Several years ago I happened upon a plan for memorizing Scripture which has been a blessing to me when I have been able to stick with it. Using this plan I was able to memorize the entire book of Philippians and am now most of the way through Ephesians. Below are excerpts of other posts I have written about it, collected here in one place, with links to the relevant downloads. I must give credit where it is due, and thank Timmy Brister for coming up with this plan in the first place, and for producing the PDF files of the texts of Scripture which make it literally a cut-and-paste project.
A few years ago I found the blog of a Christian pastor, Timmy Brister, who had the idea of reading through the Puritans, one a month, for a year…. (When I returned to his site after a couple of years) I learned that he- along with thousands of others- is nearing the end of a new discipline …. They are memorizing the book of Philippians. His plan includes a way to organize and keep track of the memorization schedule by using a “Memory Moleskine”. This is no mere exercise in memory skills. We are pursuing growth in Christ and obedience to our Lord, which is a privilege and a joy, not only in the accomplishment thereof, but in the journey.
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” -Psalm 119:105
Why Memorize Scripture?
Knowing God’s Word is a hedge of protection against false teaching. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man, (or woman) of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Only a couple of verses further he then exhorts Timothy in a solemn charge to, “preach the Word,” giving as his reason the warning that, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Memorizing Scripture informs our prayers. As I memorized the book of Philippians and am now working on Ephesians, I have found the prayers of Paul to be perfect to pray for those I know, and his exhortations in his letters to holy living also find their way into my petitions for others—and myself!
Memorizing Scripture allows me to meditate on it even when I’m not sitting with my Bible. As I rehearse what I have learned I am able to follow the flow of ideas as they weave together the doctrines which are taught in the Word. Grace flows to gratitude, gratitude flows to holy living, and it all flows to the glory of God and our exalted King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And though I’m not giving an exhaustive list here, I’ll conclude with the truth which has sustained me so very many times. God’s Word brings comfort and peace in the midst of trial.
“If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.”
Links to the resources:
Ephesians Memory Plan (goes to the blog post where Timmy Brister outlines why and how to do the memory work. The link to download the PDF of Ephesians is embedded in such a way I couldn’t copy and paste it here.)
Timmy’s blog post on beginning 1 Peter, which includes reasons to memorize, encouragements to the memorization, and other helpful resources. I’m not stealing these ideas from him, just sharing them with you!
Assembling your journals:
Before diving into the memory work there is a bit of “Arts and Crafts” to accomplish. Putting together our Memory Journals is rather straightforward, if a tad time-consuming. The following photos will give you an idea how to format your journals.
(I used double-sided tape to adhere the printed text to the pages of the journal for Philippians. Our church secretary came up with the idea of printing the memory text onto adhesive labels rather than paper to simplify the project when we did Ephesians. Both methods worked beautifully.)
I began with the Memory Plan page, just on the inside of the cover. The next three pages I put in the Helps to Memory: “Why Memorize Scripture” by John Piper, then the two pages covering method. do take the time to read these, as they will give you the tools for memorizing this fabulous book.
Finally, the text of Scripture. Put each page, in order, on the left page, leaving the right page blank for notes. Your notes will be divided into two sections: a daily list for ticking off how many times you repeat the section, and a larger area for your reflections on the text you are memorizing. In order for this to sink deeply into our hearts we need to do more than mere rote memorization, we need to focus on what Paul is actually saying. As you read and recite each verse, think about its meaning. (The paper clip is to keep my place.)
How to memorize:
Choose a time each day when you can spend uninterrupted time with your memorization. I find first thing in the morning works for me.
Each page of verses in your journal is a unit of the text, within which there is a context and flow of thought. Each of the pages ought to take a week to memorize. Read the verses to yourself, out loud, at least ten times, marking the repetitions off on the right-hand page to keep track. Read with emphasis for meaning, looking for the main ideas. It’s easier to remember it if you get what’s being said.
Throughout the day, take quiet opportunities to review your verses. Take your journal with you when you run errands and if your find yourself waiting somewhere, review your verses.
The next week, begin each memory session with a review of the older passages, being sure you have them down before working on the next passage. Recite the older verses all together before your 10X repetition each day. In this way, by the time you finish, you will have recited the entire book, gradually, over the entire course of your memory work.
There are more helps to memorizing in the PDF print-outs of the text which you will put in the front of your book. I have found them all helpful except for the advice to memorize the verse numbers. I found that to be a hindrance to smooth recitation. I try to remember chapter breaks and there are particular verses for which I know the numbers, but the point for me is to capture the flow of the thoughts and not the breakdown of individual verses.
Memorizing Scripture is hard, and it requires discipline. I have found it very helpful to partner with a friend, or even a group of friends, in order to have accountability to keep going. Not only do my friends remind and encourage me in my memorization, but we share together the joys that result from hiding God’s Word in our hearts together. Recruit family members, find friends at church, or get your Facebook pals to join you, and get started! And let me know too; I’d love to hear that you’re joining me in hiding the Word in your hearts!