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How to Memorize Scripture

Tricks and Ideas

by Stephen Simpson

Over this time I have received numerous letters from readers who have shared the ideas that they have.  In addition, I have been hosting an email discussion list dedicated exclusively to the topic of scripture memorization.  The archives for this list are growing daily. As a result, I have had plenty of input from others and have compiled the following list of how-to suggestions:

 

General

1 Memorize word for word.  It is important to be accurate.  Just memorizing the 'gist' of the verse is not really good enough because small errors can lead to misinterpretation of the meaning.   If you are not careful, ideas can be lost or added to the passage you are trying to become familiar with.  
2 Decide what you want to do with the scripture reference. The scripture reference is not inspired and you do not have to memorize it if you do not want to.  Some people can memorize the text, but get discouraged by the references.  I think, however, it is important to know where in the Bible the passage is, so memorize at least the book and chapter along with the verse.
3 Be careful about memorizing while in the car. Keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, brain connecting it all together.  Never get into the habit of 'just glancing at' a piece of paper to read a verse. The 'just glancing at' part can be longer and more frequently than you think.  Perhaps a tape with verses on it is ok, but nothing which uses your eyes.
4 The only real mistake you can make with scripture memorization is to quit.
5 Do not bother getting in the habit of memorizing scripture at work. If you are being paid to do a job, then make sure that you are doing it. 
6 Watch out for pride.  Do not think your better than the next person if you know one or even 1000 verses.  God will not honour you for your work if you are proud.
7

"Consistency, review and repetition".  There are no alternatives. (Except for their friends . 
"Discipline, Desire and Dedication")

8 Someone one the Scripture Memory Email List gave the following Acrostic:

S elect a goal
U n leash negative thinking
C hart your course
C onnect with some one who can help you help you with your goal
E xpect problems
S anctify yourself, stay in touch with your Savior
S tick with it

9 The TV is a great distraction which grows to consume more and more of your time.  It can take over your family time and any spare time that you have left after that!  How much benefit have you and your family actually gotten from your television and what has it cost you in lost time.  Many people do not realize that (almost all) the time spent in front of the TV could be invested elsewhere.  Turn off the TV and you will have more time for the Word, more time for people, more time for life.
   

 

 

Ideas For Families

1 What boy or girl does not like flashlights?  We have been trying something for a few weeks now that has been working very well. I got two small photo albums which hold 36 pictures (3x6inch) and cut out some pieces of paper and wrote a selection of Bible passages on them. Each week or so I add another verse. I made two of these verse books because I have two children. Next I, got two little flashlights and a couple of sticks about 3 feet long. Each night I take one child and my wife takes the other one and we turn off the lights, climb under the covers of their beds, prop up the stick to make a tent and turn on the flashlights to look at our verses. They think it is great fun and are paying attention. Most important, they are focused long enough to actually memorize the verses. When they have reviewed a verse so many times that I am sure they know it, I move it over to a new booklet for weekly review, which we are currently looking at on Saturdays.
2 I am sure that you teach your children that it is important to eat food and drink water every day to remain healthy.  No child will fail to understand this.  Similarly, it is easy to teach your Children that it is important to wash every day, brush your teeth and to get enough sleep.  Don't forget to tell your children that it is important to study God's words a little bit each day too!   Teach him/her right from the start that the Christian disciplines are as important (if not more) than the physical ones.
3 I put a dry erase board on the wall in the Children's bedrooms.  I have mounted three 7 watt night lights around the frame to illuminate the board.  I have run a wire and mounted an electrical switch to the wall near the floor by the bed.  (Do not try this at home unless you have a good sense of how to hook up electrical wires safely).  When my son is trying to fall asleep or wakes up early, he can reach over and turn on the light for a few minutes and read and try to learn the verse of the week.  He thinks it is fun and the word of God is becoming part of his everyday life.
4 I object to the idea that we should regularly reward children with candy or other treats for memorizing scripture.  Some Churches see this as ok, and I will not reject it, but I prefer that young people be taught that memorizing scripture is its own reward.  On the other hand, let's make sure that we keep it fun.  After your children have memorized a psalm or made some other achievement , it is important to listen to them repeat it and praise them for their efforts.  A celebration (pizza night?) is a good way to recognize reaching a certain milestone.
5 Last summer my son and I went on a camping trip. During such a trip there is a lot of time spent doing nothing in particular: Walking, cooking, cleaning, etc.  We made it a point to memorize as much of Psalm 19 as we could. It was a very useful project where we had the word of God close to us at all times.
6 I have found it difficult to find an accountability partner to assist me in my memorization.  So my solution is, if I cannot find someone to be my accountability partner, then maybe I can make one. I hope to teach my children so we can be each others helpers as they grow up.
7 All children need to learn to read.  The only way to learn to read is to actually read.  Why not promote reading by linking it with scripture memorization?  
8 When selecting verses for children, do not assume that they will not be able to memorize it if you do not simplify it significantly.  For the very young, you will have to keep it short, but for children over four, get them to memorize passages without paraphrasing them.  They can do it and it will be helpful to them
9 You can buy music which is written to make scripture memorization easier.  Some artists have written music to bible verses: Check out the following:
  1. Steve Green's  "Hide 'em in your hearts"

