How To Memorize Scripture
“The Bible in the memory is better than the Bible in the bookcase.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."—Psalm 119:11
I Want To Memorize Scripture But Not Sure I Can
If you are anything like me, you struggle to memorize anything. However, over the years, I have gotten exceedingly better at memorizing scripture— even entire chapters of the text. And for most, scripture memorization feels like a daunting task. And the older you get, the less you feel confident you can pull it off. It's a discipline most desire but don't know how to tackle.
Four Steps To Memorizing Scripture
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One | Learn The Context
The first tip is to study the verse or verses you want to memorize in their context. The context helps you understand the fuller concept of the verse. Verses don't stand alone – with the exception perhaps of a few of the Proverbs. Every verse has a context. The context provides you an understanding of the characters, the setting, and the context which gives you a visual image to memorize along with the words—which aids retention.
So, for instance, John 3:16, unquestionably the most famous verse in the Bible, is not a standalone verse. It's a moment of tension in a critical story where Jesus is discussing eternal life as Jesus engages with a religious man named Nicodemus. Knowing this not only helps you understand John 3:16, but it also enables you to remember that this verse contains a key learning on new life in Christ with a person who was religious but struggled with understanding the more in-depth teaching of Jesus. While you may memorize the text, you also now have a context for the story. The context reinforces the memory of the words. They are both words and a story that is full of emotion, tension, and truth.
Two | Break Verse Into Phrases
When you start memorizing the verse and now take into consideration its context, the next step is to break the verse down into bite-size phrases. Memorization includes savoring the phrases, understanding them, internalizing them and meditating on them. Think about these phrases that make up John 3:16.
For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him
should not perish
but have eternal life.
Rather than mindlessly trying to memorize the verse, it is far better to meditate on each of the phrases that make up the verse, thinking of their meaning and in this way internalize the verse until it is not only memorized, but it's meaning instilled in our minds. Using this methodology, you can remember any verse without focusing on the memorization but the meaning. The memorization becomes a byproduct of your meditating.
Three | Use The Verses
One of the keys to retention is to use what you have memorized as often as possible until it becomes fixed in your thinking, action, and behavior. Practice, for instance, using the verse or verses memorized in prayer. Write them in your journal. If you have an accountability partner or mentor, share them. Repeat them silently to yourself. Use them as passwords, for example, "FGsltwthghoStwbihsnpbhel-J316" is a pretty secure password and it's easy for you to remember—eventually. Everyone learns differently so try using various tactics as you try to memorize the text. As you do, recall the context that the verse(s) are found, and remind yourself of the larger picture.
Meditation is a crucial outcome of using the verses as mentioned above. Meditation infers we are thinking about it, and the various ways it applies to our everyday life. Remember that your goal is not how many verses one can memorize but how well you can use the verse to your life. Taking verses you have learned and reflected on their application to your life is a key both to remembering and to applying. The more you think about what you have implanted through memorization, the more insights you will have for your own life, which leads right into the last principle.
Four | Be Changed
We are called to use scripture to renew the mind. And there is no better way to renew our minds than by saturating it with God's Word. Our brains are wired to assimilate vast amounts of information, and those pieces of information create neuron pathways for good or for evil that are not easy to change. If we fill our minds with lies, our brains develop paths that desire more distortion. If we fill our minds with God's Word, our brains create essential pathways that are life-giving rather than life-stealing.
David writes in Psalm 119:36, "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!" There are many trivial things we can load into our mind. God's word implanted there renews our lives, actions, and behaviors. So don't only memorize the words, apply it. Live it. In the case of John 3:16, you might choose today to believe in Him when it seems unreasonable, challenging, or even uncomfortable—like it was for Nicodemus. Maybe you need to take your belief to the next level? Apply it. Live it. Try it, and be changed.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 16 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.