Even if you never stand up in front of an audience to recite what you’ve memorized, your ability to remember and use the Scripture you’ve memorized is dependent on how you review and recite it. In this interview with Rachel Eernisse, learn different methods and practical ideas to use yourself.
Or you can listen to the Memorize What Matters podcast on your favorite player:Listen to “Speaking Scripture is CRITICAL to Memorizing (w/ Rachel Eernisse)” on Spreaker.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
- Rachel’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@scripturespeakers
- Rachel’s Website: https://www.scripturespeakers.com
- Book on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Rn48cM
Rachel Eernisse Interview Transcription
My favorite one to do is Elijah on Mount Carmel from 1 Kings chapter 18. And you? Yes. I mean, that’s where you get to have the most fun because some passages are serious and it’s a teaching, so you’re teaching it as you say it. But this one, you can’t put in too much drama. You can just be up there enjoying yourself.
I mean, Elijah’s teasing the prophets of Baal, like, oh, maybe your god’s sleeping. I mean, I guess you got to do it louder. And then the fire from heaven and everything, it’s just so much fun. And so I really love to do that one and then eats me up. I mean, really every recitation, I have difficulty in the first 30 seconds, couple of minutes just saying like, oh, wow, I’m up here reciting. And it all depends on how much I got to prepare beforehand and even the time of day and everything.
But there’s in almost everyone, there’s a little spot that can have that I have to make sure as I approach it, I come up to it and I just kind of make sure I’m very, I’m slowed down, I’m really focused. Oh, good. I said it right, and then I move past it. So yeah, sometimes it’s like Revelation 21, there’s a list of gems on the foundations, and there’s one foundation I usually swap with another. Then I have to pause and say, ah, let’s see. It’s the other foundation number eight that goes with number eight. So
Yeah, I remember watching this documentary of this free climber, free climbers are those guys that don’t have ropes. And he was going up Yosemite and it, I mean, it’s very similar. And I’ve had the same thing where there’s this one spot and it’s halfway up the mountain climb where if he can just get past that spot, then he knows I’m good. And it’s kind of that same thing when you’re reciting a passage.
Sometimes there’s like this one spot, and if I could just get through it, then I know that I’m golden for the rest of the time. So your ministry, you’ve got the Scripture Speakers. What is it that first got you into getting up in front of people and speaking Scripture in front of your church, in front of other groups?
Sure. Well the ability to talk to others and in front of others runs deeply in my family. Not that anyone’s gone and done anything really large and big and been a traveling speaker or something, but I mean, a lot of people think my dad missed his calling to be a standup comedian. And if I were not a dramatic, maybe I’d try to go do that. But when I started to memorize Scripture, I wanted to share it because that’s what I do. That’s what my family does. We tell stories and everything, and we love to entertain people in that way. And when I did start memorizing Scriptures, some people started to say, have you ever heard of Jason Nightingale? And now, this was years ago in heaven now, and he has been for a few years, but he would go around and recite Scripture, and I think he may have been one of the first people to have a ministry of traveling around and reciting professionally.
And he had his own style. He was a big guy, booming voice and just mean not like me. I, I’m told I have a very gentle voice. But anyway, he would go and recite Scripture and he’d recite all of Revelation or all of the gospel of Mark and they’d say, oh, maybe you could do that someday. And I really loved the idea. That was a neat dream to have, but I wasn’t ready to really go for it yet because at the time, I was only memorizing chapters of Scripture. And I didn’t think I could go and do that unless I had something big ready and I just wasn’t ready to memorize larger things. Eventually I memorized Philippians, but it’s hard to keep that fresh. It’s hard to find time to go through the whole thing. And at the time, my spiritual maturity wasn’t quite ready to hold onto it.
It’s hard to hold onto something you don’t understand completely. So I stuck with chapters and I also had to wrestle with the idea is that okay for ministry as a woman following Christ because is that too close to being a pastor? And I mean, my view is complimentarian. And so other people have different ways where they interpret Scripture in those areas, but that’s what I do believe. And so I really had to wrestle with that and figure out what does God want me to do with a gift for speaking and teaching in this context? And at the time, I didn’t feel called to be a women’s speaker either. I recognize now it’s mostly because I wasn’t really a woman yet. And so as you get older and you actually become an adult and experience that, then all of a sudden it’s like, oh, I do have something to say to other women and adults like, oh, who knew?
