Evangelism, Scripture Memory, Spiritual Disciplines

An Introduction to Swordplay: Basic Footwork

Last week, in “An Introduction to Swordplay”, we discussed the important role that Scripture memory plays in both our spiritual growth and in our ability to better share our faith with others.  This week, we’ll be concluding our short series with an introduction to basic Scripture memory techniques.  Before we begin, however, it is important to recognize that the purpose of Scripture memory is to make God’s Word more readily available to us in our time of need… not to outdo everyone else in the class.  It’s okay if you start slowly, struggle a bit along the way, or even get stuck in a rut.  The point is not how much you memorize, but simply that you do memorize.  Scripture memorization is about our willingness to allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts and minds, not about how we stack up against others!

What follows are some techniques that work effectively for everyone from beginners to Scripture memory veterans.  Read them carefully and see which ones will work best for you.  And if you have a technique that has worked for you, but isn’t included below, please feel free to share it in the comment box at the end of the article!

Choose your verses wisely.  Start with single verses or short portions of Scripture with which you are already familiar.  Psalm 23, Exodus 20:1-17, or Matthew 6:9-13 are some excellent passages with which to begin.  Give them a quick read through – you may be surprised at how well you already know them!  Don’t like those?  Try memorizing the verses that catch your attention during your daily Bible reading or the Sunday sermon.  It’s almost always easier to memorize verses which are immediately applicable to your life.

So what if you aren’t very familiar with Scripture yet?  A quick Google search will reveal a number of excellent apps, websites, packets, and booklets available to get you started.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

You Version gives you the opportunity to organize your Bible study and Scripture memory online, on Facebook, or via your iPod, iPad, or iPhone.  You can customize your own memory plan or work with the “verse of the day”.  One of the best features of this site is its social aspect – it’s always easier to stick to your commitments when you do them in community… but more on that later.

The Navigator’s Topical Memory System is a little less “high-tech” and comes with prepared memory cards that can be slipped into your pocket, purse, or wallet for easy access.  It is designed as a basic introduction to the discipline of Scripture memory and is an excellent choice for anyone, regardless of how familiar they are with God’s Word.

Take it one bite at a time.  Work your way through verse by verse rather than in big chunks and if the verses happen to be long, line by line or from one comma to the next.  Smaller portions are almost always easier to digest!  (You can make your way to the seven course meal later.)

There is a rhythm to some portions of Scripture.  I can’t begin to recount the number of people who have recited verses to me as though they were bits of a popular rap song rather than Scripture!  And that’s just fine.  The question isn’t how we memorize, but that we have memorized.  If you find a rhythm, go with it.  Dance to it, sing to it, whatever it takes to engrain the Word of God in your heart and in your mind!

If you aren’t all that good at finding the rhythm yourself, you can rest in the knowledge that there are plenty of people who already have.  Check out the kids’ CD section at your local Christian book store or take a look at the selections available at Christianbook.com!

Sometimes writing it out helps.  Try printing your verses on three by five index cards.  Writing tends to focus our minds on what we’re learning, improving our retention. And, once you’ve written your verses down, you can take them with you!  By keeping them in your pocket, purse, briefcase, or backpack you have the ability to memorize at any place or at any time.  This is great when you’re dressing for work or school, standing in one of those endless lines at the supermarket, are sitting on terminal hold, are waiting in line for a sporting event, or have a few minutes to kill between classes!

Find a study partner.  Never underestimate the power of human encouragement!  Ask your spouse, a sibling, your best friend, your prayer partner, a classmate, or even a teacher to hold you accountable and to double check your work.  If they’re interested in memorizing Scripture too, that’s all the better!  Work together on coffee break, as you walk to classes, or on your commute to and from work or school.  You’ll be able to rejoice together in your success and support each other when you encounter bumps in the road!

Find a convenient time to work on your verses.  If you’re new to the concept of memorization, try devoting some uninterrupted time to Scripture memory on a daily basis.  Just ten dedicated minutes in the morning can make a big difference!  If you’ve done a lot of memorizing before, or as you become more comfortable with memorization, begin looking for creative places to work on your verses: stocking shelves at work, vacuuming the floors, or any kind of “spare brain time” when you don’t have to have your mind actively thinking about the task at hand.

Keep your memory work some place where you will see it.  If you can’t see it, you’ll probably forget to work on it.  Keep your verses in a visible location.  This could be a bathroom mirror, inside your cereal cabinet, taped to your computer monitor or car dashboard, or even inside of your Bible as a bookmark.  Just make certain that they’re someplace where you will see them every day!

Once you’ve picked a translation, stick to it.  Speaking as one who has done memory work in three different translations – it’s easy to get muddled.  Pick a translation that is easy for you to understand and that sounds natural when spoken out loud (the New International Version and the New Living Translation are excellent options).

That said, don’t leave out other considerations either.  While I like the New American Standard Bible for its faithfulness to the original text, many people in my part of the country only accept the King James Version as authoritative – so that’s what I memorize.  If you aren’t sure which translation is best for you, take some time to chat with your pastor, take a look at some translations online, or pay a visit to a local book store and spend some time browsing through your options.  You’re sure to find something that meets your memorization needs!

Don’t Give Up!  “I’ve never been very good at memorizing” is no excuse!  Everyone starts out in the same place.  This is one of those areas where you improve by doing.  Maybe it takes a week to memorize a verse, but the point is now you won’t forget that verse.  I used to struggle too, but now I can easily memorize three or four verses a day.  Keep at it and you’ll get better!

And don’t get frustrated when you end up in a rut.  At one time or another, everyone who has ever set their mind to memorizing Scripture has reached a point where their mind just can’t seem to absorb any more.  When this happens to you, try taking a few days off, change your memorization routine, or select a new verse or passage upon which to focus.  And remember: you aren’t the only one!

Don’t forget to review!  After all that work, it would be a shame to forget what you’ve memorized.  As we get older, our memory gets shorter.  Set aside one morning a week for review and rotate through the passages you’ve memorized.  This will keep all of your work fresh in your mind.

Once again, don’t get ahead of yourself and most of all, don’t forget why you’re doing this!  God doesn’t tell us to do anything of which we are incapable and He has promised that we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13).  Keep your focus and you’ll find that the blessings of Scripture memory work are beyond anything you could have imagined!