This post is day 33 in a 366 day series, but you will find this a perfectly fine place to begin. If you’d like, check out one of our “Getting Started” posts to learn more about our overall mission to memorize the book of Romans in one year.
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy ScripturesRomans 1:1-2
Do you want a simpler way to memorize scripture? You might want to avoid the craziness of trying to come up with mnemonic devices and then directing them all together into a “Memory Movie”. I want that too, and I want desperately to spend more time with scripture, soaking in its meaning, and applying it to my life. Remember the parable of the four soils?
23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”Matthew 13:23
The true follower of Christ hears the Word of the Lord and applies it to his or her life. Only then can we yield a crop 100 times larger than what was planted.
This new method of Bible memorization should help us know the word and apply the word. It is stupidly simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The simple method for memorizing scripture
For our new technique, I am indebted indebted to a man named Kenneth Berding who wrote for Biola magazine. In one article, he writes of an old professor he had at his university. Kenneth tells the story of Dr. John Mitchell:
He was the founder of the college at which I was studying (Multnomah in Portland, Ore.), and the school was celebrating the half-century mark of its founding while I was there! In fact, Dr. John Mitchell was over the age of 90 when he taught the two classes I took from him. He continued to teach well into his mid-90s.
You might guess that this Dr. Mitchell was slipping a little bit by the time our new friend Kenneth found him:
Not surprisingly, he was getting forgetful about some things by the time I had him as a teacher, but what he definitely was not forgetting were the Bible verses he had memorized. His ability to recall Bible verses was astounding. I do not know this for a fact, but I would guess that he had all of the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament committed to memory. All of his students were profoundly impacted by his immersion in the Scriptures.
Thankfully, Kenneth sat down with this nonagenarian wonder and asked him how he memorized so much scripture. The answer is both profound and elementary (my dear Watson).
As it turns out, the Marvelous Dr. Mitchell didn’t actually try to memorize scripture; he tried to learn and really know the word. Incidentally, he ended up memorzing huge chunks of the Bible. This system is actually the complete opposite of what I’ve been trying to do up until this point in time. Up till now, I have been trying to memorize verses of Romans so that I might be able to recall them and really dig into them in the future. But OF COURSE that is wrong! Why not learn the verses so intimately now? So intimately, in fact, that I can’t help but recall them in perfect order by the end of the process.
Ok, enough beating around the bush. The simple trick for memorizing and entire chapter, or book, or even Testament of the Bible: read the entire passage aloud 50 times.
Kenneth says that this has to happen before you even attempt “rote” memorization, or reading the Bible verse, covering it with your hand, and then trying to recall it. Now, reading the passage aloud is very important. It’s important that you go slowly enough to read every word–that you soak in every word and hear yourself say it. Kenneth even modernizes Dr. Mitchell’s approach. Kenneth says you should record yourself reading the passage and then listen to it a few times a day, walking to work, doing the dishes etc. He believes it’s important to hear yourself say the words, so that it brands deeply in your mind.
If you’re like me, you might do your devotions really early in the morning, but that’s ok, if you’re worried about waking people up, then whispering works too–just make sure you can hear yourself!
Here’s what we’re going to do
So, we’re going to adopt this simple, yet somewhat difficult, approach for this entire month. But let’s modify it slightly. I do think that we should read the passage aloud every day. Please do this in the morning. It should only take about 4 minutes to read the whole of Romans chapter 1. Then I encourage your to add two verses every day as the verses of the day. Please read aloud the entire chapter up until those verses, and then repeat that day’s verses five times aloud. Please read the whole chapter aloud twice on Sundays. Then be sure to listen to the entire chapter at least twice a day. Let’s count each audio listening session as reading the chapter one half of a time. And let’s remember that we’re repeating two verses a day five times. That will add another five read-aloud sessions. AND we’re recapping the whole chapter every day up to those daily verses. Let’s count that as another five total sessions. All in all, we should reach 50 “sessions” in 20 days. Then we’ll focus on the rote memorization idea. Until then, try to recall as much about the chapter as you can, say, every couple of hours. And at noon try to recite as much as possible.
I really like what Kenneth has given us here. It’s darn simple–simplistic even. But will it work? Will we suddenly be able to memorize the whole chapter after we read it aloud 50 times?
After that single conversation with Dr. Mitchell, I changed tactics. From then on, before traveling down the “rote road,” I would read the passage I wanted to memorize 50 times out loud with great emphasis. Then — and only then — I would try the rote method. I learned three things by doing it this way:
1. I discovered that I had already memorized most of the passage I was trying to learn before I ever really started to try to memorize it.
2. I found out that the process of reading a passage over and over again in-and-of-itself became a wonderful means of God working his grace in my life. I wasn’t just learning words, I was thinking about where the passage was going. God used it to help me understand the passage better, to think about its implications in my life, and to impact my actions and affections.
3. I discovered that this process helped immensely in holding in my long-term memory the passages I had memorized. It is a far better process for retention
These are pretty laudable outcomes. Will we achieve the same success? There’s only one way to find out.
If you’re interested in the whole post from Kenneth Berding, I’d encourage you to check it out below: