Why Memorise Scripture

What’s the point of Scripture memory?
By Derek Leaf


This short article outlines the purpose of memorising Bible verses and suggests a couple of tools to make the process easier. Appropriate for anyone who wants to find out more about memorising Bible verses or to pass on this practice to someone else.

Derek Leaf

Leader, Navigators UK

Currently Leads the work in the UK and travels into Latvia. Yet, key role is one of prayer and standing with God. Married to Eva, have 4 children who have mostly left home.

How to Study Scripture




In exploring a new country, the tourist routes give an overview and a superficial understanding. Going to meet real people where they are, and battling with poor understanding of language and culture gives a whole new understanding. In exploring the Bible, there is a similar difference. The guided tours presented through teachers are helpful, but nothing compares to personal study. As we grapple with his Word we begin to understand God, how to walk with him, and the life he leads us into.


Here is one way to approach Bible study…

  • Pray
  • Observe facts
  • Understand implications
  • Apply to life



If you study Scripture just “to do it” or gain intellectual knowledge of the Bible you may miss God! It is good to pray at the beginning of a “Scripture search”. As you pray you are inviting him to join in the journey of discovery.

Ask him to meet you through the text, to show himself so you can praise him. Invite him to point out areas of your life that need changing. Determine in your heart to act on what he shows you.

I have found that when a Scripture search is dry and boring, I have forgotten to pray like this. The whole process is turned around into a dynamic and living challenge.


Outline the Passage

The aim of outlining is to get a grasp of a whole passage by breaking it down into manageable chunks. It will help you see the flow of the passage. (Most do this at the beginning. Personally I do a rough version at the beginning and tie it together at the end.)

  • Read the passage a few times to try and get an idea of the flow.
  • As you read, note down the sections (usually 1-5 verses each) into which the chapter falls and give each section a title (5 words maximum.)
  • Group the sections into blocks and give each block a title.
  • If your mind works the other way, start with the big picture in the passage and break it down into sections.


Take the sections from your outline and go through the following steps.


  1. Observation

Observation lays the groundwork for the search. You are the detective entering the scene looking for clues. The quality of the deductions follows the quality of the observations. Without observation, your search will be based on opinions rather than the facts. Observation focuses on FACTS.

Observation is all about discovering the unexpected, so you don’t know what you are looking for at the start. There are some techniques which will help uncover the unexpected.



  • What is the context for the text? If you can, read the whole book of the Bible in which the passage occurs. If the book is very long, read the chapter before and after.
  • What significance is there to any words or phrases that link to outside the text.
  • (So, Because, Therefore, … ) These phrases bring to light the purpose of the text.



  • Write down distinct facts that are in the passage, these range from the obvious to the obscure. Take your time. Read it a number of times. You may have missed something that will alter your understanding of the text.
  • Explore metaphor and expressions – cross-reference these! Metaphors in the Bible can have wildly different meanings from what is assumed in a western context.


Questions – Trigger to Observe

  • Throw questions at the text.
  • Who? Why? What? Where? When? …
  • Is this really what I would expect?
  • If this was me what would I have done?
  • Note words or passages that are not understood. If you are in a group, others in the group may have had the same issue, or found a solution.


Cross Reference

  • Cross referencing is when you go to other parts of the Bible to look for explanations of what you are searching.
  • Many Bibles have linking verses in either a centre column, or at the bottom of the page providing such cross references. A concordance or biblegateway.com will enable you to search the whole Bible for the same word to see how it is used in other places.
  • Look for cross references to the concepts you have found. Are the ideas contrasted or repeated elsewhere in Scripture? What light does another passage throw on this one?


  1. Understanding

Take the various observations and try to understand what they mean.

Without understanding, the search is purely academic – a collection of facts.

E.g. Luke 19:1 & 5 – Jesus considered a day with Zacchaeus, the person of the moment, more important than an extra day in Jerusalem with the religious leadership.

Why did God have this letter written for us to read?

  • What does it mean? If you write it in your own words, it could help you understand.
  • What is the heart of what is being written?


  1. Application

Knowledge puffs up, love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). If I don’t take the time to let God’s words speak in my life and change me, I will only have knowledge. Application will change my life.



  • Pray that God would reveal to you how this should apply to your life.
  • What are the implications to your life from the passage you have understood?


Application can take two angles…

General application for all:

  • What was the author’s intended application?
  • How does this relate to me in today’s world?


Personal application for me:

  • How has God spoken to me? NB: This may not be the central issue of the text.


Copyright © Derek Leaf 2017


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SO17 1XQ


023 8055 8800


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