Every Sunday after church, a woman in my congregation hands out candy to children in Sunday school who can recite a Bible verse from memory.
My guess is that the goal is to increase each child’s familiarity with the Bible. With any luck, these children will make Bible reading and memorization a routine that hopefully lasts them for the rest of their lives. Even if it doesn’t become a life-long routine, or if these children grow up and stop going to church altogether, perhaps these Bible verses will come to them in times of need later on in life.
I experimented with Bible memorization in my late teens. In particular, I recall one summer where I wrote out different Bible verses I wanted to memorize on recipe cards and then worked on memorizing them during my 25-minute walk to my summer job at a local grocery store.
I can’t recall why exactly I did this. I suppose I wanted to become more biblically literate and also felt that maybe memorizing some Bible verses would change me in some way—help me become a more faithful Christian, perhaps.
In 2009, ChristianPost.com reported on a man named Charles Matlock who has a photographic memory and has memorized most of the Bible. At the time, he was using his gift to preach as a travelling evangelist. Matlock began memorizing Bible verses at the age of 12. By the time he was 59, he had become known as the “Walking Bible of West Tennessee,” but he emphasized, “I want a relationship with Jesus more than just reading and memorizing verses.”
Perhaps memorizing the Bible is one way to build that relationship, though. Dallas Willard, the American philosopher and famed Christian writer, is quoted as saying that Bible memorization is “absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation.”
“If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life,” Willard once wrote, “I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs.”
My Bible-memorization period didn’t last very long, and if you asked me to recite a passage today, the only verses I could definitely rattle off with any confidence would be John 3:16 and John 11:35 (“Jesus wept”).
When this Year of Reading Biblically began, it was in the back of my mind to memorize some passages along the way. I have not done this as of yet, but there are still six weeks left, so I’m going to memorize one or two passages that speak to me.
Choosing a verse to memorize that speaks to you is key when it comes to Bible memorization, according to BibleGateway.com, a website that aims to make Scripture readily available on the Internet. “A Bible verse that’s relevant to what you’re going through is easier to memorize than one that speaks to a topic that’s abstract to you,” it states.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about love. Not romantic love, but the love I have for my friends and family. I have also been wondering how loving a person I am in general. How much love do I exhibit to the people I encounter in everyday life?
In the next few weeks, I’m going to memorize I Corinthians 13. The chapter has 13 verses in it, so I figure if I memorize two verses each week, I’ll have memorized the entire thing by the end of 2014.
Hopefully I’ll memorize more verses in 2015. I may not end up being the “Walking Bible of Winnipeg,” but I hope I’ll feel closer to God and have something to draw on in times of need.
At the very least, memorizing these verses will earn me some sweets at church some upcoming Sunday.
--Posted Nov. 19, 2014
This is Part 8 in the series A Year of Reading Biblically. See also:
Part 2- Time for what’s important
Part 3- It’s God’s story
Part 4- Important reminders
Part 5- Getting back on track
Aaron is following the scripture reference lists in Daily Guide for A Year of Living Biblically:
Part 1 (Dec. 16, 2013)
Part 2 (March 31, 2014)
Part 3 (July 28, 2014)