Psalm 119:11 – Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.
A few years ago, I was blessed to be inspired to start memorizing scripture again. Originally, I began by memorizing while walking. A Beth Moore study challenged us to memorize James 1. So, I took that challenge and met it. Then we moved, and suddenly I had a solid 30-minute drive to and from work each day. I’m a bit weird in that I don’t really like listening to the radio in the car. I love music, but I crave quiet, so I really didn’t mind the drive. But it occurred to me (I believe God’s Spirit prompted me) that this would be a great time to work on scripture memory.
Over the course of a couple of years, I really surprised myself with the amount of scripture I could memorize. I share this not to brag on me, but to encourage you that it is possible, even for a 50+-year-old brain! I decided I wanted to memorize passages, not just one or two verses from random places in the Bible. I started with John 15, which led to John 14, and then to John 16. I was so encouraged that I decided to try memorizing a whole book of the Bible. Eventually, I committed Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter to memory, along with a few Psalms. I remember telling my Bible study group that I almost felt my mind was being reshaped by its ability to memorize, that it literally felt like new grooves were being created in my brain!
I give God all the glory for the Word that He hid in my heart. Obviously, the biggest challenge is retention, because if you don’t keep going over scripture it gets harder to recall. (If you stop me in the street and ask me to recite them now, I’d probably struggle.) But all those verses are hidden in my mind and heart, and it’s amazing how they come to mind when I need them. It also has given me greater skills when I try to find scripture – I can remember where particular passages are because it’s so familiar, even if I can’t recite it off the top of my head. And I know with a little review, it would come right back.
Right now, I am working on memorizing the book of Titus. It’s just three short chapters, only 46 verses. And I’m really excited to be back doing this again!
So…for the practical part. How do I memorize? Here are my tips.
#1 – Get yourself a set of spiral index cards. You can use colored or white, whatever you like, but definitely choose the ones that are ruled.
#2 – Pick your passage. Don’t think you can memorize a whole book? You can. It’s like “eating an elephant” though – just one bite at a time. This is something that pleases God, and His Spirit will definitely empower you to do it!
#3 – Pick your scripture version. I like memorizing in NASB (New American Standard) because it’s the version I use to study most. But NIV, NKJV, and ESV are all good translations I could recommend. I would stay away from paraphrases (The Message, Good News Bible, etc.).
#4 – Write out your first chapter or passage. Fill the front side of each card (I usually get 4 to 5 verses on a card). If you’re at the end of a sentence or verse, it’s okay to finish it out on the back of the card, but I try to stick to the front side because it’s a manageable amount to learn at one time.
#5 – Start memorizing one card at a time. I find that repeating it out loud, working a phrase at a time while visualizing the words on the card helps me remember. Use your voice inflection to emphasize important words. If you’re traveling, say them out loud in the car (people might stare but who cares?)! Be emphatic. Use the rhythm and cadence of the words to help you remember. If there’s a list in the verse, count on your fingers as you repeat each word, adding a “tactile” component. Example: Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. I know there are four things older men are to be (temperate, dignified, sensible, sound), following by three specifics (faith, love, perseverance). Have a baby or small children at home? Repeat your verses to them. Babies love the sound of your voice, and what would be better to put in their little minds than God’s Word, even before they understand it! Have older children? Challenge them to memorize with you, and repeat verses to each other. Kids will amaze you and if you make it a little competitive, they’ll keep you on your toes.
#6 – Think about what you are memorizing. Don’t go “mindless and rote.” For example, in Titus 2:2, I picture a dignified, sensible, godly older man in my mind, who is loving and able to teach, and doesn’t give up. Those word pictures in my head help me remember the verse and makes it meaningful and applicable, which effects life change.
#7 – Carry your cards with you. Instead of pulling out your cell phone while you’re waiting somewhere, pull out your cards and review. Who knows? Someone sitting next to you might ask what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to share a scripture!
#8 – Once you’ve memorized the first chapter, get out your laptop or sit down at the computer, or get a piece of paper and a pen, and write/type it out. It will be a good test of your memory. If you’ve conquered it, add the next chapter or passage to your notecards to begin working on.
#9 – Review! Review! Review! Each time you sit down to memorize, review what you’ve already learned. (If I’m working on Titus 2, I always start with saying Titus 1 out loud first). If you stumble, say it again. I also check myself against the cards periodically because you can often substitute words without realizing and then commit the wrong thing to memory.
#10 – When you’ve reached your goal and finished memorizing, list the passage or book on the last card in your spiral index. As you add passages, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve learned. The summary list is also a great one to go back through every now and then, reviewing older passages, which will help your retention.
BONUS TIP: This is probably the most important tip. Once you commit to scripture memory, decide when and where you will work on it each day. For me, since I no longer have a 30-minute drive to work, it’s what I do first before I do my Bible study or quiet time each morning. Success will come when it is important enough to become part of our daily routine. We’d never skip brushing our teeth or taking a shower (well, if you’re a guy you probably would skip the shower) but you know what I mean! Make it a priority, and make it a routine.
How do you memorize scripture? If you’ve got a great tip, leave a comment below. Thanks for sharing!
Now go get your cards and get busy letting God’s Word transform your thinking!
Romans 12:2 – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.