Memorizing scriptures can be very helpful for a Christian. But what if memorizing is not easy for you? Here are some practical tips that may help!
For the past four years, I have taught a course at Foundation Institute, a post-secondary Bible school sponsored by the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. One of the components of that course is scripture memorization. Every week our students are quizzed on their memory of assigned Bible verses.
Before that, I was a high school history teacher and, as most teachers do, I regularly tested my students on facts they learned in my class. So I know how many people react when they are asked to memorize something:
“I can’t memorize things. My brain doesn’t work that way!”
And it is absolutely true that brains work differently. Some people find memorization very easy, and others find it agonizingly difficult. I’ve had students who could casually glance at their assigned scriptures a few minutes before the quiz and remember them verbatim—book, chapter, verse and text—and ace the quiz almost effortlessly. And then I’ve had other students who study for days and hours in advance and still struggle when the quiz is in front of them.
But, even though it’s difficult for some, memorizing scriptures is not impossible. There are strategies and methods that can help. Here are some tips you may find helpful.
Tip 1: Memorize the general idea.
Memorization doesn’t have to be verbatim. Since most people didn’t have easy access to the Bible in ancient times, people in the Bible often memorized scriptures verbatim because that was the only way they could access it when they weren’t at a synagogue. But memorizing a scripture verbatim is not the only way to do it. You can also memorize the general idea of the scripture.
For example, 2 Timothy 3:16 is an important scripture that tells us the Bible is inspired by God. Memorizing the reference (2 Timothy 3:16) and the general idea (the Bible is inspired by God) can be easier than memorizing all 21 words in the verse (“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”).
Having the reference and its general idea committed to memory will allow you to quickly find it in your Bible when you need it. You can also memorize the first few words or a key line from a verse (in this case, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”). If you don’t believe you have the strongest memory, this can be a good place to start.
Here are a few more examples:
- 1 John 3:4: Sin is lawlessness.
- Romans 6:23: The wages of sin is death.
- Mark 2:27: The Sabbath was made for man.
You will also find that the more you read and study your Bible, the more of its words you will naturally memorize.
Tip 2: Memorize major chapters.
Another way to more easily use your Bible is to memorize key chapters. Instead of knowing specific verses, this method will allow you to memorize general chapter topics so you can find specific scriptures on a topic when you need them.
Here’s an example of seven key chapters you could memorize by subject in the book of Genesis.
- Genesis 1: Creation.
- Genesis 2: God creates the Sabbath, man, woman and marriage.
- Genesis 3: Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
- Genesis 7: Noah and the Flood.
- Genesis 11: Tower of Babel.
- Genesis 12: God calls Abram.
- Genesis 49: Blessings on 12 tribes of Israel for the last days.
See our infographic “Bible Memory” for suggested Bible chapters to memorize.
Tip 3: Memorize scriptures in a manageable way.
The King James Version contains 31,102 verses. The normal human being isn’t going to memorize anywhere near that—nor is there a need to. But you can select key scriptures and create a plan to memorize them in a manageable way.The idea of memorizing scriptures may seem daunting because of the size of the Bible. The King James Version contains 31,102 verses. The normal human being isn’t going to memorize anywhere near that—nor is there a need to. But you can select key scriptures and create a plan to memorize them in a manageable way. For instance, you could commit yourself to memorizing one scripture a week.
Selecting one scripture to work on every week would mean that in a year you could memorize 52 verses. (Of course, you could also work on two or three scriptures a week.)
A helpful tool is to write out the scripture on a note card (with the text on one side and the reference on the other) and keep it in your pocket or wallet. Whenever you have free time, quiz yourself using the card. When you look at the text side, try to quote the reference, and when you look at the reference, try to quote the text (or the general topic). You can keep the past weeks’ cards together and periodically go back through the cards to review.
Tip 4: Find the strategy that works best for you.
Every individual learns differently. The key to memorizing scripture is finding the strategy that works best for you. The note-card strategy may work for some people, but not everyone. Here are a few other strategies to consider:
- Write out the scripture multiple times on a piece of paper. Writing out content is effective for many people who are trying to memorize scriptures.
- Read the scripture over and over again in your Bible. For visual learners, memorizing the placement of the text in their personal Bible can be effective.
- Create your own quizzes on the scriptures you are trying to memorize. Quizzing yourself can help you identify scriptures you are having difficulty with.
- Record yourself reading the reference and scripture text on an audio recording app for your phone, and listen to it when you have free time. You can also create audio quizzes for yourself (“What does Romans 6:23 say?” or “‘For the wages of sin is death’—what is the reference?”). You could listen to these recordings while you’re driving or doing housework.
- Write out the first letter of each word in a verse you are trying to memorize. Then challenge yourself to recite the text just using those cues (Romans 8:14: F A M A A L B T S O G T A S O G).
- Download a Bible memory app on your phone. There are apps for Bible memory designed for the popular smartphone operating systems. Browse through the ones available and see if any of them might be helpful to you. Just a note of caution: some apps may not offer scripture texts in the translation you prefer. Memorizing a scripture in a translation that is unreliable or one you don’t use is not helpful.
- Use repetition and review. Whatever method you pick, do it over and over again until the scripture is firmly fixed in your long-term memory. After it is in your memory, you can keep it there by occasionally reviewing.
Tip 5: Don’t just memorize the words.
If you’re not careful, a goal to memorize scriptures can result in just committing words to memory—and nothing more. But the Scriptures are not just words—they are the words of God and are for our spiritual use (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is important to internalize the meaning and spiritual implications of those words.
Here are a few examples:
For doctrinal scriptures, such as Mark 2:27, meditate on what the scripture is revealing. The Sabbath was made as a gift for mankind, therefore the Sabbath is a blessing, not a burden. What does that tell me about how I should view God’s Sabbath day?
For Christian living scriptures, such as Galatians 2:20, meditate on how you can apply that scripture to your life. My old sinful ways of living are supposed to die and are to be replaced with the way of life Jesus Christ lived. What does that tell me about how I should be living my life on a daily basis?
For chapters, such as 1 Corinthians 15, meditate on the primary message you need to understand from it. Jesus Christ is returning and will resurrect the dead in Christ to immortal, spirit life. How is this different from what most people believe happens after death?
Memorizing key scriptures is an effective way to put God’s Word in your mind—but be sure to put those words in your heart as well!
For more about why it is beneficial to memorize biblical things, see “Memorizing Scripture: Why?” For a list of scriptures, chapters and lists to memorize, check out our Bible memory infographics.