Scripture Memory Enlarges the Brain

Published on September 9, 2013 by

For years I have said that meditating on and memorizing Scripture strengthens cognitive function. Without scientific evidence to support my claim, I have only personal experience on which to rely. Many believers use the excuse, “I can’t memorize Scripture because my memory is horrible.” But I believe God extends special grace to those who take the time and put in the effort to memorize his Word.

Scripture Memory Enlarges the Brain Stock

If anyone has ever had an excuse for his inability to commit Bible verses to memory, it was me. For months I had a $180-a-day heroine and cocaine addiction. My memory was worse than a diet cola addict with years of exposure to aspartame.

My mother recalls an incident where I reached for a glass from the pantry and poured myself a soda. Two minutes into a conversation with her, I began reaching for another glass. As I was twisting the top off the two liter bottle again, mom interrupted me, “Robby, what are you doing?” “What does it look like I’m doing, mom?” I sarcastically replied. I continued: “I’m pouring something to drink.” With a confused look on her face, she said, pointing to the glass on the counter still bubbling with fizz, “You just poured a glass two minutes ago.”

You remember the commercial years ago with the egg and the sizzling frying pan. “This is your brain…. This is your brain on drugs.” That was my brain! Years of self-induced stimulants had taken a toll on my ability to remember the most simple of events, actions, or tasks.

You can imagine the chill that ran up my spine during my first disciple group, when David Platt said, “We are going to memorize Romans 1 together.” “Cool, what verse?,” I inquired. David said, “The entire chapter.” Wiping the sweat away that was forming on my forehead, I began to explain to David the neurological effects of years of drug and alcohol use. He listened to my litany of excuses and then said, “Great, we’ll only do 4 Verses a week!” Little did I know, he was already memorizing chapters 1 through 8. (Here’s a discipleship principle: You can’t expect others to do something you are not willing to do yourself.)

Was it difficult? You bet. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

It took me about 6 months to memorize Romans 1, 2, and 8.

On Easter Sunday, a little over a year after being saved, my relatives gathered at our home for dinner. My family, all Catholic, thought my relationship with Christ was another fad that would eventually fade, like baseball card collecting, drawing, guitar playing, spinning records as a DJ, performing card tricks, or training Mixed Martial Arts. My personal apologetics was falling on deaf ears, so I resorted to a different tactic: reciting the Word. After the meal was eaten, I stood up in front of my mom, dad, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and sister, and simply said, “I have something I want to share with you guys. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…."  Thirty minutes later I had finished quoting Romans 1, 2, and 8.

That one experience probably impacted my family more than any sermon I have ever preached.

What happened?

A child of God delivered the Word of God by the Spirit of God, leaving the results to God. I don’t tell this story to impress you, but to impress upon you the effects God’s Word had on me. Back to my original assertion: Scripture memorization and meditation enlarges your capacity to remember.

Although in the past I have lacked scientific evidence for this assertion, a recent study supports the notion that meditation is connected to positive brain alterations. Drs. Newberg and Waldman, in their book, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, suggested the greatest improvements to the brain came when participants meditated on the love of God. The pre-frontal cortex, a section of the brain responsible for reasoning, making judgments, and experiencing love, increased in compassion, selflessness, and kindness to others.[i]

Even more surprising, the scientists discovered that memory increased as well. (For further examination of this subject, see Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Walkman, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist [New York: Random House, 2009]). Hence, pondering and meditating on God enlarged and healed the brain.

So, to those who posit that they don’t have the mental fortitude to memorize the Word of God, maybe it is because it’s because you have never meditated on God and his Scripture. Just as Olympic athletes cannot compete without first training, Christians are hindered in memorization because of the lack of meditation.

Did you ever think that your brain would grow in proportion to the Scriptures your memorized and meditated on. Maybe you need to remember to memorize Scripture!

[i] Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Walkman, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist (New York: Random House, 2009), 27-32, 53.

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