My journey of memorizing the Bible began on a bench in Kenya as I waited for a bus to come. I decided to begin memorizing the book of Ephesians to pass the time. Little did I know that first step would influence the course of my life and ministry for years to come.
Scripture memory has brought a river of blessing into my life. It feeds my soul, strengthens my pastoral ministry, and empowers my preaching. It buttresses my counseling with the truths of God’s Word, arms me for battle against sin, and equips me to rescue perishing souls through evangelism. This discipline has been such a rewarding labor that I’ve sought for years to persuade people that making a similar investment in their lives will pay eternal dividends.
An increasing number of Christian leaders share my passion, but I haven’t read any books providing explicit instruction on this discipline—until now. Glenna Marshall’s Memorizing Scripture: The Basics, Blessings, and Benefits of Meditating on God’s Word makes a warm and practical case for committing the Bible to memory.
Memorizing Scripture: The Basics, Blessings, and Benefits of Meditating on God's Word
To love God with our hearts, we must first love him with our minds. Through Scripture memorization, we begin to meditate on God’s word. This causes us to think deeply about God, which leads to intimacy and trust. Scripture memory bolsters our daily faith, grows us in discernment, and gives us courage to walk through trials. It arms us with what we need to share the gospel, to fight sin, and to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ!
‘I’m Too Busy’
Many people say they’re too busy to memorize Scripture. In reality, most of us have time, we just don’t consistently use it to renew our minds with God’s perfect Word. As Marshall points out, “You are already renewing your mind with something. Whatever that something is will shape your thought processes and decision making” (108). We mean well, but the busyness of life presents challenges to spiritual disciplines.
Marshall’s testimony is one of overcoming obstacles shared by many Christians. She’s a pastor’s wife, an author, and a parent who manages an energetic and fruitful home. Additionally, as she reveals in the book, she struggles with autoimmune disorders that lead to fatigue and “brain fog,” where it feels like her “thoughts [are] crawling through a big vat of honey” (89). This condition creates obvious challenges for memory work, and it could be an excuse not to continue her journey. “And yet,” Marshall notes, “the slow plodding through Scripture retention––with brain fog and illness––has carried me through the last two years of physical suffering like nothing else” (90).
Memorizing Scripture is filled with practical tips for “too busy” Christians to begin this important journey. Each chapter concludes with specific tips, and an additional two chapters are dedicated explicitly to explaining how memorization works. An appendix lists resources to support a new habit.
Some of the practices, like putting verses in a bag and hanging them in the shower, are meant for individual use. Others, such as group memorization around the dinner table (each person speaking the next word in the verse), can draw families together and encourage the next generation of Scripture memorizers. I found many of these suggestions worth pursuing in my own life and ministry.
‘I Have a Bible in My Pocket’
Most evangelicals agree that Scripture is perfect, powerful, and beautiful. We say we love it, but surveys show many Christians don’t know what it says.
It may be that having easy access to the Bible has enabled people to put off learning what it says. As Marshall notes, “If anyone in history has not had to rely on their memory for what the Scriptures say, it’s us” (23). We’ve got apps, websites that provide the text in multiple translations, and instantaneous access to commentaries and articles to explain the hard passages. There’s no shortage of access to the information Scripture provides. What we need, though, is heart transformation that only comes by traveling deeply into the text.
There’s no shortage of access to the information Scripture provides. What we need, though, is heart transformation that only comes by traveling deeply into the text.
Marshall’s journey of Bible memory began “in desperation.” She was struggling with the besetting sin of anger and couldn’t get control. “In frustration and fear that I would never have victory over my anger, I pleaded with God to help me see what I was missing,” she writes. “He brought to mind one of the verses I had memorized as a six-year-old in the Bible drill room of my little Baptist church” (10). It was Psalm 119:11, with the promise that God’s Word can help us fight sin.
Little by little, she began her Scripture memory trek: first, some individual texts; then some Psalms; then the books of James and Colossians. She advocates this gradual, patient approach of expansion to her readers. This journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It must be built on little by little, day after day.
‘I Just Need to Know Christ Better’
Not only can Scripture memory help us learn to hate sin, but it’s also effective for knowing Christ’s voice as our Good Shepherd. It helps us to love God more deeply and passionately, keeping us steadfast in trials and temptations. Marshall notes she hasn’t always loved God as she should, yet “meditating on Scripture benefits our lagging emotions. Fixing our gaze on the Lord will tell our hearts what is true” (71).
Scripture memorization helps us to love God more deeply and passionately, keeping us steadfast in trials and temptations.
Marshall shows how memorization brings vital power to Christians beyond only following a daily Bible reading plan. Having God’s Word literally in your mouth as you “mutter” over it (she loves this meaning of the Hebrew word for meditation and refers to it several times) brings the Christian to an intensity of spiritual clarity and power she never experienced apart from it. The same is true in my life. Memorization takes the external content of Scripture and makes it deeply personal.
Passion for Scripture and for practicalities flow through every chapter of this book. Marshall is persuasive without being overbearing. Many of her examples and illustrations are drawn from her specific vocations of mother and wife, but the book offers general appeal to anyone willing to make this time-consuming and rewarding commitment. As a fellow enthusiast, I love her style. I trust God will use this book richly to increase the number of people who begin their Bible memory journey.