So as at the beginning I said, well, I’d want to share it. And it was also really affecting my life. And I could see that I wasn’t really anyone special. I mean, it seems as if I was gifted to speak and teach, but at the same time, I didn’t have a special memory that allowed me to memorize Scripture. So why not have more people doing it? And so I just said, well, let’s have a group. Let’s see if anyone’s to do this, and we’ll memorize Scripture and then we’ll recite it together in front of the church just for accountability.
And so we did. But we met up the week before the recitation and said, okay, well let’s hear everyone do it. We’ll practice. And I don’t know that anyone was ready, and I was so surprised. I just thought they would be ready. I didn’t give any teaching or guidance or anything because it was just about accountability.
I wasn’t quite comfortable with stepping into leadership for yet. And especially since I was still I think I was still a teenager at the time, and so I had people older than me in the group and everything. And so I just realized then that I was taking for granted some things because I asked him, well, have you practiced out loud? Oh, I mean, no, I didn’t practiced out loud. I was like, well, we’re a week away. Mean were you going to practice out loud? Important. We’re going to say it out loud.
So from that experience, yeah, we had another group. And so then I taught a little bit and then another group and I would do more. I figured out more and more, oh, this is what people need to memorize effectively, what I’ve taken for granted to know how to do this, and then get to teach about recitation as well. And so that it just kind of grew by trial and error. And I’ve been really excited to see how the Lord has grown things from that first group who were brave enough to go and recite with me and have no help along the way at first. And so
It’s been good. Yeah, that’s so true. I’ve got a couple quick questions related to that. First of all, are you all memorizing? Do you agree to memorizing the same version or is everybody memorizing in their own version? And then are you reciting all at the same time? I’m trying to picture this in my head.
Sure. So it was a special presentation, and what we did was we picked I would pick passages around a certain theme and then we would get up and take, we would take turns. And so I also let them pick, okay, any translation just so long as it was a good one.
But I let them kind of interpret that if there was any concern, if someone came, and I won’t even name a translation because I don’t want to make anyone think, oh, no, but then I might have that conversation. But everyone picked translations that I knew were fine and strong and everything. And that’s important too because some people will ask, well, what translation should I use? And I say, well, just use the one you’re used to use the one well, because then it’s going to be easier to memorize. Yeah, you’ve already recognized it.
You’re already familiar with the way the speech flows in the translation. So then when we did recite at first, we would just recite and then that person would sit down and then either myself or the pastor would give just a little bit. Okay, so on the theme, that’s great. We learn a couple things from there, and now we’re going to listen to this and then sit down, and then the next person recites. So what it became at my current church they’re at now is someone will get up to recite and they sit down and then we sing a hyn together, and that gives us just a little time that gives the reciters time to just breathe, okay, I did it, and the next person’s going, okay, I’m getting ready. But it also gives the audience time to process what they just heard and then respond.
So it’s been really, really neat. We’ve done a lot of different themes, and one of them we did was the whole book of Jonah, which is only four chapters, but we did the book and we coupled it with Psalm 139, which really fits well. Even each piece of it fits well. Even the end of Psalm 139 when he’s praying about how I have hatred for your enemies and they’re my enemies. Well, his response was appropriate, whereas Jonah’s was not, he wasn’t upset with Niva because they were God’s enemies. He was upset with Niva because they were my enemies. So it’s really good.
Do you find when you’re doing those kind of public recitations that I mean, I think you kind of answered this in the beginning, but when you’re doing something that’s more narrative, such as the story in stories in the Old Testament, Jonah, something like that, do you enjoy that more than let’s say an epistle going through and just reciting Philippians for example?
I actually enjoy both. I mean, I can have a lot of fun with the narratives, but I think one of my favorite chapters out of Hebrews that I’m going to enjoy reciting because I just finished getting that one down, had my first public recitation this Sunday. I think one of my favorites is going to be chapter seven, which is all about milk. And that’s the one everyone reads and gets confused, and then either they decide, okay, that’s interesting, and then they just move on or focus on the end, okay, such a high priest was fitting for us. Who’s holding harmless? I really like this.
First I get this first and ignore the beginning. But someone who has practiced the words understands them because you’ve taken that time to wrestle with it because you have to do it well, to recite well, you have to understand your passage. But someone who’s able to take that and speak the words with their meaning, it really helps the audience understand it, even though they’re only hearing it one time through. So they can walk away and say, oh, I get it. I get why he was talking about milk is adk now I get it. So I really enjoy both, even something like a little more dry, more serious, having someone who can recite it well it can be a very effective ministry.
