Over dinner recently a friend lamented that she hasn’t intentionally memorized Scripture recently, or ever, despite believing in its importance. I introduced her to the idea of memorizing Scripture through song. I hesitate to call it effortless, because I agree with the adage that nothing worth doing is easy. But the truth is, memorizing through song is enjoyable, natural, and long-lasting. I’ve forgotten quite a few Bible passages that I memorized by recitation and writing it out (although those methods are important), but the ones I’ve memorized through music have been ingrained in my mind for years. Music has a special connection with memory, as we’ve experienced when a certain remembered song elicits powerful emotions, or when a childhood cartoon jingle still floats around in our heads.
My absolute favorite Scripture memory music comes from the Slugs and Bugs “Sing the Bible” albums. They’re made up of word-for-word Scripture, gorgeous and striking music with fantastic production… and a healthy dose of silliness. My husband and I listen to these songs just as much as the kids do: they are equally delightful for 4-year-olds and 40-year-olds. Volumes 1 and 2 are already well beloved in our home, and Volume 3 plus a Christmas album are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign that is well worth investing in.
“You Forgave Me” from Volume 2, based on Psalm 32:1-5, is one of the most haunting and reviving songs I’ve heard (acoustic version). He begins with a groaning confession of his sin and a declaration of the joy of having that sin cleared away. Then a pause, pregnant with grief and longing. The next sound is that of a child, singing tenderly, “You forgave me; all my guilt is gone,” which swells into a confidently joyful chorus. Every time, it sends chills and soaring hope through me.
In the interest of showing that Scripture memory is multi-faceted (and perhaps risky!): A few months ago, while undergoing a minor procedure at the doctor’s office, I played the first Sing the Bible album on my phone to pass the time while I sat there alone. By far the silliest song on the album goes, “Do not eat anything you find already dead…but you may give it to the alien living in your town.” It’s egregiously and hilariously taken out of context from Deuteronomy (which they explain at the end of the song), and pretty funny to come across without any warning. Well, just as this song started blaring from my phone, the doctor walked back into the exam room to check on me. In the middle of the procedure, my hands weren’t free to turn off the music, so we tried to talk over the refrain about giving dead stuff to the aliens. I could see his professional face slipping as he half listened to me, half tried to decide if he was really hearing what he thought he was hearing. I was torn between laughter at how hard I was unintentionally punking this doctor, and scarlet-faced embarrassment at how much of a lunatic I must seem. Thanks for the good times, Slugs and Bugs!
Another good option for Scripture memory music is Seeds Family Worship. They have about ten albums with word-for-word Scriptures: a wonderfully huge number of options! The musicality is more hit-or-miss with these. Some songs are fantastic and I find myself singing them for days on end; some are more kid music. I appreciate the usefulness of all the songs; I enjoy a lot of them; my kids love all of them. My kids consider them dancing music (what isn’t, really?) and beg to play them over and over during our Scripture memory time.
Outside of pre-recorded music, a great way to memorize your own selected verses is setting them to a tune you already know. I’ve memorized Philippians 1-3, and about half of chapter 4, set to the tune of the Christmas carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” I have no idea how that song popped into my head for this purpose, but it has a good distribution of syllables that makes it fairly easy to fit in your own lyrics. I set a few verses at a time to the tune, whatever one round of the song will “hold,” and make my way through chapter by chapter. I used “Over in the Meadow” and a made-up tune for a few verses too. Just pick a flexible tune and try it out!
What I really love about this approach is how it makes it easier to memorize long passages of Scripture. My goal is to finish Philippians soon, and while it’s certainly possible to achieve that through rote memorization, this is more fun and sticks better.
There are countless articles about the benefits of memorizing Scripture, but in short, it transforms you to get God’s Word embedded deep in your being. The process of memorizing makes you reflect and meditate on the text. It gives you ample chances to check out a commentary for a phrase or passage that’s unclear to you. It forces you to take it in word by word rather than glossing over parts. And having Truth available anytime, anywhere, to rejoice, mourn, pray, and bring light into darkness, is priceless.
You CAN do it.