Do We Really Need to Memorize Scripture?

I have six Bibles—seven if you count my audio Bible app, and eight if you count my esv app. I use several different translations for study and reading, and if I happen to need another translation, I can do a Google search or borrow from my pastor-husband’s library. It’s an embarrassment of riches to have such free and uninhibited access to God’s Word. 

There’s a good chance you have a wealth of Scripture at your fingertips too, even if you’re not married to a pastor with a scholar’s library. No generation in the history of the world has had such free and extravagant availability of the Bible as twenty-first century Christians in North America. If we can open God’s Word with a page turn, a swipe on our smartphones, or a voice command on our audio apps, is there any reason we should memorize Scripture?

With such rich access to the Bible, the idea of Scripture memorization may seem redundant. You might feel convinced that Scripture memorization is good for you but perhaps unnecessary. You may wonder if the benefits outweigh the time and effort required to laboriously rehearse Bible verses over and over. What is the point of memorizing when you have a Bible in every room of your house? I’ve asked that same question during my many years of walking with the Lord. But in recent years as I’ve embarked on a journey of memorizing Scripture, I’ve learned that access and availabilityhave little to do with my reasons for memorization.

Memorize Scripture to Fight Sin

When I first began memorizing Scripture several years ago, it wasn’t because I had limited access to the Bible. It was a daily struggle with sin. I’d been fighting the sin of anger for such a long time and with little victory, it seemed. While praying over this frequent reason for remorse one day, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 119:11, which reads “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (esv). In a moment of clarity, everything clicked into place. If I want to fight my sin, I must store up God’s Word in my heart. 

I began with Psalm 46. With a purple marker, I wrote the words of the psalm on a sheet of notebook paper which I then slid into a Ziploc bag that I taped to my shower wall. For about a month, I worked through the psalm every time I stepped into the shower, until I had it memorized. Then I moved on to Psalm 1, Psalm 23, and portions of Psalm 119. I tackled James 1, and then the following four chapters. Not only was I enjoying the process of memorizing Scripture, I was also seeing internal changes that encouraged me to keep going.

In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to suit up with God’s armor in order to fight sin and stand firm against the devil’s schemes, reminding us that our battle isn’t against things we can see but against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 esv). In his description of armor, God’s Word is called “the sword of the Spirit.” Though I’ve never had to carry an actual physical sword, I’ve seen enough battle scenes in movies to know that a sword is both a defensive and an offensive weapon. It’s for protection and proactive fighting. God’s Word is like that, arming us for spiritual battle and protecting us from the evil one. Our calling in the Christian life is to stand firm in Christ until we see Him. To stand firm, we must saturate our hearts and minds with the Word He’s given us to help us hold fast. 

Jesus did this very thing in the wilderness when Satan tempted Him to sin (see Matthew 4). Our Savior stood firm against the devil’s tactics by leaning on Scripture. He wielded the words of the Old Testament like a sword, refusing to disobey God no matter how tempting Satan’s offers sounded. Like Jesus in the desert, we can fight sin with His weapon of choice: God’s Word. 

During my first year of intentional Scripture memorization, I eventually began to see the blaze of anger in my life fizzle and begin to die. The more I meditated on Scripture, the more I hated my sin. The closer I lived to God’s Word, the farther I lived from my sin. When the sparks threatened to rekindle, I doused them again and again with the practice of memorization, soaking the coals with God’s powerful words. In time, victory became a sweet reality in my life. 

But that wasn’t all. While memorizing God’s Word was shrinking some of the looming sins in my life, it was also widening my view of God and deepening my love for Him.

Memorize Scripture to Love God

Scripture is God’s chosen means of revelation of Himself. We can’t know Him apart from His Word, and we can’t love someone we don’t know. Regular Bible reading and study are absolutely crucial to knowing and loving God more. But have you ever closed your Bible and gone on with your day without giving another thought to the Lord? I’ve found memorizing Scripture to be essential in bridging the gap between knowledge of God and affection for Him. Memorization keeps me near God’s Word all throughout the day, bringing me back to Him every time I rehearse and recite His words.

It took more than a year and a half for me to memorize the book of Colossians, but little else in my life has strengthened my affection for the Lord like memorizing that short book. Each day, I worked on memorizing—practicing one short phrase or sentence at a time. It felt like a slow crawl, but what happens during those ordinary, repetitive moments of memorization is truly transformative. As you work on a phrase or a verse, you think about the words, the structure of the sentence, the adjectives, the word choice, the way God is described, or the way He acts in the lives of His people. 

Thinking about God’s words will widen your view of Him, enrich your understanding of His character, and deepen your trust in His faithfulness. This is biblical meditation. It’s what the psalmist describes in Psalm 1 as delighting in God’s Word, meditating on it “day and night” (Psalm 1:2 esv). Or, as Paul writes it in Colossians 3:16, letting “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (esv).

When God’s Word fills up the cracks of your life, floods the hollows of your heart, and travels the neural pathways of your mind, you will find yourself delighting in Him. His Word changes you! It’s more than knowledge—it’s affection. And when you love Him, you’ll obey Him, bearing fruit and flourishing in spiritual growth. With His Word in your heart, He will teach you to love Him without restraint. And you’ll be ever confident in His love for you

Memorize Scripture to Endure Trials

I began memorizing 1 Peter during a difficult season of physical illness. My mind and body were tired, but sleep eluded me as my long struggle with a chronic disease flared wildly out of control. Pain gripped me night and day, and I struggled to make sense of it. As I meditated on Peter’s words while my body ached and my mind struggled to focus, God met me with comfort from His Word: “In this [living hope] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7 esv). 

My suffering wasn’t pointless. While I memorized the words about trials and testing and praise, I realized that God was not only aware of my suffering, He was with me in it and would produce from it something that would bring Him glory. I could trust Him with my pain and know that He would polish my trials with His glory, producing joy that will one day make sense, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. 

God’s Word is a balm to the hurting. We follow a Suffering Savior who was well-acquainted with grief (see Isaiah 53:3). He doesn’t belittle or ignore our sorrows. Rather, He prays for us and has given us what we need to endure because He knows what it’s like (Heb. 4:15; 7:25). His Word is loaded with promises about our forever home with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. Our future in heaven is free from every sorrow we might experience here on earth. The residue of our sufferings will be washed away in the glory of the God who always keeps His promises. 

One of the chief ways we can endure our sorrows on this earth is to hold fast to the hope of heaven promised in Scripture. When we begin to dwell on what comes next and lasts forever, our pain will have meaning and our endurance will be sure. The Scriptures you hide in your heart today will carry you through the suffering of tomorrow. 

Do We Really Need to Memorize Scripture? 

When I first began memorizing Scripture, I was skeptical. What good could come from rehearsing the same words over and over again? But these aren’t just any words. God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12 esv). All of Scripture—every word—is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Meditating on God’s good, true, eternal Word isn’t like memorizing a phone number or the lyrics to your favorite song. Meditating on God’s Word changes the way you think, the way you act, respond, reason, and speak. Thinking about God’s Word will teach you to think like He thinks, to love what He loves, to hate what He hates. 

Do we need to memorize God’s Word? Only if we want to be transformed more and more into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ!

To hear more on this topic from Glenna, check out her book Memorizing Scripture: The Basics, Blessings, and Benefits of Meditating on God’s Word. It releases today! 

About the Author

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise is His Presence, Everyday Faithfulness, and Memorizing Scripture. She writes regularly at on biblical literacy, suffering, and … read more …

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