Yeah. Well, you have a book that you recently put out. I’m going to read it so I don’t get the title wrong. Speaking Scripture: How to Memorize and Recite with Purpose and Delight. I had a chance to read through that. And I think what really sets you apart from what I’ve seen and read in the past and what I really want to discuss with you is the emphasis that you put on recitation.
And I’m going to say this, and I want you to either correct me or build on what I’m about to say, but my understanding of your position here is not that everybody needs to be able to stand or needs to stand in front of their church and recite Scripture, but that you need to practice as if you are going to, because the act of speaking it out loud not only enforces the memory, but it also prepares you for that time when you will be asked to recall what it is that you believe. And you’ve got that Scripture ready. Hopefully I didn’t steal all the words out of your mouth, but I mean, is that a good way to describe it?
That’s definitely part of it. That’s foundational. Even if you really, really don’t ever plan on reciting it to other people, go ahead and recite it. You can think of it as your audience of one, just God himself. And it really helps you slow down. A lot of people who memorize Scripture can, they’re a little bit focused on the volume of what they want to get down, and it’s okay to approach it that way, but it’s easy to get burnt out. It’s easy to say the words with information and not pause and make sure you understand it as you go along. And by practicing it as if you are speaking to someone and you are, if you’re speaking to God, then it helps you to slow down and think about, what am I saying? And to make it even more of a conversation with the Lord.
Because when you’re speaking it in the way that you understand what it means, you’re telling him what you think it means and he’s able to speak to you and guide you and how you’re reciting it. But I would say one of the emphasis I have, yes, it’s not for everyone to recite in front of their church or even in front of a large crowd, but it is something that I hope every person will ask the Lord, how would you like to use this passage in other people’s lives? And it might just be one person. It could be your spouse or it might be a few more people like your family. I think it’s wonderful to share Scripture with your family. And what if you feel like you’re boring them? Then maybe you just need to read a little more about how to recite effectively. Take your time to speak the words as if they’re your own and teach it.
And it’s wonderful to share your Scriptures with your family. It can be at the dinner table. We can have a goal in mind when I get this done, I’m going to recite it for the family at dinnertime. And you can make it special, get pizza. And you can also share with them, Justin, at other times, maybe once a month, you could say, okay, well tonight’s a recitation night. Let’s all hear how we’re doing. Let’s share everything. My daughter’s favorite bedtime story right now is Proverbs 31, and I recite just the words of nice of Scripture over her. She calls it, can you tell me the bread one, because she does not eat the bread of iness. And so that’s what she calls it. And so we recite that. Yeah, but then you can also minister to your family members. One of way that I would challenge people to consider doing recitation as a ministry, a lot of people have family members who are closed to conversations of faith, but they come to your holiday gathering, you get together for Christmas to get together for Thanksgiving and Easter.
And these holidays still have roots in Christianity that people generally are respectful of. And they might still be, even though they don’t want to talk about it with you, they might at least be respectful. Okay, that’s what you believe. That’s not what I believe. So if you work and work at memorizing the story of Christmas and ask, Hey guys, I’m really working hard on this. Can I please share this at our family gathering? It’s the story of Christmas. They might be open to listening to you and you want to work at it and make sure you’re doing well. So it’s nice to listen to. And so that the more we practice that and are stumbling less, or we’re just handling the stumbles gracefully, we’re keeping the attention on the message itself, because that’s what we want them to get is the message. People recognize this is hard to do to memorize Scripture, and it is hard to recite it.
It’s intimidating to say, okay, do you want to listen to me? And then you do. I hope I do. Well, I told you I can. So they might be willing to listen to you recite Scripture and hear Jesus Christ, his story of his birth and then Easter, how powerful would that be to share with them the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s what he did. That’s why he came. That’s the gospel right there for them to hear to ears that are usually closed. So I had come up with another DI idea recently too. Again, doesn’t involve the whole church audience, and I wish I had come up with it earlier cause I could have put it in the book, so I have to write another book some time. Yeah. But are oftentimes, I mean, I think every church has at least a few people who we call shut-ins.
