Memorizing Scripture

Why memorize scripture?

By Jerry Truex

Memorize one or two verses a week and watch how your life changes for the better. I dare you. Try it for a few weeks and tell me it didn't work. Let's look at the Shema for starts.

The Shema (Heb. for "hear" or "listen") in Deut 6:4 and the Greatest Commandment in Deut 6:5 is the center of Hebrew Scripture:

Deut 6:4-5. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (NRSV)

We are to love God, but what does that mean? How do we know what that looks like? The verses that follow provide the answer:

Deut 6:6-9. 6:6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 6:7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 6:8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 6:9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NRSV)

We know how to love God when we have God's commandments "in our hearts." From a Hebrew perspective, the heart is the center of one's thought, will, and affection. Notice the verbs. We must keep, talk about, bind, fix, and write the commandments. This is a poetic way of saying, "Memorize Scripture!" This is an invitation to "rewire" our neural net, to transform our minds.

Cognitive-behavioral psychologists know that if you rewire your thinking, then your attitudes, emotions, and actions will change as well. The renewed mind transforms of the whole person (Rom 12:2).

There are tens of thousands of verses. Many are worthy of memorization. But here is my recommendation: Twelve Scriptures I think every Christian should know by heart:


Deut 6:4-5

The Shema

Mar 2007


Mark 12:29-31

The Greatest Commandments

Apr 2007


Micah 6:8

The Lord's Requirement

May 2007


Matthew 6:9-13

The Lord's Prayer

June 2007


2 Tim 3:16-17


July 2007


John 1:12

Become Children of God

Aug 2007


John 3:16

God's Love

Sept 2007


1 John 1:9

God's Forgiveness

Oct 2007


1 Cor 10:13

God's Help

Nov 2007


Jer 29:11

God's Plan for You

Dec 2007


1 John 4:7-8

Love One Another

Jan 2008


Gal 5:22-23

The Fruit of the Spirit

Feb 2008


I encourage you to memorize the Scripture corresponding to the twelve months outlined above (see full texts here). Begin with the Shema today. Of course, you can memorize more. You might want to consider using the Topical Memory System by the Navigators. Which ever verses or system you choose, try to review your verse(s) once or twice a day. Try to memorize each verse word perfect.

Finally, consider the words of Chuck Swindoll:

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 (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994] 61).

Jerry Truex is the Pastor of the Mennonite Church of the Servant; instructor of Biblical Studies at AMBS-Great Plains.