripture from memory. For over thirty minutes, I watched and listened in awe, not of her recitation skills, but of God. Quoting prophesy and New Testament fulfillment of the life of Jesus Christ, she magnified the Lord through the declaration of His word. It was beautiful, powerful, and captivating. In that half hour, I became convinced that my experience of memorizing scripture fell short of what God intended His word to do in the life of a person who hides it in their heart. Those thirty minutes were a taste of joy that left me starving for more.
Nancy didn’t just recite words; it was obvious that she loved the Author of those words. She believed those words and was passionate about them because He spoke them.
That YouTube video led me to listen to an interview with Janet Pope, author of His Word in My Heart, a woman who has memorized dozens of chapters of the Bible. What impacted me the most from the interview—and what has continued to spur me on to memorize scripture—was her secret to successful memorizing:
Janet Pope said, “Why have I been so successful at memorizing scripture? It’s because I have a higher goal than just to memorize the Bible. That’s not my goal. My goal is to know God and to walk closely with Him.”
In this article, I won’t dive into methods and techniques. My goal is simply to set before you a vision of the joy and blessing of hiding God’s word in your heart. I pray that the same hunger for God that Nancy’s 30-minute recitation stirred in my soul will be awakened in yours.
Motivated by love
As with everything in the Christian life, our motive for memorizing the Bible impacts our experience. We are to obey the Lord out of love, not out of duty. Many of us know this. However, we come up with a multitude of reasons to memorize besides simple love and desire for Christ.
We start memorizing in order to fight sin, to guard our minds from false teaching, to know our Bible better, to become equipped to share the gospel, or for comfort during trials. We soon realize that memorizing scripture doesn’t always work to accomplish these purposes. The Pharisees knew the law and prophets inside and out and still crucified their Messiah.
A man named Richard Wurmbrandt, who spent 14 years in prison in Communist Russia, explains why this happens. When asked which Bible verse helped and strengthened him during his years in prison he answered,
“NO Bible verse was of any help… Bible verses alone are not meant to help.”
We knew Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” When you pass through suffering you realize that it was never meant by God that Psalm 23 should strengthen you. It is the Lord who can strengthen you, not the Psalm which speaks of Him so doing. It is not enough to have the Psalm. You must have the One about whom the Psalm speaks. We also knew the verse: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” But the verse is not sufficient. It is the Grace which is sufficient and not the verse.
…Holy words are only the means to arrive at the reality expressed by them.
If you are united with the Reality, the Lord Almighty, evil loses its power over you; it cannot break the Lord Almighty. If you only have the words of the Lord Almighty you can be very easily broken.1”
Memorizing scripture can never win the fight against sin. It cannot comfort us in our trials. It cannot protect us from false teaching. It cannot make us effective evangelists.
What it can do is lead us to Christ. It is Christ alone has defeated sin and enables us to overcome. It is Christ alone who comforts us in our trails, who leads us into truth, who gives us the boldness and wisdom to be an effective witness.
Memorizing the entire Bible is utterly worthless and powerless if it doesn’t lead you to Jesus.
As Paul said, “[I was] a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee…concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…that I may know Him.” (Phil 3:5-10)
Holy words are only the means to arrive at the reality expressed by them.
The reality is Jesus: the Word of God made flesh. The words of the Bible are the means of knowing Christ.
This is the first and primary reason we memorize scripture. When we meditate on the Word of God we are meditating on the God of the Word. He will reveal Himself to us as we seek Him through His Word.
Memorizing scripture is also a way to spend time with Jesus; similar to talking with a friend over coffee. When we memorize His word and respond to it in prayer and praise, we are spending time talking with God.
Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord
Psalm 1 says, “blessed is the man who…[delights] in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its’ fruit in its’ season. Whose leaf also shall not whither and whatever he does shall prosper.”
This is a blessing declared and promised by God who cannot lie. While we do not memorize to get God’s blessings, God has promised that He will bless those who meditate on His Word day and night. When we search for Him with all our heart we will find Him and when we get Jesus, He gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness. All things that pertain to life and godliness can only be found in Christ, not apart from Him.
Do you want to know Jesus intimately? Do you long for rich fellowship with Christ throughout your day? Meditate on His Word. Behold His majesty and goodness. Think upon His marvelous works.
“Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)
For additional resources on memorizing scripture I encourage you to visit the links below:
- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth weaves together Scripture about Jesus from the psalms, prophets, gospels, and epistles. (30 minute recitation) https://www.reviveourhearts.com/events/true-woman-14/jesus-what-wonderful-name/
- Interview with Janet Pope on hiding God’s Word in your heart https://www.reviveourhearts.com/podcast/revive-our-hearts/how-busy-people-can-memorize-scripture-2/
Katie lives in a big city near the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Which means she loves a trendy coffee shop as much as the smell of campfire and pine. She currently works as a graphic designer/social media manager/content creator but is most happy while leading worship and discipling younger girls. At 16, Jesus transformed her quiet time from 10 minutes of duty into her favorite part of the day and ever since, Katie has had a passion to encourage and equip others to get into God’s word for the purpose and joy of knowing Jesus.