Most Scripture memory schemes concentrate on individual verses that emphasise certain key truths. But I came across a method some time ago, by Dr Andrew Davis, that has a much bigger vision: to memorise not just a verse here and there, but whole chapters and even books.
Can we be motivated to such a huge goal? Davis says, ‘Most of Scripture is written to make a case … there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorised’.
I was inspired by this and convinced it was a good thing to do, but it remained as an item on my ‘to do’ list for a long time; I feared trying and failing. At 54 years of age, my brain cells are shrivelling at an alarming rate. I was never great at remembering things; I survive by making lists. If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t exist.
Eventually, however, I decided to memorise Galatians. Why? After half a lifetime of studying and preaching God’s Word, I knew I did not fully understand Galatians. I knew its theme was really important. And I wanted that message to impact me personally.
So in March last year I began … and eventually I learnt the whole of chapter 1. I was amazed! I could hardly believe it was possible. And so I went on, day after day, a verse at a time.
Along the way in chapter 3, like a marathon runner, I ‘hit the wall’. I just could not get those verses to stick. But, by the grace of God, I persevered, and eventually they did. Then, almost incredibly, in the middle of August, the day came when I was able to recite all six chapters — I had memorised the whole thing!
And yes, I had come to understand Galatians so much better than before. To memorise the extended argument I had to focus on structure, individual words, tenses of verbs, trains of thought, repeated phrases, linkage between verses and the development of ideas. If Scripture is God-breathed, then every word has meaning; each one is precious.
Gordon Wenham in his book The Psalter reclaimed says, ‘Most modern readers approach texts … in a consumerist fashion. You read what you like, read when you like, and accept what you like in what you read. Then you discard what you have just read and move on to read something else’. But we should read Scripture as ‘an infinite resource’.
He quotes Paul Griffiths: ‘For religious readers, the ideally read work is the memorised work and the ideal mode of reading is the memorial recall … the work read is an object of overpowering delight and great beauty. It can never be discarded because it can never be exhausted. It can only be reread, with great reverence and ecstasy’.
Are there dangers? Yes — legalism, pride, mechanical repetition, no genuine engagement with the text, and more. But the potential rewards are huge. And now I have the bug, I cannot stop. I’m memorising Hebrews — and faster than a verse a day! The more I have done it, the easier it seems to have become.
What about you? If I can do it, anyone can. Use those spare minutes in the day: walking the dog, feeding the baby, driving to work, waiting for the kettle to boil — or in the loo!
I now wish I had started years ago. Don’t wait. Start today. Here’s the link to the article that got me started and which I commend to you:
This article first appeared in 4 Corners, the magazine of UFM Worldwide, and is used with permission.