How to Memorize Scripture
 Prerequisites to a Successful Scripture Memory Program

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The definition of a successful scripture memory program

The word success means different things to different people. The criteria you use to evaluate if something is successful are significant. It depends on what your goals are and what you want to have/achieve. In everyday life, success often means having more money, power, things or fame. For a Christian, success should have a different meaning:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10)
There are a few things which we can use to measure success when it comes to memorizing the word of God:
  1. The person who memorizes the most scripture is not necessarily the winner. Memorizing scripture is not an end in itself. The word of God is only 'living and active' as it says in Hebrews 4:12 in as much as you allow God's Spirit to use it to change your life. God's Word is of little value to you unless you have determined to obey it. The person who has memorized no scripture, yet strives to obey God's word is far closer to Christ than the one who memorizes large quantities of it, but then experiences no life changes.
    Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:21-25)
    This is a good time to say that you do not need to memorize scripture to be a Christian. You need Jesus. You do not need to memorize scripture to be a godly person. So, if you choose not to memorize scripture, this does not make you a better or worse Christian than someone who does. On the other hand, you do need a knowledge of God's word, and because of its power, you owe it to yourself to learn as much of it as you can.

  2. The second criteria is to evaluate how well you know the scripture you have learned. Hastily learned verses will quickly vanish and cannot help you in the long run. Review is critical. Quality is more important than quantity.

  3. If you can accomplish the first two tasks, the next one, of course is to memorize as much as possible. Learning whole chapters and even books is of great value.

  4. Finally, a successful scripture memory program must be sustainable. Memorizing God's word needs to be part of you daily life, but at a pace which can be maintained permanently.

It is a good thing if you choose to memorize scripture. I would challenge you to memorize as much as you can. But remember that it must be part of a balanced Christian life focused on obedience and a desire to be like our Lord.

What are the basic requirements of someone who would memorize scripture?

Before we even start talking about the methods and techniques of memorizing scripture, we must realise that we should have certain things in order first. A successful scripture memory program has several prerequisites.
You need a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This, of course, is the place to start. You can memorize the whole Bible, yet if you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then you will still carry the guilt of your own sins to the grave.

The gospel is simple:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no-one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
The bible says that each one of us has sinned and will someday stand before God to account for what we have done. There is nothing that we can do to clear our own names or win favour with God. But, because of his love for us, God sent Jesus to Earth to live a sinless life among us and then to suffer and die. After three days God raised him from the dead. Since he was perfect, he was made a sacrifice which covered all of our sins. This great Salvation can by yours, by faith, if you repent (turn away) from your sins and commit yourself to following and serving God. If you are reading this and you want to be a Christian, or are uncertain about your relationship with God, then send me an Email and we can discuss it.

You must have a desire to grow as a Christian.

If you have a desire to become more like your Lord, then you can find great joy in memorizing the word of God. Its riches and the freedom that it brings are a delight. Do not worry if you are still struggling with problems in you life. You do not need to be perfect or anywhere near perfect. (if you were perfect, you would not need to memorize scripture). On the contrary, memorizing the word of God can assist in setting you free from the things which bind you.

In my experience, in many of the Churches that I have been in, I can sadly say that few people have the hunger and thirst for God that they should.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Pe 2:2)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Mt 5:6)
It is written: 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Mt 4:4)
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. 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. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63: 1-8)
The Church in many nations seems to have become satisfied with the comforts that their country has to offer. We should long after God and his word like a baby craves milk. But we don't. If you have ever had children then you probably been introduced to the idea of demand feeding. In the first few weeks of the newborn's life, a nursing mother will feed her new baby as often as the baby asks for it. You understand why they use the word 'demand' only after you hear him crying at the top of his lungs saying, "I want to be fed and I want to be fed NOW!". We are satisfied with the quick feedings we get at Church and occasionally through the week. Could it be that we are so starved spiritually that we don't feel any hunger pains?

What did Jesus mean when he said 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'? (Mt 5:3).

To be poor in spirit means that we see our total spiritual poverty before God and our utter dependence upon Him. Poverty of spirit must be our attitude toward ourselves. We must see that we can do nothing to commend ourselves to God. It must become clear to us that apart from Christ we are spiritually destitute. We may be well educated, but we are spiritually ignorant. We may be financially secure, but we are spiritually bankrupt. We may be the president of a corporation, but without Christ we are on the spiritual unemployment line.

To be poor in spirit is to recognize that without Christ we can not do nothing. It is to recognize that without Christ we are nothing. It is to come before God with empty hands, humble in heart, seeking only to receive from Him. This kind of person is described in Isaiah 66:2: "To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." (1)

A person who is starving to death has only one thing on his mind. That is to obtain food and water. Nothing else matters. The hunger he feels is a driving force. This awareness of our own spiritual needs is one of the most valuable blessings a Christian can have while he is alive. It drives us forward to seek God on a continual basis. If you are to have a successful scripture memory program, you must hunger for it or else your zeal will fade and your attention may go elsewhere.

You must understand the purpose/benefits of memorizing scripture.

If you are going to commit yourself to memorizing scripture, you must first be convinced that it is worth the effort it will take. It is a time consuming task if you are going to do a good job of it. You may wish to read my brief article called Why memorize scripture? for an explanation of its value.

