Most preachers don’t have great blocks of time in which to prepare their messages. Even if we did, it would still be good to spread the preparation out over at least five days, if not more. Taking small bits of time and working on a passage allows it to work on us (this is why more than five days is even better). Part of that process is getting the passage into us as we get into it.
A friend was recently describing his habit of seeking to memorize the passage he is going to preach. This is a great habit and I commend it, although I don’t tend to memorize the next passage I’ll be preaching. But his suggestion sparks one from me. One of the best ways I have learned to review and potentially memorize a passage. To live up to our image for the day, let’s call it the PEPPERS project (ok, could have gone with the vegetable look, but didn’t.)
Typically we tend to read and re-read a passage when reviewing it or memorizing it. I have found it very helpful to write out a set of acronym style notes instead. So for verse 1-2 of Psalm 1, for example, I would have on the page (this is NIV in case you look it up):
1. Bitmwdnwitcotw, ositwos, ositsom,
2. bhdiitlotL, aohlhmdan.
I follow the capitalization and keep the punctuation, but only put in the first letter of each word. Then when I want to review the passage, it forces me to engage my mind, instead of simply scanning over words while thinking of something else. It allows for a small card or note to be carried, instead of a lengthier piece of paper. This note would be a very useful way to engage quickly, but effectively with a passage in the days of preparation, during those times when you have to be doing something else. In the line at the bank, pull out the notecard. Waiting for a haircut, pull out the notecard. You get the drift.