Why is memorization of Scripture important?
God’s Word has power— power to call us to repentance, to transform our lives, and to connect us with the Supreme Being of all the universe. His Word, however, cannot unleash its astonishing power in our lives unless we know it. Memorizing as much of His Word as possible, therefore, creates a connection so that we can experience the change He wants to make in us, and so that we can serve as a means of changing others with whom we share His Word. Retaining as much of His Word as possible also enables us to relate everything new we are reading in the Bible to what we already know, helping us to understand more and more and to avoid making interpretation mistakes.
Biblical precedents for memorizing Scripture
The author of the First Psalm declares that the person who actively pursues God meditates on His law day and night (Psalm 1:2). The man who wrote Psalm 119 promises to meditate on God’s statutes, His wondrous works, and His precepts (Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78), and states, “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promise” (Psalm 119:148).
All of this requires possessing mental access to God’s Word through memorization. In another verse, the same psalmist says, “I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Similar verses occur in the law, the prophets, and the writings (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 6:6; 11:18; 30:14; 32:46; Isaiah 51:7; Jeremiah 17:1; 31:22; Job 22:22; Psalm 37:31; Psalm 40:8; Proverbs 3:3).
We know that Jesus memorized Scripture, for when Satan tempted Him three times, three times He was able to say, “It is written,” and then to quote appropriate verses from Deuteronomy see Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). On several other occasions He is able to quote Scripture from memory and apply it to the issue at hand (see Matthew 15:7-9; Matthew 22:31-32; Matthew 22:43-44; Mark 4:11-12; Mark 9:48; Luke 7:27; etc.). In Bible memorization, as in many other ways, Jesus has left us an example, that we should follow in His steps.
Twenty-eight ways to memorize Scripture
The following is a list of 28 ways in which you can memorize Scripture. If you look for them, you will find many other techniques for remembering God’s Word. At the end of this post, I will provide a link to 40 more memorization methods. Do not be surprised if some of these seem a little kooky. The truth is, the more outlandish a memorization method is, the better it can work for you. Who knows? You may have a lot of fun going through the process of memorizing.
- Read the verse aloud, starting at the end and moving backwards. Then read it aloud forwards. Try to recite it backwards and then recite it forwards. Compared to backwards, reciting it forwards will soon seem simple.
- Imagine it as graffiti. What words would you make big and bold, and what words would you make tiny? Where would the line-breaks occur? Play around with several different designs, trying to create the one that best captures the meaning.
- Read your verse aloud once at the beginning of each hour. The more hours (or days), you do this, the more embedded in your mind your verse will get.
- Write it down on a card and carry it with you to look at throughout the day. Each time you look at it, read it aloud at least once. The more times the better.
- Write it with calligraphy and tape it to your mirror, refrigerator, or wall. Every time you see it, read your verse aloud.
- Read what several commentaries say about it. If they disagree, decide if possible which one is right and why. Check out, for example, what commentaries say about Mark 9:49 or 1 Tim. 2:15.
- Listen for your verse in sermons, Bible class discussions, and presentations. Smile broadly and bump up and down if your verse is mentioned.
- Read your verse out loud three times a day for a week.
- Type out your verse once a day for ten days. At first, you can look at the verse as you type. Later on, do it from memory.
- Tape each word of your verse to a separate object, scramble the objects, and then rearrange them back into the right order. Continue doing this until you have the verse memorized.
- Recite the verse to yourself when driving, or maybe just every time you have to wait at a red light.
- While jogging or walking, assign one word or phrase to each step. Repeat when you get to the end. When this becomes easy, assign two words, then three words, to each step.
- Write it out, and then diagram the natural rises and falls your voice would make while saying it (like the diagram of a roller coaster). Then use the diagram without the words to remind you what it says.
- Get a partner to remember it with you, and take turns reciting every other word. Or perhaps someone can just follow along, reading the verse to you when your memory slips. Your helper will probably memorize the verse without even trying.
