Keys to Memorization and Meditation
exchanging our thoughts for God’s thoughts, part 2 of 3
Dr. Mike Davis shares the second in a series of three articles about personal meditation on Scripture.
Many falsely believe they cannot memorize. Memorizing is certainly not easy for most people, but it is possible for us all. We see this potential in our ability to speak with proper grammar and to easily remember the lyrics to many songs. There are two main keys to memorization: verbal repetition and motivation. An important key for meditation is to see the difference between Bible study and meditation.
Key 1: Verbal (Spoken) Repetition
Practice makes perfect. An accomplished musician may not be able to explain how he can play a particular line of music so well and with such speed. His learning started with slow movements and progressed through repetition, repetition, and more repetition. Through continued perseverance and discipline, slow halting notes became a beautiful wonder.
In the same way, someone who has memorized large passages of Scripture cannot tell us how it got into his mind. Memorization can be dry and hard at first, but the more one memorizes, the easier it becomes. Eventually it brings deep satisfaction as we repeat perfectly the words of God from memory. This knowledge prepares us for a deeper relationship with Christ as we hear His Word through meditation.
Key 2: Motivation
An unsaved person cannot fully understand that placing his faith in Christ will bring joy and peace blossoming from the seed of salvation. In the same way, it is difficult for us to believe that an activity such as memorizing and meditating on Scripture will produce the joy, strength, and intimacy with God that we desire.
As Jesus told us in numerous parables, the kingdom of God is like a seed. According to the Parable of the Sower, that seed is God’s Word. Once planted and nurtured, God has guaranteed a harvest of fruit from His Word. Memorization is like planting the seed, and meditation is like nurturing the seed. The fruit of a deeper walk with God that comes through the process of meditation is a powerful motivation to memorize Scripture.
God has promised many blessings for those who meditate on His Word. Yet we are often hesitant to take Him at His Word and do what He says. Sometimes we simply do not believe His Word because of a lack of faith in God or a greater faith in mankind’s religious systems and personal works that appeal to one’s ego.
Because meditation is not flashy and draws little attention, there is often a lack of motivation for the quiet, humble activity. The question is not whether it is right that we meditate on God’s Word. God clearly encourages us to do it. The question is whether we will be motivated to do so because of God’s promises for meditation, or whether we will fail to do it through unbelief and then experience the resulting failure in our Christian walk.
The Promised Blessings for Meditation
Taking God at His word and believing His promises will provide a great motivation to memorize and meditate. A few of these promises are listed below.
- Be blessed in all you do.
“Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25). The word doer here is not the Greek word for “work,” but it is poietes, meaning “performer, poet.” This description gives the picture of one who meditates on a role or poem until its execution becomes a natural part of life.
- Experience good success.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
- Prosper in what you do.
“His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2–3).
- Gain power over sin.
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:9–11).
- Possess wisdom and understanding.
“ O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments has made me wiser than mine enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers; for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me” (Psalm 119:97–102).
Key 3: Differentiate Between Bible Study and Meditation
Meditation on Scripture is not what we commonly think of as “Bible study.” Bible study is good, and it certainly assists meditation; but Bible study is often learning about God and meditation is about knowing God. Questions about words, people, and places will arise. It is important to study and to especially investigate key words in the original languages with concordances and language aids. Remember though that these are aids to meditation, not the final point.
The Holy Spirit is to be our teacher. (See John 14:26, John 16:13, and I Corinthians 2:9–13.) He will fill this role as we seek for Him to do so. While books about God and His Word can be good and useful tools, they do not hold the promises given if we meditate on God’s Word, seek Him, fear Him, love Him, and know Him. None of these things come from books alone.
I caution others about reading commentaries because when we read other’s opinions about a passage of Scripture, sometimes it can block deeper insights and understanding that the Holy Spirit may wish to reveal or it can hinder a work that He is seeking to do in us. Books can be useful tools and aids, but reading them and learning from them is not the goal of meditation.