Wednesday, June 10, 2009


How's your memory? If your like me, it seems to fade occasionally, even more often as I grow older. Have you ever said, "I have a bad memory."? I'm sure we all have from time to time. It has been mentioned to me that my pastor, John Ortberg, has a photographic memory. I don't know about that, but I do know it is phenomenal. He seems to be able to quote anything he has read. But as for me, I'm lucky to remember what I wrote a minute ago.
I've always struggled with memory. Even when I had to memorize long passages to sing and narrate, it was a momentous struggle. And whenever nerves set in, I was at a loss for memory.

Those of us who have grown up in the church are told to memorize scripture. Well, if you are like me, that is the hardest thing to do. I struggled for years to memorize scripture and couldn't get much past John 3:16. But then something happened. I began to pray scripture in the liturgy. I started with Phyllis Tickle's great series of books on liturgical prayers called, The Divine Hours, a trilogy of books containing daily Morning and Evening Prayers that cover all the seasons of the years. After using those books, I found a number of other liturgical prayer books that were even more detailed and uplifting. Presently I'm using the Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, commonly used by the Catholic church, but also used by many other faiths as well. As Scot McKnight points out, these are some of the greatest practices for our faith.

But something marvelous has happened. Some of the prayers are prayed on a daily basis. For instance, the Benedictus, The song of Zachary (Zachariah) in Luke 1:68-79. This is the prayer sung by Zachariah regarding his the future of his son John the Baptist. I have prayed this passage in my Office of Readings every morning for several years now. And guess what, I can pray it from memory. It is locked into my head. Oh sure I stumble now and then and have to look, but never-the-less I know it. And other passages have become a part of my memory. I am now close to being able to recite Mary's prayer, called the Magnificat. It is sung every evening in the Liturgy.

So what? You may say. Big deal. Well, it's a big deal with me. I would have struggled for years trying to memorize even one of these verses. But after daily reading and praying these verses they have become a part of me. And because they have become a part of me, something else has happened. My life has been transformed. You see, daily reading of a liturgy is not vain repetition or an empty ritual to be endured. The word has worked its way down deep into my heart and has become the living Word.

Slowly but surely, my life has become more and more Jesus shaped. Oh, there is nothing spectacular. And I'm not Mr. Supersaint. But attitudes and habits have changed without me trying to do anything. God has made the word alive in my interior being and the Holy Spirit has gained more and more of a foothold in my life.

It can for you too, if you are patient. Get a prayer book. Read Scot McKnight's book on Praying With The Church and learn of the many avenues you can take to develop a liturgical prayer life. Who knows, all those verses you struggled with, may end up becoming a natural part of your life without even trying. Try it. I think you'll like it.


  1. I've always thought my memory was dreadful too. I remember a year in which I was sure I was going to get the first chapter of John memorized. "In the beginning was the Word...". No such luck.

    How did I ever get through college?

    The song of Zachary is magnificent.

  2. My first scripture beyond the usual Sunday School fare was Psalm 1. It was at the time I really gave my life to Christ. I did fine on vs. 1-3 and then kept tripping over the roots of the tree planted by living waters and have been tripping ever since.