5 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 2020 reading challenge, though those things are great. Today I want to share with you a simple practice which revolutionized my devotional life. It’s so simple, in fact, my six-year-old could do it:

In 2020, I’d like to challenge you to practice writing out passages of Scripture by hand

Yes, remember, the analog age? Pens, paper, your soft, coffee-stained Bible with its 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 became 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, 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 or working my way through a devotional, as I have been in the month of December with the Consider Jesus Advent resource from Revive Our Hearts. 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, my social studies teacher, upon finding a student chewing gum in class devised a slightly more sophisticated version. Students 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, one classification of which includes visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, actually determines learning outcome, but at minimum, most people have a preference for which mode they prefer to receive 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 in imprinting 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.
    Let me 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 these:

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

Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
   for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
   have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made known his salvation;
   he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
   with the lyre and the sound of melody!

With trumpets and the sound of the horn
   make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
   let the hills sing for joy together
   before the LORD, for he comes
   to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with equity.

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott now serves the Lord alongside her husband, Michael, five sons, and one daughter in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Her passions include words, music, politics, cooking, and encouraging women to seek the God of Scripture in every season of life. Laura is a writer and vocalist, an occasional speaker, and the accounts payable manager at Bethel University in St. Paul, where she is also pursuing an M.B.A. in Finance. In addition to the True Woman blog, Laura occasionally writes at shimmersome.com.