If I were asked what one area I felt I was weakest spiritually, I would probably say prayer. But if I were asked what two areas I was weakest, I would say prayer and Scripture memorization. I think these two spiritual disciplines are extremely important, and extremely neglected by most people in the Church today. Perhaps Scripture memorization is the most neglected by the greatest number of people. I’m not sure if we think of memorizing Scripture as something that kids do in Sunday school, and we are, therefore, too old to do it. Or perhaps we’re just being lazy. But I think memorizing Scripture is extremely important for our spiritual lives, and sadly, I’m not very disciplined about doing it myself.
Why Memorize Scripture?
The usefulness of Scripture is plainly told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (emphasis added). Scripture is also likened to a sword, being called “…the sword of the Spirit…” in Ephesians 6:17. Therefore, memorizing Scripture is like a soldier who keeps his sword on him at all times. When he needs it, whether for defense or attack, he can pull it out and use it at will. When we memorize Scripture, we can pull it back out whenever we need it. It’s always at hand.
Some other things to remember about the power of Scripture, which make memorizing it all that more important:
- God’s Word is Supernatural. It’s not just mere words that we find in the Bible, or fancy stories that teach children how to behave. “…the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). We can rely on the fact that what we gain from reading and memorizing Scripture is more than just understanding and wisdom, but also powerful movements from the Spirit of God in our own selves.
- Scripture makes us holy. To be holy means to be set apart and consecrated as being sacred or special. Right before his death on the cross, Jesus prayed for his disciples by saying “17Sanctify them [make them holy] by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17). The way this happens is that we, as believers, take in His Word on a regular basis and apply it to our lives. “As we daily appropriate God’s Word we are sanctified by it. We are set apart to God and changed in the way we live so that we bring honor and glory to the Father” (see here).
- The Bible is reliable. “…the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6). We can rely on what we read in the Bible to help us in every situation and circumstance, and we never need to worry that it might steer us wrong. God’s Word is perfect.
A Perfect Example
The best example of someone who memorized Scripture was Christ Himself. From the beginning of His public ministry to His death, He quoted Scripture right and left.
In Matthew 4:1-11, it tells of when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness:
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” 11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
When Satan tried tempting Jesus with food, Jesus responded with Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3). Satan caught on to what Jesus was doing, so he misused Scripture to counter him by saying “for it is written…” But Jesus wasn’t caught off guard – he replied with more Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16). Then Satan, who I assume was feeling almost beaten, laid it all out there and just said what he had came to say – “worship me.” But once again, Jesus responded with Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:13).
And these aren’t the only examples – the gospels are littered with examples of Jesus quoting Scripture in His teaching, but also in His prayers. On the cross, Jesus cried out ” ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” – a direct quote of the first line of Psalm 22. And his final prayer was “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46), which quoted Psalm 31:5. Jesus’ mind was so infiltrated with memorized Scripture that, when He was at the darkest hour of His life and in more misery than you or I have ever known, He quoted it. It came to mind easily when he needed it.
My focus right now is to gain a stronger prayer life, but I’m starting to see that I also need to start memorizing Scripture. Maybe I should do them both, together. I think I’ll find that they are as complementary as two things can be. I believe I will start adding a Scripture-To-Memorize post on my blog every Monday (we’ll call it STM, for short – I love acronyms), and if you’d like, you can memorize them with me. And if you have a particular Scripture you want to add, just comment with it at any time and let me know, and we’ll do what we can to get through them all.