Five Reasons for Writing Scripture by Hand

Perhaps you’re like me, and you love the commencement of a brand new year: viewing life with a fresh outlook; the blank slate of promise; airy, clutter-free photos on the cover of every magazine. The excess of an over-gilded Christmas has passed; the time for simplicity and restraint has come. 

(Except for all of those diet and exercise commercials. They can go.)

Magazine covers aside, what I really love about this time of year is the opportunity to look at my devotional routine with new year, January eyes. As bloggers, we love to help you, our readers, think through ways to bolster your Bible study and devotional routine as well. This is not, however, a post about study methods, read-your-Bible-in-a-year, or a reading challenge, as great as those things are. Today I want to share with you a simple practice which revolutionized my devotional life. It’s so simple, in fact, a six-year-old could do it:

This year, I’d like to challenge you to practice writing out passages of Scriptureby hand

Yes, remember the analog age? Pens, paper, your soft, coffee-stained Bible with dog-eared corners that feels like the embrace of a good friend when you hold it in your hands? Believe it or not, those tools of ages past might be just the thing to refresh your time with the Lord in this new year. 

In the early 2000’s, when I was the mother of two small children, working to complete my bachelor’s degree, I began to feel convicted about the seriousness of my Bible study habits (or lack thereof) as they compared to my academic study habits. How is it, I thought, that I will get up at 5 a.m., read my texts, take copious notes, breeze through my household chores, bundle up the littles, haul them to my mom’s house, and then trek another thirty minutes to campus and sit through several classes before putting the whole operation in reverse? I’m willing to work hard to study writing, but I can’t seem to devote any sort of discipline to my study of God’s Word?

I knew something needed to change, so borrowing from my time in academia, I decided I would approach my study of God’s Word with as much or more vigor as I had my schoolwork. Though I had a university-issued laptop for the duration of my studies, I found that writing detailed notes of my assigned readings by hand, including definitions of important terms, was extremely beneficial as I attempted to take in and process large amounts of information, committing facts to memory while connecting important ideas. 

Thus began a practice that I continue today, whether I am engaging in formal exegesis of a text, working my way through a Bible-reading plan, or participating in a group study. Writing out each Scripture reference by hand, while noting key ideas, helps me to commit those passages to mind and heart, and engages my mind with the material in a way that is simple, yet effective. 

Back to School: Five Ways Writing Scripture by Hand Engages Your Heart and Mind

While I’m not quite one-room schoolhouse material, I am old enough to have experienced my fair share of elementary recess times spent with aching fingers printing out sentence after sentence of penitent prose:

I will not talk in class.

I will not talk in class.

I will not talk in class.

By middle school I found that my social studies teacher had devised a slightly more sophisticated version, to be used when he found students chewing gum in class. We had to copy the preamble to the Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union . . . do establish this Constitution . . .”

Though not exactly on the cutting edge of classroom discipline technique, my teachers knew then what I know now—that in scrawling out my consequence, I would see the words with my eyes, hear them in my mind, and feel them with my hands. And those words, in a way, would become a part of me. That’s how I feel now, when I spend ten or fifteen minutes copying out passages of Scripture, underlining repeated words or phrases, drawing arrows, and most of all, seeing, hearing, and feeling the text. 

Convinced yet? If not, here are five reasons for you to start writing out Scripture this year.

  1. Writing Scripture by hand helps us to slow down and soak it in.
    Writing out a passage takes time. As I write I am focusing on each word as it comes. I look from the pages of my Bible to the pages of my notebook, with no popup messages, no ads, no email notifications. Distractions fall away, and I engage with the text in meaningful, intentional ways. 
  2. Writing Scripture by hand is helpful for all learning preferences.
    The jury is apparently out on whether teaching to certain learning styles (such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, for example) actually determines learning outcome, but at minimum, most people have a preference for how they prefer to receive and pass on information. I’m a very visual learner, so seeing the passage as I write it hits me right where I live. Are you an auditory learner? I’ll bet you hear the words in your mind as you write each passage. And for the kinesthetic learners among us, the act of moving your hand through the strokes of each word will no doubt help imprint the words on your heart. 
  3. Writing by hand is good for your brain.
    Research at Indiana University indicated that writing by hand stimulates neural activity in the brain, encouraging creativity and enhancing brain health. So think of copying Scripture as exercise for your mind and your heart!
  4. Writing Scripture by hand personalizes the text.
    To be clear: I don’t think there is anything particularly mysterious that happens when I write out a passage by hand. Well, that is, not any more mysterious than what’s described in these passages of Scripture:
  • So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11).
  • For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
  • Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near (Rev. 1:3).

Sister in Christ, I don’t know exactly what effect writing out the Word will have on your life and in your heart, but I know this: your time will not be wasted, the Word will do its work, and you will be blessed.

  1. Writing Scripture leaves a legacy.
    Like a beloved family recipe on a tattered card in Grandma’s handwriting, how much more meaningful would it be for the generations that come after you to see the truths you hold dear written in your hand? What a precious gift. 

What do you say? Why not start today? If I could take the liberty of suggesting a starting point, it would be this—a new song for a new year.

Psalm 98

Sing a new song to the LORD,
for he has performed wonders;
his right hand and holy arm
have won him victory.
The LORD has made his victory known;
he has revealed his righteousness
in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth
have seen our God’s victory.

Let the whole earth shout to the LORD;
be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.
With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn
shout triumphantly
in the presence of the LORD, our King.

Let the sea and all that fills it,
the world and those who live in it, resound.
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the mountains shout together for joy
before the LORD,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world righteously
and the peoples fairly.

About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Born and raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott and her husband, Michael, now call Minnesota home. Laura is the mother of five sons and one daughter and serves as the marketing content manager for Revive Our Hearts. In … read more …

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