They’re people who are part of your congregation who cannot come to church on Sunday because usually of health problems. And they might still be able to receive visitors. And you can say, okay, Lord I’ve got this work memorized. I’ve had it memorized forever, many years, or I just finished it. And you can call them and say, Hey, would it be all right if I came and I recited some Scripture to you? , how special and powerful would that be? Because usually when you can’t get to church, I mean you miss that fellowship, and so you’re coming to bring fellowship to them, but also they’re not getting to hear the sermon on Sunday mornings and you get to share with them Scripture. Scripture, the living powerful Scripture as it is with your understanding of it and meet that need that is there in their hearts. So how precious would that be?
I think that’s a great idea. I like all of those ideas. I think you could even, I bet you if you were to call your local kind of old folks home and just say, Hey, I’m going to come and recite, and I would have no doubt that they would jump on that just to have somebody in some kind of event that they can promote and people would love that. I know personally similar to you, one of the things that I enjoy doing is putting my kids to bed with just a chapter or a book and they’ll just say, Hey, dad, just recite and I’ll figure out a passage that I’m in the middle of and practice it with them. And the great thing is I can stumble over words. I can swap verses and they don’t know or care.
Another being that also does not care is my dog. My dog hears me recite Scripture more than anybody else because I tend to do it while I’m taking a walk. And she’s an excellent companion for that. So that’s another idea for those people that are looking for other ways. All right. So when you are memorizing Scripture and of course rehearsing and reviewing what you have already memorized are you always doing that out loud? I know you have, is it two young daughters, right? Yes.
Two. Okay. So you’re a mother of two young daughters, obviously very busy. And so as you’re doing that, I is oral recitation a part of every step of the process? Is it only for your review? How exactly do you go about
That? For me, oral recitation is part of the process all along the way because I see it as really the most effective way to be prepared, especially since I have in mind that I’ll be reciting it. And so it’s not, okay, I’m going to get it down, just the information and then switch. I mean, it really helps if it’s helps the smoothness if it’s the same way the whole way. And as far as time goes, do you have enough time to do that? Well, my daughters have gotten used to me talking to myself. And so I am washing dishes and I’m reciting Scripture. And what’s neat though is my oldest daughter will interrupt me sometimes and ask me, what does that mean?
And it’s really, really precious because I don’t know that she’s listening. She’s running around singing some songs she just made up. And then she’ll pause and say, well, what does it mean that he didn’t want to drink what they gave him? And that’s what that was from the crucifixion. I was reciting the crucifixion and practicing, and I explained I was really precious to explain to her, well, they wanted to give him wine mingled with Mer to drink. It’s kind of giving him Tylenol, and he refused to take it. He endured pain for us without even a little bit of help and just talk about what he did for us. So those interruptions happen all the time, mean not just the questions happen. Sometimes the interruptions happen all. The. Time. All the time.
But it’s actually very good because it gives my brain practice pausing and jumping back in, answering, getting back in. And so it really has helped me be more smooth as a reciter because I’m used to having to always know where I am in the passage and get back to it. I do when a recitations coming up, then I ask my husband, okay, I’m going to need some time. So in the evenings before they’re in bed or after they’re in bed or whatever he makes sure I have some time that’s not interrupted that I can go from beginning to end and focus and dwell and be present in so that I’m ready when for reciting. So that might be a week ahead of time. Yeah, just the week ahead of time. So this week he knows I’m going to need some time.
I’m going to be reciting Hebrews, so he’s going to make sure I have that time to go through the book. So the oral recitation is very important, but I do understand not everyone likes to memorize that way, just so if you’re going to recite it, you want to include at least some of it. I’ve recently had to, because Hebrews is so long, I’ve actually found that I can’t do the whole book in one day that often because yeah, my throat will just get tired. awesome. Cause I’m also talking all day with my children anyway, and so my throat will get tired and sometimes my jaw muscles are getting overworked because I’m going around residing Scripture passionately and loudly and everything. So finding ways to review drawing has been very helpful for me recently. So I take the number of the chapter and then I draw visual representations of the chapter for me. And that’s been a way to review in my head. So it’s important to do out loud, but there’s other ways to add in that don’t involve out loud.
Exactly. And I think you pointed out something that is, it falls in line with a lot of what memory science has shown, which is a lot of times when we’re reviewing, and I’ve found myself doing this as well, when I don’t have my kids that are interrupting me, is that I just get going and then my brain takes over, which feels really good. It’s like, oh, I know this so well. And so then I’m five 10 verses down. And the truth is, I didn’t really remember what I was saying. I was just like my mouth was just saying it out of memory.
