Memorizing Scripture: “Why Do I Have To?”

Written by Dr. Connie Lawrence, Dean of Academics

When the question, “Why do I have to memorize Scripture?” is asked, it reflects a lack of understanding about the process of memorization. This week’s article, continuing in the “why do I have to” series, explains why memorization helps learning for both the head and the heart.

Why Do I Have to…

Memorize Scripture?

The Value of Memorization

The PCA program includes Scripture memorization for several reasons. First, of course, is the purpose stated in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” There comes a time for all of us when memorized words of Scripture come flowing back as we lean heavily on trust that the Lord is present in our trial and will see us through.

Other reasons for consistent practice in memorization include challenging and training the brain to remember. In fact, findings show regular memorization increases the size and improves the functions of memory-related structures of the brain. More recently, it has been shown that consistent memory practice improves plasticity and overall memory which supports critical thinking and broader applications of knowledge.

Memorization is Difficult

For centuries, people used memorization as the route to learning because books were scarce and access to information was limited to what people held in memory. Now, we can access information in seconds, but, unless it is stored in memory, forgetting also takes place in seconds. Memorization requires that we use parts of our brain not often called upon and any complaining stems from the cognitive load it brings. Understandably, developing the ability to gather pieces of information, build a body of knowledge, and use knowledge to develop wisdom requires our brains work hard, but without it, one is left vulnerable to hearing the loudest voice rather than the thoughtful argument.

Suggestions for Scripture memory:

1. Spend time discussing the meaning of the passage.

2. Begin with one small, meaningful phrase, then add the next meaningful phrase, etc.

3. Color-code meaningful words; when students recall the colored blocks, the word comes with it.

4. Use songs. It doesn’t matter if you make up a tune no one else will appreciate – if it is memorable, use it. Singing is a right-brain activity that does not require the same type of language processing as reading or writing. This is why you could sing the alphabet before you could name the letters.

5. Draw pictures or icons to recall the passage or colored words.

6. Rewrite the difficult parts to recall; the handwriting process will help encode in a different way.

7. Read the passage aloud before going to sleep at night; the brain works to consolidate memories during sleep.