You must be doing it for the right reasons

There are several reasons for memorizing scripture. Each of us has their own personal reasons. But, basically, you memorize scripture so that you can grow closer to God through increasing knowledge of and obedience to his word, to resist sin and to serve Him better. You must have the correct understanding of success is as described above. The purpose of man is to glorify god. Therefore, whatever I do, whether 'spiritual' or not, must be for the glory and service of God, not myself. I do not mean that I should not receive benefit from memorizing scripture. The fact is that I do, and I should. What I am saying is that the volume of scripture you have memorized should not be a source of pride and boasting. Nor should it make you feel you are more righteous than others. If it somehow makes you feel superior to others, or if you like to tell others how much more you know than they do, then you are not a mature Christian. If your knowledge or accomplishments have made you proud, then this knowledge has done you little good. Your motive should be to please God not too impress people. Jesus speaks about this attitude in the sermon on the mount when he speaks about prayer.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Mt 6:5-6)

You must decide that you want to do so

If God has put it in your heart to memorize scripture, if you see that it has value, then make the decision that you will start memorizing. There has to be a point in time where you stop and evaluate the worth of the things to which you give your time. Make a decision that you will try and you will do what it takes to make it work.

You must get started

This is very simple but it must be said. Most of us are very busy and find it hard to get a-round-to making changes. That first step which initiates an important change in your life is always the hardest. If you want to jog, you have to actually get up off the chair, turn off the TV and start to run. Even if you only run a block the first time you have to start. The same applies here. You have to set aside time to plan and organize your routine. You have to select a few verses and then memorize the first one.

Determination and Priority

If you wish to learn more than a few verses, then your memorization program must take a high priority in your life. You may have to evaluate some of the other things that you do and set some of them aside to make the time. Memorizing scripture should be part of your everyday life. Determination is important. In the previous chapter I talked about the determination of Paul in seeking a deeper relationship with Christ:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Determination is making the decision that nothing is going to get in the way of what is important to me. A mature Christian realizes that life is a balancing act between all sorts of priorities. Different things contend for our time - family, job, friends, Church and community service, personal health and relaxation, etc. All these are important and have to be taken care of. Determination, though, is saying that I am going to work on my verses even if I have to force myself to stay awake. Determination is saying "I will not fail".

Understanding the role of the Word in your life

Determination is saying "I will not fail" and desire is saying "I need to do this". But, how many promises have you made to yourself that you have broken? How many times have you said you will resist a certain weakness but have failed? I have often prayed to God and promised him that I would not fall into a certain sin again. But I do. I have often prayed to God and asked him for the strength to resist that sin. But still I fail.

Webster's dictionary defines the word discipline as follows:

We are slaves to our own natures and to the habits we form. By ourselves we cannot escape our sinful nature. The first chapter of this section discussed what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can easily see Paul's desire and determination to become more godly. But, how can an ungodly person (all of us start out like this) become godly if we cannot through determination and desire of the will, even change our own character? No matter how hard you try to be something else, you are always the person you are! We cannot win unless we can change our nature, and the nature we have we cannot change. But, we are not destined to failure. God has provided a solution:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11)

Here we are given the assurance that all the tools we need to achieve 'life and godliness' are contained in our knowledge of God. And this knowledge is contained exclusively in the word of God. In the previous chapter we have shown that Paul put a strong emphasis on self-control and training as the way to godliness. Our responsibility is to put forth the effort to make knowledge of and obedience to the word of God the top priority in our lives. With the word in our hearts, God's Spirit can change us into the people we ought to be.

David knew this. Notice that he also prays for strength to resist sin. He has also done his part by hiding God's word in his heart.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11)
Discipline and routine as a lifestyle

Only God can change our character, we cannot. But, it is our responsibility to spend our time and energy filling our minds and hearts with his word so that this process will be accomplished. This is the thing we must do if we are to receive the power to resist sin we were praying for.

Our task is to desire godliness, determine to be godly and to make it happen by ordering our lives in such a way that the word can do its work. Such 'ordering' is not easy. Discipline is not quite the same as determination and has even less to do with desire. Discipline is formal, organized training with the goal of self-control. It is keeping our eyes focused on the goal and not letting things get in the way. It is not easy, but it can be accomplished if you want to.

Seek balance in your Christian life

We have talked about discipline in general, but now let us identify the disciplines of the Christian life. These are the things we do if we want to see change in our lives. Some, but not all, of these are:

These are all part of a balanced and productive Christian life. You cannot be 'successful' at memorizing scripture unless it is done in conjunction with the other disciplines of the Christian life. A memorized verse is of little value to you unless it becomes more than stored information, no matter how well you can recite it. You must meditate on it for understanding and you must apply it to your life.

Develop your own scripture memory system.

In the next chapters we will get practical and start discussing the technical aspect of scripture memory and how it relates to your busy life. It involves setting goals, developing tools, managing and using time, methods of memorization, study and review, etc.

Working with/accountability to another

You can often accomplish more as a member of a team than you could if you were by yourself. This is true when it comes to memorizing Scripture. Even if you are a hard working, self motivated person, there is benefit in the knowledge that someone is checking your progress on a regular basis. If you have told someone that you will recite to them a specific passage by the end of the week, this 'fear' will prevent procrastination. It is funny that often we will do something because there is a point where we will be held accountable to a friend in the near future, but we are often unmotivated by the knowledge that we will stand before God to give account much later.

Working with someone with the same goals as yourself can be an encouraging and productive experience. Testing one another commits what you have memorized into long-term memory. You can help each other through slow periods and with the memorization of difficult passages. Make it your goal to find someone who has the same desire to memorize scripture as you do and meet with them regularly to help each other out. You cannot live the Christian life alone.


1) J. David Hoke, Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, 2303 Evesham Rd. Voorhees, NJ. 08043. From a sermon found on the InterNet at on January 20, 1997

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