- Write it out with every fifth word left blank. Then every fourth, every third, etc.
- Type it out with the letters of each word rearranged last to first. Go through it 10 times, mentally rearranging the letters to their proper order.
- Make flash cards with side A having the first two words of each phrase, followed by ellipsis dots. Write on side B the entire phrase. Then quickly go through all the cards, looking only at side A and consulting side B only when you have guessed the content of the entire phrase.
- Associate it with a particular scent (a favorite food, good smelling soap, perfume, incense, etc.), and whenever you smell that smell, read or recite the verse.
- Write your verse on a cake. Then each time you eat a slice, read or recite the verse with each bite.
- Make yourself a cup of a distinctive flavor of tea. Read and later recite a phrase of the verse with each sip. You will come to associate the verse with that flavor of tea.
- Make a set of flash cards with side A of each card having only the first letter of each successive word in the verse. Side B has the entire word. Once you are not missing, shuffle the cards and try doing it out of order. (You might want to number the cards on side B.)
- Make flash cards with each word of the verse on a separate card. Sort the cards into long words (4 letters or more – stack A) and short words (less than 4 – stack B). Then run through stack A, trying to remember the words in stack B. Run through stack B, trying to remember the words in stack A. Then re-integrate the two stacks and run through the words five to ten more times.
- Write out the alphabet in as many columns as you can fit on a page. Then number the words of your verse and put the number beside each letter of the alphabet that corresponds to the first letter of each word. Then look at the sequence of letters and try to recite the verse. After that attempt, read the verse out loud, watching the jumps from letter to letter in the alphabet column. The second time through, try to make the jumps without writing down the numbers. Again, read the verse aloud after this attempt, watching the jumps. Keep going to the next column and the next.
- Associate each word in the verse with temperature: hot, cold, and lukewarm (for all the words that seem to be neither hot nor cold). This will create a sequence of temperatures. Use to sequence to remind you of the words of the verse.
- With all of the words of a verse, write down in order “v” if the word starts with a vowel and “C” if it starts with a consonant. Then use your sequence of V’s and C’s to remind you of the identity of each word. After each round, read the entire verse out loud before starting again.
- Write out the verse with letters as large as your available paper or poster allows. Then, as you read your verse displayed, touch each word with a different fingertip, starting with the tip of the pinky of your left hand and moving fingertip by fingertip through the fingers and thumbs of both hands. If your verse has more than 10 words, start over, this time using knuckles. In this way, you are associating a single word with each fingertip and each knuckle of your hands. Soon, just by wiggling your fingers or by touching a tip or knuckle, you will remember the word that goes with it.
- As you are putting away the dishes, recite each word of the verse in order, one word per dish. When this gets too easy, switch to two words per dish, then three words, etc.
- Breathe deeply several times. Then with each successive breath in, close your eyes and try to remember the verse. Then, as you breathe out, say aloud the first three words of the verse. Breathe in again, closing your eyes and attempting to recall the entire verse. As you breathe out, say aloud the next three words, and so on. If this becomes too easy, add more words for each breath until finally, you are able to recite the entire verse at blazing speed in one or two breaths.
Embed God’s Word in your heart
Do any one of these many times over and you WILL have a short-term memory of your chosen verse. Do several of these for a verse, and you WILL remember it much longer, perhaps for the rest of your life.
Remember not to stop when you first succeed at remembering your verse. Continuing for many more days will help to embed it in your memory.
Want to go deeper?
Here are 20 more Bible memorization techniques that you will want to consider.
For further reading….
Dr. Daniel Morris – Why You Really Can Memorize Scripture: Understand and Unlock Your Mind’s Natural Ability to Memorize Long Passages (2013).
Tena Marchand – The Sword of the Spirit in Memory: Easy Method to Memorize Scripture (2013).
Tina Houser – Hiding the Word in My Heart: Fun Ways to Memorize Scriptures (2014)