| How to Memorize Scripture
Memorization - Basics
Selecting a version to memorize
An important step in getting started is to select a version of the Bible from which to memorize. Which one should you use? It is up to you, but here are some guidelines.
Reviving an ineffective scripture memory program
Many Christians have spent time in the past memorizing Scripture. Perhaps you are in the situation where at some time in the past you efforts have fizzled Or perhaps you are memorizing Scripture, but are not being very productive at the task.
Most people write down the verses they memorized on small cards. Some write out the verses on larger pieces of paper or just highlight the verses they know in their Bibles. Whatever method you used, you will first have to go through all your materials and throw out everything that you cannot recite out loud with 100% accuracy. Be hard on yourself. Don't feel bad about throwing a couple hundred verse cards away, as if you are loosing something, because if you do not know them letter perfect, then you did not have them, so you cannot really lose them. Don't grieve or feel bad about lost time or effort. You can do nothing about the past, but you can do much to secure your future.
The second thing you need to do is to carefully review why you failed or had difficulty. This is important, because it is the first step in putting together a plan to make sure that the same thing will not happen again. We are creatures of habit, and if we had difficulty with memorizing scripture the last few times we tried it there is no reason to think that this will not happen again if we just jump back into it, no matter how determined you are. But if you identify the basic rules of a successful scripture memory program and put them into practice then you do not have to fail. So do not be discouraged to start again.
If you have ever tried to memorize scripture, but were not happy with the results, then print off and fill out the worksheet entitled Recovering an Ineffective Scripture Memory Program. Make sure that you do not rush through it. Many people have problems with memorizing Scripture because they do not have the patience to take the time to do it properly. End the impatience habit now by determining to do what it takes to do it correctly the next time. If you are interested, here is my response to this worksheet.
How do you decide what Scripture to memorize?
There are two different approaches to Scripture memorization. The first is to memorize a series of short passages which have been selected from different books of the Bible. The second is to memorize long passages such as chapters or complete books. The first method can give you a broad knowledge of all the truths of Scripture. This is important for new Christians and those who are just beginning to memorize scripture. It is vital to have a well-rounded understanding of the word of God as it is foundational to future growth. The second method is for those who have been memorizing scripture for some time and have achieved a certain level of success. (1) When you are comfortable with memorizing Scripture and have developed some Bible study skills, memorizing chapters or an entire book can be a special blessing.
It is important to remember to get as much exposure to the word of God as is possible. Remember that every time you open that book, you are interfacing with God. Whenever a passage or verse touches you in a significant way, write down the reference in your journal in the section for verses to memorize later. Write down the date and a brief description of when and where this verse caught your attention. Write down one sentence describing why you want to memorize this verse.
You should make it a point to search for and memorize verses which meet specific needs in your life. Remember that the purpose of memorizing verses is to help yourself re-program your mind in order that you may serve God better. Memorize verses which help you in the areas you are currently struggling. These include both verses which encourage you about God's love and grace as well as the verses which warn you about God's displeasure with certain types of behaviour. For example if you know that you struggle with anger, then search for and memorize verses which will help you fight it. If you struggle with impurity then find and memorize verses which will keep you from that sort of temptation. When you are faced with a temptation, for example, to dwell on and develop a lustful thought, there is nothing more helpful than to have a verse such as Gal 5:19-21 come to mind. The words 'I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God' have a way of taking the pleasure out of sin and reminding you what it really is.
Here are some ways of finding verses on certain topics:
The following is a procedure for memorizing Scripture.
Topics can be assigned in the following ways:
Choose the title of the passage keeping in mind the circumstances under which you would want to recall it. For example, a topic such as 'Anger is sin' is very practical, and will come to mind when you are tempted to be angry without cause. Do not be in a rush to pick the topic either. You may have to be working with a passage for a couple of weeks before a good title comes to mind.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus|
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Make sure you put the date on the back of the card. This will be useful for tracking it as you go through various stages of review. In addition to the current date, write the date which is 2 months away.
The first few times you learn new verses it will be very difficult, but after only a short time it will be much easier.
When you are first learning a verse, make sure that you are sitting down at your desk and are free from distractions. I find that the best place to learn new material is at my desk, in the evenings, after the children have gone to bed. The place is familiar and comfortable. It is quiet, and I have finished the day's chores so I have nothing bothering my mind. At this time of day I am not hungry or tired, so I can concentrate easily. When I help put the children down at eight, I end up napping for 30 minutes, so when I get up I am fresh. I am productive at this time and enjoy it too. I am a night person. Maybe you function better at a different time of day. Make sure that you do this work at a time and place where you can be most productive.
Review them during the times you have identified earlier as scripture memory review opportunities. Review them when you have an unexpected free moment.
If you have a pocket, you have verse cards.
Definition: A passage of scripture is not to be considered as memorized until you have reviewed it 100 times.Reviewing your verses a hundred times or more takes up a lot of time in the short term, but is quicker in the long term. A verse reviewed many times is learned so well that it will require only a small amount of future work to maintain it. If you only review it a few times and then move on, it will require much more future work to maintain it.
This is why it is quicker in the long term. Each week you will add a few verses to what you know. Each week you still have to spend time learning your new material and reviewing what you have recently learned. This will always be manageable. But what can become unmanageable is the ever-growing pile of verses which you learned some time ago and need to review to keep them fresh. This is where your Scripture memory program might stop, fall apart and die. What do you do when you know so many verses that you do not have the time or energy to review them all? The problem may be that you did not take the time to learn them well in the first place. If you don't, you will have to spend more time struggling with your old verses. If you do learn them well in the first place, review will take less time and your pile of old verses will have to grow very large before it starts to becomes unmanageable.
Therefore, make sure that you always review all the verses in your new verse pile carefully and completely. Do not rush through it just because you 'seem' to know it. Do not skip over it because you 'think' you know it. Assume that as long as it is in this pile you do not know it and it really is not 'memorized' yet. Even if you have reviewed it 50 times and have no trouble with it, do not assume you are done with it.
I know this to be true in my own personal experience. My problems have been both with discipline and technique. I can learn a large passage of Scripture quickly. I would practice it a few times and then move on. Soon, however, I would forget it and after a while I had lots of verses I could not remember in my brain. This was _almost_ a waste of my time.
We can state this another way. You should find that every card in your review deck stays there no longer than two months or so. You should end up having a completely different set of cards in the review deck each two months. If your cards have to stay there for more than two months before they get reviewed 100 times, then either the pile is too large or you are not working hard enough or with a proper review technique.
When you put a card back into your review deck make sure that you write a date on the back of the card which is a week or two in the future. The purpose of the date is so you can know when the card can be removed from the review deck
This is where discipline and self-control come it. You must stay in control of your review. If it gets out of hand, you have to deal with it. If you don't, you will eventually crash. Working harder is always a good option to consider, but it is not always the practical one. We only have so much energy. The best option is to work as hard as you can and stop adding new material until you catch up. If your bundle is very large, throw half of it away. The important thing is is to make sure you do not take any short-cuts. There is power in being slow and steady. If you can manage 2 cards per week and follow the system prescribed, you should have 1000 cards memorized after 10 years. Now typically a card is 2 or 3 verses, so after 10 years you could have about 2500 verses memorized. However, if you do not discipline yourself to follow a specific procedure then 10 years you will probably only know 3 or 4 hundred verses (or much less), if you did not end up quitting all together.
This discipline we are talking about is hard work. Actually, it is probably beyond the ability of most people. (only time will tell if I am one of them). Perhaps I should not say 'beyond the ability of most people'. Most people could do it, but most people do not want to do the work and therefore, don't.
Now here are some very difficult questions. How great is your desire for spiritual maturity? How much do you crave to be a obedient servant of Christ? Do you want to share in Christ as much as Paul did? The longer we are Christians, the greater our hunger for God should grow, because we learn more and more about him. What, then, are you doing to make sure that these things come to pass? Do you pray? Do you study his word? Do you memorize key portions of it? Do you obey it no matter what? Here is the most difficult question of all. How much are you willing to give of yourself in your pursuit of Godliness?
What is it worth to you?
Think about these things long and hard, over and over again. I think that one of the problems Christians have these days is that they do _not_ think about these questions. We have few living examples and few teachers who require us to do these things. So what is the bottom line? It is simply that if you want to memorize more than a few verses of scripture you may have to choose to work harder and smarter than you ever did before in your life. We depend on God for all things, but without the self control and discipline that is required to actually set aside the time to get the job done, we will lose our opportunity to do so.
Memorization Techniques and Tricks
There are no memorization tricks available that are so good that they can eliminate the need for the discipline of organized hard work. There are, however, some things which you should know which can make memorization a more manageable task.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me"
I would say it slowly one syllable at a time to keep myself focused.
"I - have - been - cru-si-fied - with - Christ - and - I - no - lon-ger - live, - but - Christ - lives - in - me"
I prefer the smaller cards (2 x 3\1/2 inch) cards. They are the size of
a business card. If you hinge two or three cards together along the bottom and top with tape,
you can write out a long passage and then fold them up to make them fit in
Consequences of a depraved mind|
Romans 1:28-32 Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.
This is a hard verse to memorize because it contains a list of items. Instead of writing it out in one paragraph, write it out as shown below. The visual help given by breaking it up into phrases makes it much easier to memorize. Seeing that the six phrases in the middle start with 'they' is helpful.
Consequences of a depraved mind|
Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil;
they disobey their parents;
they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Similarly, the following is also a helpful way to write out a verse:
Are we safe in Christ?|
For I am convinced that
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
The following examples illustrate how lists of somewhat random looking information can be made easier to remember:
The same things can be applied to memorizing difficult parts of scripture. Consider the following example:
Are we safe in Christ?|
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
If you can remember "the handsome prince found nine dead snakes", you can remember "Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword". An acrostic such as the above phrase is useful only as much as you can remember it. So take the time to make up something which you can remember easily. It has to be a real sentence, or it will be too irregular for your mind to recall. The image created by the memory aid you select must be vivid, and were possible related to something you already know. For the example above, you could visualize a handsome prince looking carefully at the nine snakes the found on the floor of his palace. Write down the acrostic on the memory card so you can see it each time you review the verse. This is the way you can memorize a hard passage instantly.
Keeping the verses you have memorized fresh
After you have reviewed a passage about 100 times over a period of about 2 months, then you may remove it from your review bundle and put in in the box with the other verses you have memorized.
By this time you should know the verse very well, but it still needs to be reviewed periodically to make sure that it stays fresh. You will need to review a few verses from this box each day.
Now this is the point where the whole task can become difficult to manage. This box of verse cards will soon grow too big to review easily. Review is time consuming. Even if you review 10 cards per day it will take two months to review 500 cards. This would be easy, but you are spending time on your newer verses too! How can it be managed?
The important thing is not that you follow the ideas in this chapter like a recipe, but that you find a plan that works for you. Then fine tune it and stick to it. As your life changes you will have to make many changes to your plan. Just don't let it slip away. I have gotten out of the habit of memorizing Scripture many times and I now wish I would have been more consistent.
A different approach to review
It would be nice if you could figure out a way to automatically pick out the verses that most needed to be reviewed at any given point. This would assist in the review process because you could spend more time on the verses that need to be reviewed because you have skipped over the verses that do not need as much review.
You cannot easily organize a pile of verse cards like this, but your computer can. With this thought in mind, I have developed a program to assist in the process of reviewing scripture which I have already memorized.
I would like to introduce the Scripture Memory Review System. This is a free computer program for Windows computers developed over several years and is designed to assist you in Scripture memory and review. The program keeps all the passages you have memorized organized in the same format as your review cards. It presents you with a verse and you type it in. When you are done it marks your work. Then it presents you with the next verse to review. Since the computer can keep track of your progress, it can decide which verses need review most and which ones can be skipped until later. The other advantage of a computer is that it can accurately check your work. If you are reviewing verses on cards, it is harder to correct yourself. If you can type, then this program might be for you. For those of you who are thinking that typing will be way too slow ...
If you do not like typing at all, you can enter your progress on various verses yourself, based on your private review. But as for typing ...
For example consider Psalm 119:9-11
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.
I agree that it would be impractical to have to type the whole thing in as typed above. However the system is smart enough to recognize the following as being correct. This enables you to type much faster because it accepts all sorts of sloppy typing and most spelling errors.
How can a y man keeep his way pure by liv acc to your W I s you with all my hea do not let me stry from y coms. I have h your w in my h that I m not sin a y
h c a y m k h w p b l a t y w i s y w a m h d n l m s f y c i h h y w i m h t I m n s a y
To be specific, it does not look at punctuation. If you type a word as one character it is considered right if the 'correct' word starts with the same letter. All other words are cut after the third character, so you can spell that last half of the word wrong or forget it altogether. The word the is accepted if you spell it 'teh'
The program also has several features which actually teach you the verse. For example the program can read the verse to you in clear English (using a text to speech engine), with pauses after each phrase to allow you to repeat it. It works through the verse bit by bit and in the end you know the verse.
Other drills and games prompt you to recall more and more of the verse, giving you hints as you need them.
In addition the program offers many tips and ideas which readers of this web site have shared over the years. The Bible studies included with the software help you set and retain your focus.
Chick here for the Scripture Memory System Download Page. Other Scripture Memory Software is available here and here.
Footnotes: 1) Discipleship Journal Issue Nine, 1982 'Scripture Memory Secrets'. Bob Seifert. - page 36
Copyright (c) 1997-2004 Stephen Simpson. All rights reserved. You may use
the material on these pages freely,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION,
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by
permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers