Scripture memory is a powerfully formative spiritual practice. It may also be among the most neglected.
At the time of Jesus, Jewish children began learning the Torah around the age of five. By about age ten many of them would have had the whole Torah - Genesis through Deuteronomy - committed to memory, and would begin studying the rest of the Jewish scripture (which we call the Old Testament). We know from the historical accounts of Jesus's life that He participated in this process. It should strike us that Jesus, the living Word of God, saw it necessary to memorize the written word of God.
We live at a time in history when the text of Scripture has been reliably translated into our language and is available instantly on our phones. Why should we bother with memorizing it?
Pastor and author, Chuck Swindoll, provides an answer: "I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture...No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified."
Memorizing Scripture forms us spiritually. In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul urged his readers to "be transformed by the renewal of [their] mind." Renewal of the mind occurs when we allow God's Word to take up residence in our hearts and begin to change us inwardly, which results in life transformation outwardly.
Memorization does not come easily for most people, and even those with natural memorization abilities will find themselves challenged as they memorize Scripture. Experiment with different strategies and methods - flashcards, transcription, and repeated out-loud reading of Scripture are all helpful practices.
Begin by selecting verses to memorize. These may be verses that stick out to you during your devotional reading or study time, or they may be verses from a list that you find or compile yourself. As you become more proficient, work your way up to longer passages, whole chapters, and even entire books of the Bible. Don't forget to review and retain the verses you've memorized in the past.
Use the verses you memorize as a jumping-off point for your prayer time, or meditate on a certain verse or even just a word or phrase from a verse you've memorized.
Memorizing with a partner or in a group will help you stay motivated. Hold each other accountable to memorize, recite verses with one another, and discuss what you're learning and experiencing as you memorize Scripture.
You may find that memorizing other Christian literature, creeds, and prayers is beneficial to you. Try memorizing the Apostles' and Nicene creeds, the lyrics of a favorite hymn, selections from a prayer book, or anything else that helps you focus your mind on God.