From Duty to Passionate Pursuit :: A Heart Change for Scripture Memory

What makes a heart want to do what it knows it should do?

Should is knowing what you ought to do. It’s knowing that you ought to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s knowing that you ought to floss your teeth every day. It’s knowing that you ought to spend time with God through prayer and His Word. Should is knowing that you ought to memorize Scripture.

A should left undone riddles one with guilt. The scale that climbs higher after indulging in sweets. The dread of the dentist’s chair because you hadn’t become a “born-again flosser” since your last visit. {I wouldn’t know anything about this one! And my dentist actually used those words.} The heaviness of heart when you witness another’s knowledge of and love for Christ that makes yours pale in comparison.

A should accomplished purely out of duty puffs up. Eyes become haughty as they pass judgment on those who have not measured up. Self-righteousness abounds. One becomes a Pharisee.

A should obeyed with humility is submission. It is love.

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. – 2 John 1:6

A should pursued with desire is joy.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:12

What turns a heart from duty to desire?

Ah, if I fully knew the answer to that the scale would register a lower number, the hygienist wouldn’t shake her head, and I would know every scripture I quote instead of continuously having to rely on Blue Letter Bible.

What I do know is that this heart change occurred in me with regard to memorizing Scripture. And I humbly share with you those influences that I think made it happen.


When I began my Scripture memory last year, I realized early on that duty wasn’t going to cut it. I didn’t want to memorize simply to check off another thing on my Should List. So my second verse choice was Psalm 63:1.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

As I worked on memorizing this verse, I prayed the words as supplication with each recitation.Accountability

This was key. Knowing that I was going to have to recite at least ten verses at the SMT Celebration kept me from fizzling out completely when I put my memory work on the back burner. Without a deadline or someone who will know, it’s really easy to give up and quit. We know this with regard to other goals. {That’s why we have better success at losing weight with Weight Watchers, and sticking to an exercise program with friends.} Yet, we so rarely seek accountability in our spiritual growth. Hmmm.

KnowledgeUnderstanding what is at stake also made a great difference in my heart change. No one shares such things better than John Piper, and I learned from him the key reasons for memorizing Scripture:

  1. Conformity to Christ
  2. Daily triumph over sin
  3. Daily triumph over Satan
  4. Comfort and counsel for people you love
  5. Communicating the Gospel with unbelievers
  6. Communion with God in the enjoyment of His person and ways

I highly recommend that you read the entire article.


I am indebted to Ann Voskamp for much. The fuel of should became a flame of desire only after she lit the wick with the spark of her poetic words. I clung to them until their beauty had their way with me and I saw Scripture with the vividness of her eyes. I will never be the same.


Beth Moore says, “On the eighth day God created spirals.” A small spiral notebook is simple and effective {and pretty if you dress it up as I did!} It’s small enough to carry everywhere so you can recite words every time you have a few moments. Mine can often be found sitting on my cotton ball basket in my bathroom, words repeated with each stroke of  mascara. Last year my spiral went with me to soccer games and on several airplane trips.

Each page holds a few verses. If you are just starting, I recommend choosing verses that are significant to you. Perhaps a verse that jumps out at you when you read a Scripture passage or work through a Bible study. It is much easier to memorize verses that speak to you in your particular season.

I just began using this memory aid that was recommended by Ann Voskamp. You’ll notice that on the back of the card shown above, I wrote the first letter of each word {I even used capital letters as further help.} It’s amazing how this bridges the gap from reading the passage again and again to reciting it without looking. Ann also provided a website that will do this work for you - Just copy and paste any text into the box, click Convert, and you’ll see how powerful it is.

And finally, the tool that has become my favorite {also recommended by Ann – see how indebted I am to her?!} is MemVerse. You can record, practice, and recite your memory verses by typing them into this free, online tool. I particularly like the added motor memory that this tool engages as I type each word, and the instant feedback that it provides.

My journey began with Psalm 63:1 as a prayer of supplication. It continues as a prayer of worship.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. – Psalm 63:2-5

May you know the joy of a should that becomes a passionate pursuit.

In hope,
About Shelli Bourque

An ordinary girl living by the grace of life in Christ. Adoring wife and mom. Lover of quiet places and uncluttered spaces. Beauty seeker and image maker.