20 ways to memorize Scripture
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 ways to memorize Scripture
The following is a list of 10 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.
- Memorize it by reading it aloud over and over. The more times you read it aloud, the more easily you will remember it. If the monotony of repetition starts annoying you, try reading it with a different pitch, a different rhythm, or a different accent each time through. How would your mother read it, or your sibling, or your best friend?
- Visualize part by part, drawing a picture or symbol to represent that part. Then go through the symbols in order and recite the verse.
- Associate a verse with its context. Then use the context to remind you what the verse says. For example, the shortest verse in the English New Testament, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), occurs in the context of the death and raising of Lazarus. Jesus’ confrontation with death and His consolation of the sisters of His dead friend, explains why Jesus wept.
- Kinesthetic: associate a gesture with each phrase. The sequence of gestures will remind you what it says. As you associate words with gestures, the gestures before a way of remembering the words. For example, think of gestures for each of the words or phrases in Romans 1:16: “I (thumb hitting chest) “am not” (forefinger waving right and left) “ashamed” (hand over face) “of the gospel” (hands cupped on either side of mouth), “for it is the power” (showing your biceps) “of God” (pointing up) “for the salvation” (pulling with both hands) “of everyone” (spread out arms with palms upward) “who believes” (hands clasped and head looking up), “first for the Jew” (make a “J” in the air) and then for the Greek” (make a “G” in the air).
- Make a list of all of the first letters of each word as they occur in order in your verse. Then use each letter to remind you of the word that letter begins with. Including the punctuation makes the acronym easier to remember. For examples, for the verse, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV), the acronym would be: BGDHOLIT:WWWSS,CDFU.
- Associate a different verse with each letter of the alphabet, depending on what letter the verse starts with. Then, as you go through the alphabet, you can remind yourself of 26 verses (or if you employ capitals for some and lower case for others, 52). Ignore conjunctions and indefinite or definite articles and take the first letter of the next word.
- Try to bring up the verse where appropriate in your ordinary conversations. You can start by saying, “That reminds me of the verse I am trying to memorize right now. It goes…” (then try to quote the verse). If you don’t get it exactly right, you can whip out your Bible to look it up and read it on the spot.
- Ask five people to explain to you what the verse means. If you still don’t remember it, ask five more. Read the verse to them and then listen to their explanation. You may want to ask questions. In the process of these conversations, however, you will find yourself remembering the verse.
- Sing it. You might have to reword it slightly to get the meter the same as your tune. Or look at how several different translations render it for a more appropriate match. If you can’t put it to a tune you know (“Amazing Grace” often works), you can just read it to the scale, with one word for each note ascending up the scale and then one word for each coming back down again. That covers 15 words; if you need more just repeat the process.
- Connect you chosen verse to verses you know already. The major theme of the verse naturally connects it to other verses on that same theme. Think about what this verse contributes to the overall meaning.
- Study all the ways your verse is translated. Look it up in different translations. BibleGateway.com is good for doing this, or you can use the Bible Translations study link at DeeperStudy.com, to explore the different renderings that translators have made. What do they have in common? Is one or more quite different? As you do this exploration, you will naturally come to remember what the verse says. For example, look at all the ways this verse is rendered: “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35 [ESV]).
- Connect the verse with your life. If you see that this verse has a practical application in your life, it becomes easier to remember. Perhaps the verse gives you a rule of thumb for resolving moral dilemmas, e.g., first Corinthians 6:12 – “I will not be mastered by anything” or Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the meaning of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
- Explain a passage to five people. Approach a friend or relative with this introduction: “I’m trying to remember a particular verse of the Bible that says this.” (Then quote the verse.) “Let me explain to you what I think you means.” Most people will be willing to listen to you and give you their feedback on the meaning.
- Remember its verbs first. If, for example, your verse is Philippians 2:12 – 13, the verbs are ‘have obeyed,’ ‘work,’ ‘is,’ ‘works,’ ‘to will,’ and ‘to act.’ If you just spread these out mentally, you may find you can fill in the words between each verb.
- Relate it to a parallel passage. For example what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer has a long version (Matthew 6:9-12) and a short version (Luke 11:2-4). Being aware of the other version helps you to remember the one you have chosen. For another example, compare Ephesians 1:7 with Colossians 1:14. (In both of these cases, copyists of the Byzantine text, reflected in the King James Version and its daughters, have apparently harmonized the two verses to have the same wording.)
- Analyze its structure. In the verse Psalms 34:3, David says, “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name forever together.” He says virtually the same thing twice, using different words. To magnify the LORD is to exalt His name. David asks his hearers to join him in his praise of God. As they join him, the magnifying not only raises God’s name higher in esteem, but it magnifies horizontally in renown. This little bit of analysis makes the verse easier to remember.
- Connect it to some current event. Let us say that the verse you want to memorize is, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). You might connect this verse to the increasing ignorance our society has regarding the beliefs of genuine Christians. God wants us to testify what submitting to Christ as Lord is all about.
- Ask questions that your verse answers. Perhaps it is Luke 24:39, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” This answers the question, “Was the resurrected body of Christ solid, or was just an intangible likeness, like a hologram?” If you remember the question, it will be easier to remember the verse as that question’s answer.
- Paraphrase your chosen verse in your own words. Take, for example, the verse, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20). You rephrase it this way: “As Christ’s agents, it is through us that God appeals to people, ‘Please accept God’s offer of peace.’”
- Write a headline for it, and then use the headline to remind you of the exact wording of the verse. For the verse, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands,” we could use the headline: “The origin and sovereign of all peoples.”
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 is the promised list of 28 more Bible memorization techniques. Some of these are more than a little wacky, but that can be a good thing.
Here is an example of a Scripture set to music: my video “Learn Rom.8:31-39 by Singing.” (You might check out some of my other videos.)
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)
Blair Kasfeldt – Memorize the Bible! The Comprehensive Guide to Memorizing Bible Verses, Facts and More! (2013)