A Well Trained Mind
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8, ESV)
If you are not regularly memorizing Scripture, might I suggest that you start? I know of no other activity that will make a bigger difference to a person's walk with God. The benefits are manifold and include:
- A life full of fruitful obedience (Joshua 1:8). Moses, speaking to his young understudy, specifically says, "Meditate (mutter over the law of God) so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." The law of spiritual return seems to go like this: what fills your mouth fills your heart and controls your life.
- Improved Fluency in Prayer: How many of God's people lift their voices to pray, in public or in private, and find themselves lost for words? The Apostle himself struggled with this (Romans 8:26). Imagine almost never having this problem again. Imagine beginning your prayer in worship and finding your tongue extolling the greatness of God, "Oh, God, You are a great God and a great King above all Gods. In your hand are the depths of the earth. You weigh the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, and mark off the heavens with a span...." Imagine confessing your sins and the words just coming, "Oh, God, it is you who knows my folly and my wrongs cannot be hidden from you. Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...." Imagine thanking God and finding your tongue set loose with fresh fluency, "I have tasted and seen of your goodness. You are righteous in all of your ways and kind in all of your deeds, and your mercies have been over all of my works. Your hand has satisfied my desires. You have supplied all my needs according to Your riches in Christ Jesus." Imagine asking God for grace to grow up as a Christ and finding liberty, "Lord, help me to reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Help me to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for the flesh. Help me, Father, may your grace instruct me to say NO to ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Forgive me, too often I have professed to know God but by my deeds I have denied you and been abominable, disobedient, disqualified from every good deed! Help me seek first Your kingdom and your righteousness!"
- Improved Confidence in Prayer: Imagine having your mind filled with heaven-sent words (promises, petitions, precepts, examples), all telling your soul of the kind of requests God will certainly grant. Every promise in Scripture waits for the prayer of faith to claim it. Every precept is a suggestion to pray for grace to keep it. Every example of prayer is a friend to encourage you to imitate it. And when the Bible actually contains the words of a prayer, we have a divinely authorized request, words born in heaven that surely can never be denied by heaven!
- Improved Passion in Prayer: The Psalmist said, "While I was musing (on Scripture), the fire burned." So often this has been my testimony, I have come to the duty of prayer cold, listless, and lifeless, my mind awash with distractions. Then I began to bring Scripture to my mind and to lift those thoughts Godward in prayer, before long the fire of devotion reignites and I feel my soul alive again before the majesty of heaven.
How can I memorize Scripture?
Where should I start?
- Select an appropriate portion of Scripture (Generally, for a day I find this should be between 1 and 4 verses in length).
- Write this verse/chunk out on an index card. These are the ones I use. Let's say your verse for the day in Psalm 46:1-4. Say verse 1 over and over to yourself until you can write it on the card without looking back to the Bible. Repeat with verse 2, 3, and 4. As a rule, I rarely write more than two verses on each card. I do this so that I can easily refer to the cards when I am one the move.
- Go for a walk and say the verse over and over to yourself. Each time adding a little bit on until you have the whole verse/section down. I find walking, and the increased blood flow to the brain's memory center, the hippocampus, actually assists the process of memorization.
- As your collection of cards grows, keep them together on key rings. These fit nicely in the pocket and they can be pulled out any time you have a few moments to spare.
- For those of yo u who are uber organized, you can try the following review process. Personally, I just keep reviewing a selection until I have it down, then I try to review it often enough to keep it fresh. For those system beavers among you, here is a tried and tested method.
- You begin with a given selection (1-4) verses. You say this every day for 7 weeks.
- Each new week you had a new selection into the program and say it, in turn, every day for 7 weeks.
- So at the end of 7 weeks, you will be doing 7 verses/chunks of scripture. You will have gone over these for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 week(s) respectively.
- After the seven weeks of review, the first verse falls off the daily review pile and you revise it once a week for seven months. After seven months, it falls off the weekly review pile, and you review it once a month for seven years. After seven years, it will be ingrained in even the most forgetful mind. You should never need to review it again.
- The beauty of this system is that you will never have more than 7 verses to review on a regular day. To be sure, over time, as the weekly, and monthly stacks grow, once a week, and once a month you will have a busier day with more material to go over. But this can easily be done on a Saturday or a Lord's Day when time is more plentiful.
What Scriptures to memorize?
There is no hard and fast rule here. A good online resource I have used in the past is fighterverses.com. As I understand it, John Piper had a hand in putting this together. It contains about 5 years worth of material.
My own practice is to memorize with a purpose in mind. Most often, for me, this is simply to help me call upon the Name of the Lord in prayer. For this reason, I love to memorize Scriptures that help me think great thoughts of God (Eg. Psalm 90, Isaiah 40, etc.).
Other categories might include: verses that might help you fight against a besetting sin, develop a particular Christian virtue or character trait, share key aspects of the gospel (The Character of God, His role as creator, sustainer, and ruler of the universe, our accountability to him, the law of God, the human conscience, the fallen nature of man, the certainty and reality of final judgment, the Second Coming of Christ, heaven and hell, and the gospel as our only way of escape.) In particular, you will want to memorize verses that really summarize the essential elements of the gospel (Eg. 2Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53; John 3:16; Titus 2:11-14).
In conclusion, I would particularly encourage you to memorize paragraphs, extended sections, and even whole books of the Bible. In our congregation, I can think of one lady (older than me) who is memorizing the book of John, I believe she started in August, and she has already reached the 11th chapter. Can you imagine the blessing of having a whole gospel memorized? I have heard of one man who memorized the gospel of Matthew (or was it Luke?). Anyway, he testified that he would wake from sleep dreaming the text of the gospel! That's got to be good for the soul!
It is never too late to start this habit. In my ministry, I have seen men well past retirement age start memorizing Scripture with much profit. Why don't you consider joining them?
To the fathers of the congregation, let me suggest assigning verses to your children. I plan on working with my children through some of the great texts in the book of proverbs. You might want to consider a suitable reward every time they can say 10 new verses/chunks of Scripture. In so doing, you will provide the Holy Spirit of a lifetime's worth of Scripture to bring to their mind in the future at appropriate times. Truths learned by rote as a child are rarely if ever forgotten!
May God bless us as we work together to this end....