 

 

Sights & Sounds

1 It is hard to memorize if you only do it 'in your head'.  When you are reviewing your verses recite them out loud whenever possible. Make sure that you do not just speak in a whisper.  Speak in a clear full voice as if you were talking to a group of people.  In doing this, you re-enforce what you have learned.  Perhaps you can imagine yourself reading to a large group, or the one originally speaking/writing the words. 
2 Read the verse you are studying several times, emphasizing a different a different word. This will help you with understanding. 
3 While you are reviewing a verse, imaging yourself in different roles:  The original speaker/writer, the original hearer/reader, or as a teacher expounding on the text.
4 Try making a recording of the passage you are memorizing. You can read the passage of scripture with a pause in between each sentence or phrase long enough for you to recite the scripture, then repeat the phrase again to check what you said.   
5 Use music wherever possible to assist you in your memorization.  Set the verses you are memorizing to music. Make up a song. Use tunes that you already know or create one yourself

 

Mechanics

1 Perhaps the most common way of keeping track of what you have learned is to write the verses down on 3x5 (or business card sized) cards and carry them around with you wherever you go.  When you have a moment, pull out the deck of cards and review the top one.   The cards can be sorted, stacked, dated or shuffled in any way that helps you do adequate review.  If you have a pocket, you have verse cards in them. (Even at night)  I purchased several credit card folders from my local dollar store to hold the cards.  
2 Some people find that writing out the verses by hand on an occasional basis helps them learn faster and remember longer.
3 Try to make memorization and review a regular and scheduled part of your day. You schedule time to eat, and brush your teeth don't you?  Why not schedule a time for scripture memorization?
4 Some people find that writing out the verses on index cards can help them review what they have already learned if when they write out the verse they only write out the first letter of each word and associated punctuation.
5 Stick passages of scripture on the mirror in the bathroom, in the kitchen by the sink and in the place where you fold laundry.  Certain tasks around the home do not require much attention of the mind and that time can be re used to review scripture.   Do not under estimate the power of a few minutes here and a few minutes there. A friend of mine memorized the book of Ephesians over a 2 month period during the times he was sitting in the washroom. Perhaps the mirror where you shave can be a 'Romans 8' place.  For two minutes a day you read and review this passage.  It does not impact your schedule at all and in the end you should have memorized the passage quite well. 
6 When you are repeating a passage of scripture for review, do it like this:

Say the topic you have assigned to the verse, if any
Say the scripture reference
Quote the verse
Say the scripture reference again

In doing this on a regular basis, your mind learns to associate the topic with the reference with the verse so it is easier to recall them.

7 Your mind learns best if you relate the verse to something which can be seen or heard or imagined. This is why it is important to be creative with your memorization. When you are learning a verse, draw a picture or cartoon on a piece of paper which will remind you of the details of the verse.  Use exaggeration, humor, motion, music, color, etc., to fix an image into your mind.  You will be impressed at how effective a memory aid it is. 
8 Make sure that you have learned the passage that you are currently memorizing thoroughly before moving onto something new.   A passage of scripture needs to be reviewed at least a 100 times before you can say you know it well.  Anything less than this, then the passage will not be carved as deeply into your long-term memory.  It is a common feeling to be a little impatient when it comes to doing this much review.  However there is an advantage which will show up later on.  

Here is an example.  If you memorize three passages a week and keep this up for three years then you should know about 150 passages of scripture.  When you have reached this point you may find it difficult to make progress because you have to spend too much time reviewing the verses you have done in the past. You may also find that you have forgotten the older ones and need to re learn them. (So you really do not know 150 passages)   It may have been better to only do two passages per week and make sure that you know them very well before moving on.  At the end of the three years you will find that you do not have to spend as much time in review. You can still recall the past passages and have time to move on to new material.

Part of the mechanics of memorization is to make sure that the passage is reviewed on a regular basis, many times at first but then with a larger and larger time interval between review sessions until all you need to keep it fresh is once or twice every few weeks.  

9 I put up a large bulletin board on the wall at the end of my bedroom.  I also installed a light fixture on the ceiling near the wall so the light would shine on the scripture verses I posted.  The light fixture contains two 15 watt spot lights. this makes it bright enough to read, not so bright it bothers you. I hooked the light up to a hand held dimmer switch (designed for use on a table lamp) and place the switch on the floor beside my bed.  I can turn the light up and down any time during the night to read if I get stuck.
10 I think that to make scripture review a way of life can be very productive.  What I mean is this.  As you go through the day you should always have some verses written on little cards in you pocket.  You should also be aware what verse is to be reviewed next.  Review you current verse whenever you have a moment which is long enough. Keep your mind in scripture review mode on a continual basis through the day. 

 

For the Small Group

1 If you are doing a book study (esp. if it is a 'small' book) why not have everyone to agree to memorize all or part of it?
2 You can write out a verse on a white board or chalk board. Read the verse and then erase the last word and read it again.  Repeat the process until al the words are erased.

 

 

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Email:  memoryhelp@istar.ca
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION,
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by
permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers