How to Memorize Scripture Effectively

How to Memorize Scripture Effectively

Few things were more satisfying than seeing an unbroken row of gold stars beside my name on the wall of my Sunday School classroom. The reward of a sticker was all the motivation I needed to memorize each week’s Scripture verse. As a child, Scripture memory came easily to me. But for the past 25 years or so, I’ve struggled to figure out how to memorize Scripture effectively.

Scripture memory is one of those things on the Christian’s “should” list. We all agree it’s a good thing. It’s a valuable exercise. We may even want to do it. But the actual doing of it is the challenge.

I think I have a poor memory. My kids would probably agree. I ask them the same questions all the time. Or tell the same story to the same person, thinking it’s their first time hearing it. Maybe it’s age. I don’t know. Whatever the case, I lacked confidence in my ability to memorize Scripture.

But last year, I decided I’d procrastinated and made excuses long enough. Whether I failed or succeeded, I was at least going to attempt to memorize Scripture in 2020. And I did it! I successfully memorized the entire book of Philippians, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d expected!

An Overflow of God’s Word

Dementia overtook my grandma in her later years and it was heartbreaking. But even when she didn’t remember her own age, or who I was or where she lived, she remembered hymns and passages of Scripture. That inspired me. 

I thought if I ever develop dementia, what words will come spilling out of my mouth? The Bible says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)”. Even if I don’t understand what’s happening around me, I want my heart to spill out words of truth and life. I want to be so full of God’s Word that it’s what comes out whether I intend it to or not. 

Science continues to prove that memorization is good for our brains. I don’t know if it can ward off dementia, but it seems there’s no argument that memorization is one way we can keep our brains healthy even into old age.  

5 Reasons to Memorize Scripture

In my experience, we rarely stick with something if we’re doing it simply because we should. Obligation isn’t a motivator with staying power. 

What tipped me over from the “I should memorize Scripture” side to the “I am memorizing Scripture” side was purpose. I defined my purpose for practicing this discipline.

In addition to the inspiration of my grandma and the science of memory, here are the 5 reasons I chose to memorize Scripture.

1. Memorizing Scripture is an Act of Obedience

There’s no verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt memorize Scripture.” But there are verses indicating that Scripture memory is part of God’s call on our lives as followers of Him. 

Perhaps most compelling is the fact that Jesus memorized Scripture. He quoted the Old Testament almost 180 times throughout the New Testament. 

We’re exhorted in Colossians 3:16 to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God’s people are told to bind God’s Word to their foreheads, teach it to their children, talk about it day in and day out. 

Plus, how can we be “doers of the word” if we don’t know what it says? 

2. Memorizing Scripture Gives Us Victory Over Sin

One of the first verses I memorized in my Sunday School years was Psalm 119:11:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

We can’t overcome sin simply by trying harder to stop sinning. Victory over sin requires heart transformation. It’s a change that happens from the inside out. Willpower isn’t the answer. But the power of God’s Word is! It is living, active, and can bring about the renewal of our hearts and minds. 

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).

3. Memorizing Scripture Gives Us Discernment & Victory Over Satan

The Bible is the sword of the Spirit, the weapon ordained by God to give us victory in spiritual battle. We’re in a spiritual battle daily whether we realize it or not.

Our enemy, Satan, is constantly telling us lies. The only way to discern lies is by becoming familiar with truth. The better we know God’s Word, the easier it is to recognize when something doesn’t line up with God’s Word. 

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He used Scripture to overcome the temptation and silence Satan’s lies (Matthew 4:1-11). 

4. Memorizing Scripture Equips Us to Minister to Others

When friends or family or even strangers need encouragement, comfort, or counsel, we want our words to be full of wisdom and in accordance with the will of God. The best way to prepare ourselves for those conversations is by filling our hearts and minds with His Word.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11, ESV).

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts also prepares us to “always be ready” to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15). 

5. Memorizing Scripture Results in Blessing

The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 was blessed because of his constant meditation on and delight in the Word of God. In other places throughout the Bible, blessing is in direct correlation to meditation on Scripture. 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8, ESV).

Part of that blessing is likely a result of the heart transformation and obedience produced by internalizing God’s Word. But the greatest reward is deeper communion with God. 

It’s through God’s Word that we get to know Him. We can pray through Scripture. The more of it we have memorized, the more natural that connection with Him becomes. 

How to Memorize Scripture

It’s one thing to decide to memorize Scripture. It’s another thing to actually do it. Maybe you’re like me and you doubt your ability to accomplish it. I spent years researching Scripture memory methods. I ignored some, tried others, and in the end, figured out what worked for me on my own. (See the end of the post for details.)

But if you’re still reading this post, you’re probably looking for some ideas for yourself. So here’s my collection of ideas for how to memorize Scripture effectively. 

Read It

Before you memorize a passage, read it. Read it in context. Read it repeatedly. Read it out loud. Read it silently. Read it in various translations. Reading it is how you begin to internalize it, to study it, and to develop familiarity with it.

Study It

Whether you’re memorizing a single verse or a whole book of the Bible, study it. To know the words and to be able to repeat them is good, but to fully grasp their meaning is better. (If you’re intimidated by the idea of studying the Bible on your own, check out my simple guide to inductive Bible study.) Better yet, learn to apply it and live it out.

Sing It

Much of the Scripture I have hidden in my heart is there because of songs. Scripture set to music is a beautiful – and almost effortless – way of memorizing God’s Word. You can make up your own melody or find music already written and recorded by many gifted musicians in the Body of Christ. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

If you know of other artists who write music to Scripture, please feel free to share in the comments!

Write It

There’s something about writing that plants the words more securely in our minds. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation about it somewhere, but I didn’t look for it. I just know it from experience and talking to my teacher friends.  

Maybe it’s because I like to write, but this is always the first thing I do when I start to memorize a new verse. Even if I never read what I wrote, the act of having written it down helps me. I can visualize my writing on the page. 

You can get creative with this method if that’s your style. Decorate the page. Use fancy lettering. Haul out the felt pens or watercolors and make it a work of art.

If you’re like me and that’s not your style, you could simply write it in your daily journal or on a sticky note to post on your fridge or mirror.

Repeat It

This one is key. Regardless of which Scripture memorization method you choose, repetition is what will seal those words into your memory bank. 

The ways of reviewing and repeating memorized passages are varied – from simple rote recitation to more involved strategies like “the first letter method”, fill-in-the-blanks, and more.

My Scripture Memorization Plan

After attempting to memorize Scripture many times and never sticking with any particular method, January 2020 was the start of a new era for me. I decided to stop shopping around for a shortcut or no-fail method and simply start memorizing.

How do I memorize Scripture effectively? I do it. The method, the timing, the passage… I don’t let those distract me. I change it up, if need be.

Memorizing something is better than memorizing nothing. Memorizing slowly is better than never memorizing. If I miss a few days, I simply pick up where I left off and continue. No looking back.

Effective Scripture memory is the Scripture memory you’re actually doing.

I chose to memorize the entire book of Philippians for 4 reasons:

  1. It’s a relatively short book of the Bible.
  2. I find memorizing entire passages easier than individual verses. 
  3. I already knew several verses from the book.
  4. It’s a book that’s had a significant impact on my life since my childhood, and I felt the message was fitting for this season of my life.

I’ve studied Philippians inductively in the past, so in addition to re-reading the book, I reviewed my study notes as I memorized each chapter.

I memorized one verse at a time. Whenever I felt ready to add the next verse to what I’d already memorized, I wrote out the new verse in my journal. Then I read it over and over until I could repeat it without looking at the text.

  • Each day, I repeated the new verse 10 times
  • Then I repeated the previous verse along with the new verse 10 times
  • Then I repeated what I had already memorized of that chapter to date. So, if I was on Philippians 1:16, I recited Philippians 1:1-16. 
  • At least once a week, I recited everything I had memorized from Philippians 1:1 to whichever verse I was on.

By the end of the year, I could recite the entire book of Philippians. 

It was a simple method. It couldn’t be simpler. Repetition really is the key.

6 Lessons I Learned By Memorizing a Whole Book of the Bible

I learned a lot by memorizing Philippians last year! Here are 6 of my favorite lessons:

  1. The hardest part of memorizing Scripture is simply doing it. The discipline part. The actual memorization was much easier than I expected it to be when I was consistent and kept up with repetition.
  2. It’s addicting. Once I got started and realized it was possible, I never looked back. I just wanted more!
  3. Memorized Scripture is a fantastic treatment for insomnia! I absolutely loved having long passages memorized that I could go over in my mind in the middle of the night. I didn’t have to get out of bed or turn on a light or disturb anyone else. I could review the verses, pray through them, meditate on them, and practice them endlessly.
  4. When I began my day with Scripture memory, I found myself reviewing the passage in my mind all throughout the day. It’s a convenient pastime! You can do it while driving, exercising, cooking, doing laundry. It occupied my mind in a productive way that fed my spirit at the same time.
  5. Dwelling deeply on God’s Word brings it alive over and over and over again. Verses I’ve read and known since childhood became fresh. I gained greater understanding and recognized new application to my own life.
  6. The passage became a part of me, a lens through which I see my life, my heart, and the world. It began to unexpectedly permeate my conversations and my train of thought.

Resources for Scripture Memory

Hundreds (possibly thousands) of articles, podcasts, websites, Scripture memory plans, and apps exist to help you memorize God’s Word. We have no shortage of tools. In fact, if you’re like me, you easily get caught up in exploring all the tools and “tricks of the trade” instead of actually doing the work. 

I’d love to make this post a comprehensive guide to Scripture memory, including every single helpful resource available, but if I did that, I’d never publish it because it would never be complete. Instead, here are some of the resources I’ve benefited from personally in my own efforts to memorize Scripture.

You Can Memorize Scripture Effectively

If you’ve always wanted to memorize Scripture but just haven’t gotten around to it, or you’ve been discouraged or intimidated by it, I pray this post encourages you. I didn’t think it was possible for me, but by God’s grace, I did it and I hope I never stop. It’s life-changing. 

You can memorize Scripture effectively. Take a moment to pray about it. Ask God to give you the strength and motivation you need to start. Ask Him for wisdom to know what method will work best for you and for the self-discipline you need to stick with it. 

Scripture memory is in accordance with the will and Word of God. If it’s a desire of your heart to memorize God’s Word, it’s a desire He wants to meet! 

If you have already developed a habit of Scripture memorization, what methods work well for you? What have you learned by practicing consistent Scripture memory? How has it impacted your life?

How to Memorize Scripture Effectively

2 thoughts on “How to Memorize Scripture Effectively”

  1. Jana, this is a great article–practical and edifying. Saving this link to share later. As a fellow Bible memory nerd, I’m often looking for new ideas also. I was recently so excited to discover the group “every last word”… I don’t know if they are still active, but they recorded several large sections of scripture and hold chapters in song, and the songs are wonderful, word-for-word… Just good music that I would listen to anyway even if not memorizing.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Katherine. And I don’t think there’s anything nerdy about Bible memory! I haven’t heard of that group, but it sounds like they’re exactly the kind I like!

      Reply

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