Reciting Psalm 119

October 20, 2002

RECITING PSALM 119 by Ray Pritchard Tuesday was one of “those days” for me, a day when I started out behind and never really caught up. As I thought about it later, it seemed like a “disheveled” day, which is a strange word but perfectly describes how I felt. There was one bright spot–and only one–in a day that started before 6:00 a.m. and ended after midnight. At 4:20 p.m. Paul Brush came to see me. Paul is in his mid-30s, is part of the 20/20 group, and comes to see me every few months so we can talk about life. Last Tuesday he came in, sat down, and announced cheerily that he was ready to give his report. At first I wasn’t sure what he meant, but then I remembered. Back in January while I was preaching from Psalm 119, I challenged people to consider memorizing all 176 verses of this psalm, which is also the longest chapter in the Bible. Paul had taken the challenge to heart and now wanted to recite the psalm for me. So I sat and listened for 15 minutes as Paul recited with deep feeling every single verse of the psalm. He was virtually word perfect. When he was finished, I stood and applauded because I had never had anyone come to my office and do anything like that in the 25 years I have been a pastor. I applauded the man and the effort and I also applauded the hundreds of hours that went into this accomplishment. When I asked Paul how he did it, he told me that he had taken a stanza (eight verses) each week and memorized it. Things went slowly until he bought some CDs with a recording of the Bible. He discovered that listening to Psalm 119 over and over again made memorizing it much easier. He also said that sometimes he would “act out” the words of a given verse in order to implant it in his mind. What has this massive memory project done for him? For one thing, it’s put the Word on the tip of his tongue so he can now share it with others. And it has given him a “mirror” to his own soul. He said that the Word has become like a handrail on a steep and dangerous mountain path. As long as he holds on to the handrail, it doesn’t matter how close the edge of the cliff may be. The handrail keeps him safe. This summer while working at Camp Awana he met a troubled teen that asked him to be his mentor. Paul agreed and challenged the young man to memorize Psalm 119, which he is now doing. Meanwhile Paul is now memorizing Psalms 1-25. I am happy to report on his significant achievement and to say that I’m ready and willing to listen to anyone else who wants to recite Psalm 119.

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