Memorizing the Gospel of John
When I step away from the busyness of day-to-day life, I start thinking differently and more big-picture. During our recent 25th anniversary trip, I either was convicted or thought it would be a good idea (honestly I can’t recall which) to memorize a big book of the Bible. A few guys memorized the book of James with me a few years ago and it was a very good experience. I was considering either Romans or John, and in the end, was drawn to the gospel of John.
This is quite the challenge, as it has 879 verses. The most text I’ve ever memorized was about 500 lines when I was in the musical “My Fair Lady” in high school. But a recent long car ride with my daughter made me realize that I have thousands of 80s-90s longs buried somewhere in my brain, so it can be done. I threw out a guilt-free challenge to a bunch of people, and my old friends Josh and Derek accepted the challenge. Josh recruited his friend Ben, so we have 4 “John Boys”!
And can it be done? Well, yes it can! Here are some reflections from a busy mother of four who memorized John in less than a year:
This post outlines our plan to help those wanting to memorized scripture in general, and John in particular.
July 15th, 2019 was go-live with passage #1. This was quite intimidating, as it is an overview of the book and written in several different tenses. I completed the 50 recitations in the first week. I was at Northern Pines Family Camp/Retreat (npines.org) the second week and had lots of time to memorize, so it wasn’t a big deal to finish in 2 weeks. It was an incredibly rich passage! I didn’t even come close to understanding the depth of this passage until I memorized it.
Passage #2 started on July 29th and it took me quite a bit longer to memorize it (18 days). I was unable to say the passage correctly several dozen time (very frustrating), but in the end, I knew it much better. Lessons learned were not to rush when speaking the passage and to always re-read from the same physical source when I didn’t get it perfectly (see Tip #5 below). Another rich passage! I’m starting to almost feel like I’m an observer to the story (after reading well over 100 times). I was able to recite the first 42 verses with ease the morning after I completed passage #2.
Passage #3 started on August 17th. Another rich passage. I completed it on September 11th. This is when the busying of life started to get the best of me. Big work demands, a senior in high school in both band and volleyball, and our basement started the first of several mini floods. Sidetracked, but not derailed!
Passage #4 started on September 12th. The craziness of life noted above continued. A very short passage that I completed on October 13th, quite a bit slower than anticipated. Chapter 2 is complete! Reciting on most days is a joy.
Passage #5 started on October 15th.
I’ve explored several methods of memorizing scripture, and here is where I’ve landed:
1. Read each passage out loud 50 times, then rote memorization is much easier.
2. Don’t move to the next passage until you can recite it out loud perfectly 10 times. We are holding each other accountable by getting “checked off” by each other via a video conference call.
3. Each day before memorizing the next passage, you recite the prior passages for 10-15 minutes to keep them fresh. When there are too many prior passages, break them into chunks and rotate (see Appendix 2 below).
4. Monday through Saturday are the reading/memorizing days and Sunday is for “weeding” only. Weeding is reading and potentially retesting yourself with the old/former passages from the Bible to ensure you are not repeating the wrong words over and over.
1. Use a smartphone app such as Counter + to keep track of how many times you’ve read and recited each passage.
2. Use the app “Passages” which has a voice recognition function to test you when you recite to make sure you are doing it correctly. However, the only works for small chunks of the passage.
3. Divide the text into passages of about 20 verses by topic headings in your Bible. For example, John 1:1-18 is the first passage. Our 45 passages are listed in Appendix 1 below.
4. There is value in reading from the same physical source so you can visualize where on the page each verse is located. If you are on the go, take smartphone pictures of the passage from your paper Bible.
5. Record yourself (I use the recorder on the app Bible Memory Pro) when you are in the process reciting the passages perfectly 10 times. I was surprised how often I thought it did it correctly and then was off by one or more words. Then re-read the passage from the same physical source before you try again.
6. I will be reciting the chapter number as I go as well, so I know at least what chapter the text is in as I memorize. Example: “. . . on the Son of Man. Chapter 2. On the third day . . .”
6. It is very valuable to spend time doing a Bible study of the passage to have it soak in more deeply. I’m using the NIV Application Commentary by Gary Burge.
7. Here are some tips and excellent links from the busy mother of four listed above.
8. Don’t rush the process. The point isn’t speed-memorization, but life transformation. I’m planning about 2 years for completion. As an aside, I’m guessing it will take about 90 minutes to recite the entire book. Time will tell!
If you have questions or comments, please email me: email@example.com
Appendix 1: Passages
Appendix 2: Prior passage chapter chunks of 15 minutes to recite each day