Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK
I’ve decided to memorize the whole of the book of Luke. I know—it sounds a bit insane. But let me tell you how I got to this point.
It started during the long, hot, sticky summers of my childhood, at an annual Bible club where I discovered I could quickly learn a verse just before it was my turn to recite it at the end of the week, and then claim a prize before forgetting all about the verse.
One time, I set about learning and then actually retaining the verse. And I had success. I was so pleased with my recall that months later, I asked my Dad if I could still recite the verse and get a prize. He affirmed my efforts, reached into his pocket, and gave me some change to buy sweets. Every so often I would ask again, and the result would always be the same.
For a few years, I was happy with my one verse (John 3:16, by the way). But when I was about 15, my Dad (probably fed up with being asked for prizes), set me a challenge. If I could memorize Matthew 5, 6 & 7, I would get £5 for each chapter that I learned. It turned out to be much harder than I thought. I earned £5 for chapter 5, but gave up after that. However, I did learn that I could effectively memorize scripture.
My secret is to repeat it 10 times—no really, it is! I use an app now to help me memorize, but when I had to do this screen-free, the answer was 10. I took a verse and broke it down down into parts. Then I took one part and repeated it until I could say it without looking. Next? I moved to the second part, and then each line individually, until I had the complete verse—repeating it to myself 10 times until it was memorized.
However, the real work is retaining the Scripture. I love this part the most. Each day, to keep the verse alive in my mind, I review it. Eventually I don’t need to do it 10 times anymore. Each day, it becomes easier to remember. And that’s when it grows in me as I mull it over and come to grips with what I’m reading.
Putting An Old Skill to New Use
For a while, all I memorized was the occasional Bible passage, or notes for my exams. But all of that changed a couple of years ago when I started to experience considerable worry and anxiety.
When I felt the worry sink in, I couldn’t pinpoint why I was worried. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that—where your mind just goes off on its own and there’s no reining it in, leaving you consumed with worry and you can’t quite tell why? It makes it difficult to concentrate, even on the stuff right in front of you.
This crippling worry led me to consider memorizing the Bible again. Soon I found myself memorizing two chapters that I already enjoyed reading: John 15 and Hebrews 12.
In my journey fighting consuming anxiety, memorizing scripture has been an immense source of comfort, and things have slowly started to change. But mostly? It’s teaching me to approach the Bible differently.
When Scripture Becomes More Real Than My Anxiety
This summer will be two years since I restarted actively learning parts of the Bible and although I’ve come a long way in my battle with anxiety, I’m still not completely free. However, I’ve found solace in the important difference between memorizing my lecture notes for exams and learning God’s Word—it’s that God’s Word is alive! Before I started this process, I had no idea what this meant. Filling my head with knowledge for an exam was helpful for studying, but it didn’t change how I thought or how I lived. God’s Word is different.
As I’ve listened to what Jesus is saying in Luke, I’ve been challenged about what I do and think—particularly when He teaches about trusting our Heavenly Father and not being anxious or troubled. I’ve found myself praying, “Lord what you’re saying is really hard, I don’t think I can achieve this on my own. Please help me to realign my thinking with Your truth.” It’s not even a conscious request. It’s like breathing—simply the result of soaking in His Word.
This method of learning the Bible is a slow process. It’s not a sprint or even a marathon. It’s a long, steady walk. But as I’ve been chewing on God’s Word, I’ve felt like I’ve actually been among the crowds, hanging off His words as He breaks the bread and feeds the five thousand. Or that I’ve been sitting at His feet with Mary as He tells Martha that Mary has made the better choice to sit and listen to Him.
Something Better Than Healing
No, memorizing scripture hasn’t magically rid me of my struggles, but it has given me so much to ponder and turn over, that sometimes, I can get lost in Jesus’ company as I read the stories about Him. God’s Word is full of treasures, and I’ve been able to replace some of my thoughts and worries with these rich words that come from God Himself. This process has helped me fall in love with God’s Word again. I started out hoping to fix a problem and have peace of mind, but I’ve found so much more.
I recently convinced a friend of mine to give scripture memorization a try, and I hope I can convince you to try it, too. I find it helpful to start somewhere small, like a psalm. Remember this isn’t about memorizing a whole book, or even a whole chapter—it’s a conversation between you and God as you read His Word and let it live in your heart and mind. If you’re open, God will change you through it.
No longer are the stories that I grew up reading dull and boring because I’ve heard them a thousand times already . . . Nor do I need a prize to get me motivated—my prize is the immeasurable riches that I am finding as I walk with God through His Word.