If you live in the USA, you probably possess more than one Bible. You almost certainly have access to any number of copies of the Bible in multiple translations. The USA is awash in Bibles.
That is not the case in many countries of the world. For example, in China, only one publishing company is authorized to print the Bible, and it is authorized to print only one translation of the Bible. This company cannot print Bibles fast enough to supply the demand for them. Many Chinese Christians have never possessed a Bible. A pastor may not even possess a Bible. One pastor who received a Bible after years of waiting was overjoyed. The first person he showed it to was in awe. This person had never owned a Bible, either. The pastor carefully tore a page out of his new Bible and gave it to his friend. All through the day, whenever the pastor met a fellow Christian who did not have a Bible, he gave that person a page of the Bible. Those pages were not lost, however. Each person memorized the page he had received. Then he exchanged his page with someone who had a different page.
In the USA we cannot imagine the hunger people in other countries feel for the Bible. It is so easy for us. As a consequence, we do not put the same value on a physical copy of the Bible as people in other countries do. A house church in China has the practice of memorizing a chapter of the Bible each Sunday. After worship is over for the day, they all work together in the project to memorize one chapter. The practice started when only one person in the church had a Bible. Over the years, most members have been able to acquire Bibles, but the church continues in the practice of memorization. They say the pure value of knowing long passages of the Bible in their hearts makes the discipline of memorization worthwhile.
Knowing Scripture verses by heart is quite valuable when a physical copy of the Bible is unavailable. A pastor in a restricted country was arrested and imprisoned for many years. He did not have a Bible with him when he was arrested, and during his imprisonment, he was never allowed to receive one. The only Bible he had was in his heart. Reciting and thinking about those verses helped him to pray and sustained his faith through the torture and privation of prison. With the verses he knew by heart, he was able to share Christ with fellow prisoners and lead several to salvation. After he was released, he called the prison years his “university years,” because of his experience of maturing by meditating and by sharing the scriptures he had memorized.
Every Christian can benefit from knowing Bible verses and passages by memory. Memorizing is hard work. Remember learning the multiplication tables? I remember my frustration as I tried to learn them. Yet today, I don’t have to figure out what 8 times 6 is. I just know it is 48. There are some Bible verses I know the same way. Anyone who knows Bible verses and passages by heart can quickly recall them when they are needed, just as they quickly recall the answer to 8 times 6.
In my daily quiet time, I memorize Bible verses and hymns. I spend three days on each Bible verse and three days on each hymn verse. I am not courageous enough to tackle long Scripture passages or multiple verses of hymns. I wish I thought I could do that. Right now I just try to learn one Bible verse or one hymn verse at a time. As I recite them to myself, over and over, I think about the way they will help me get through night watches at sea or through tumultuous personal crises. When I am in situations where taking out a physical Bible simply won’t work, I will have some of the Bible in my heart. When I was a little girl, I remember learning memory verses in Sunday School. As an adult, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that when I need those verses, I can recall them, although it is easier to remember the words than the references.
The psalmist wrote, “I have stored up your word in my heart,” (Psalm 119:11) and I am trying to do that. I recommend it to everyone as an important personal discipline for spiritual benefit.