But brain science shows that the more we engage with what we are memorizing, and even in the review process, so when your daughter interrupts you, it forces you to engage with where you’re at so that you can come back to it. Or when you’re writing these little pictures, you are engaging with not only maybe the sounds but also the meaning. And putting all of that together creates a stronger memory that will last for longer as you go through just memorizing different passages of Scripture. You know what I mean?
And that that’s important to knowing that your brain can do that, where you’ll zone out. And it’s amazing how much you can think of while you’re reciting. That’s part of what that week ahead of time is for. When you are practicing all the way through, it’s practicing being present in the passage, constantly pulling your brain back and thinking about the words and making sure you’re saying them to the audience on purpose, because otherwise your brain tends to wander. So you’re practicing reigning that in .
Yeah. I’ve got one last question for you, because I haven’t done a lot of public recitation in front of people, but I did do one last year in front of a church in Dallas. I only, I think I only did two chapters of, maybe it was Galatians or something like that. And I remember one of the most how would you say it? One of the most nerve-wracking things for me was I’m sitting there and I’m reciting and I’m feeling really good about it, and I’m going along and I like presenting not just necessarily recitation, but I don’t mind standing in front of people and talking.
That’s not a fear of mine. And so I like getting eye contact with people, and I look, and there’s a woman sitting not too far from me who has obviously her Bible open and she is following along with every word to make sure that I am saying it word for word correct. And for some reason I was like, oh, oh no, she’s checking me. And anytime she would flinch, I’d be like, oh, what did I say wrong? Does that ever happen to you?
Yes. Yes. And so there’s a couple things that of ways to handle that. One is you can go ahead and invite the audience. If you’re doing a public recitation, got an audience, you can invite them to go ahead and keep their Bibles closed. And not for your sake, for their sake. Because for one thing, I mean, I’m animated, so if I’m reciting and I’m like, oh, and then the fire came down, and then I look up and they’re not even looking at me. It’s like, I’ve got these great facial expressions. I know, and this could really help you understand. I’ve got the hand motions. So you don’t want them to miss out on the recitation. And you can say, let’s practice what it would’ve been like when someone came with a new letter from Paul and read it out to everybody. They didn’t have their copy.
They didn’t have a copy yet. So just listen to it as if we were way back when the Bible was still being shared. And then also, it’s easy to think, oh my goodness, they’re following along. You just have to tell yourself it’s okay. Some people will need to follow along to understand what you’re saying. Some people process things better in the written text, and so if they’re looking over it, it’s because, yeah, they want to make sure that they’re receiving everything you’re saying. Not only that, but she was flinching because she was feeling anxiety on your behalf, probably. You’re right. Not because she was like, Ooh, you got that wrong. I know. That’s how we feel. That’s how we feel. But it’s good to know. Yeah. This is something I learned in my public speaking background. I’d studied communication got an associates and everything, so it was all about the audience usually is always on your side.
They’re on your side. And then when we’re reciting, usually we’re reciting two brothers and sisters in Christ, people who already know Christ. That’s why they came to the recitation. They’re on your side. They love the Bible. They want you to do well. Yeah. And so if someone’s f finishing for you just because they’re like, oh, oh, Oprah thing, I hope he gets it. Oh, good. He continued. I mean, that’s why we practice handling mistakes gracefully so that way we don’t have our anxiety transferred to the audience because they feel what we feel. And so that’s why we want to come in and be excited to recite or be serious if it’s serious or because they will feel what we feel. So if we’re up there getting anxious about our mistakes, then they’re feeling anxious too and getting distracted from the text so they’re all on your side.
Even if they’re looking at the text and going over it, and I know there’s eventually, there’s probably going to be one or two people in the audience who if I make a mistake, they’re going to have in mind like, oh, I guess she’s not that great or something, right? Oh, well, she called herself a professional. That’s weird like that. She made three mistakes that I could tell. I’m not reciting for them. I’m reciting for the Lord to minister in the you asked me to. And my focus is on the audience and their experience. And to serve them, we have to be willing. We have to be willing to be a fool for Christ at times. And that’s why it can be difficult to recite as a perfectionist. I would like to be perfect, and I don’t want everyone to see me make mistakes, but I have to be willing to get up and make mistakes too, because it’s to serve the Lord. And it’s not for my honor, and it’s not for my glory.
This podcast episode was first published on Memorize What Matters, one of the top Bible memory podcasts available.
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