Last week I posted on reasons to memorize Scripture, and this week I wanted to post some tips for memorization that I have found helpful from my own experience. Before I start that, though, I want to share the verses that inspired these posts and their title “Bind Them on Your Fingers”.
The first set is Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
The second can be found in Proverbs 7:1-3: “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
That imagery blows me away, and I can’t really explain why. I do know this: reading these verses as well was Psalm 119 has inspired me to take Scripture memorization seriously for the first time in my life.
This has become very important to me over the last few months, and as I’ve started memorizing Bible verses again, it’s been amazing how much more Scripture the Holy Spirit has helped me memorize than I ever thought possible. Right now, I’m working on a passage that I wouldn’t have dreamed of even trying to memorize six months ago, and so I wanted to share some tips for you as you do your own memorization work. I’ve divided them up into heart tips and practical tips, and so we’ll start with the heart tips.
Heart Tip #1: Realize that “success” in Scripture memorization isn’t going to come of your own mental strength.
First things first, if you’re going at this as just come sort of mental exercise, you’re going at it wrong. For it to be anything more than just pure information memorization (i.e. – if you want to experience any of the benefits listed in my reasons to memorize post) it has to be a work of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and can consume massive amounts of information. It doesn’t matter if you’re old and have to work harder to internalize Scripture. Either way, you need the work of the Spirit to help you truly remember not only what the verses are but also what they mean.
Heart Tip #2: Evaluate your motives.
Ask yourself if you’re doing it for the right reasons. The right reasons look like wanting a better, deeper relationship with Christ and/or wanting to know the breadth and depth of His Word. The wrong reasons look like wanting make yourself feel more spiritual than others and/or wanting others to think you’re so spiritual for committing to memorize Scripture (I struggle with these two personally).
If you go at this with the wrong motives (e.g. – they frightening motives I cherished as a child), then that will affect not only your relationship with Christ but also actually remembering what you’re trying to memorize. An example of this is me as kid; between AWANA and Sunday school, I recited a lot of verses. But now, because I was only jumping through hoops to look good and get prizes, I only remember a fraction of the verses that I “memorized”. So take some time to examine yourself and see what you want to “get out of” time dedicated to Scripture memorization.
Heart Tip #3: Ask the Holy Spirit to grow your love for Scripture and help you understand it (specifically, the verse or passage you are trying to memorize).
The more you love God and His Word, the easier it becomes to memorize verses and passages, and so ask for the Holy Spirit to give you a greater love. Trust me, He’ll do it, and it will greatly impact the way you look at the Bible, memorization, and meditation.
Heart Tip #4: Be ready to meditate on Scripture.
You can’t just memorize Scripture and expect to understand it all of the sudden; you have to meditate as well. Basically all of the benefits of Scripture memorization are products of what the Holy Spirit does when you meditate on Scripture, when you chew on it and turn it over and over in your head, trying to grasp what it truly means. A friend of mine once said: “Meditating on Scripture makes memorizing easier; memorizing Scripture makes meditation deeper.” So ask the Holy Spirit to help you to fruitfully meditate on Scripture, and be ready to invest thought into it.
So those are my four heart tips. Now onto the practical tips.
Practical Tip #1: Start small and work your way up.
Don’t just start in on a book of the Bible if you’re just starting on memorization. While you should definitely work towards memorizing entire books, when you’re just beginning, it is easy to get discouraged if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Personally, I recommend starting with one to three verse chunks before going after a 42 verse chapter or an epistle.
Practical Tip #2: Pick a verse/passage that you are currently studying.
This really helps with the both meditation and memorization. I studied 2 Peter 1:1-10, and so I memorized verses 5-10. Not only was it easier to memorize, but it also helped me think about the passage throughout the day. When I went through the different qualities that are listed in those verses when I was trying to memorize them, I could meditate on the verses outside my devotions time. This enriched my quiet time because I was thinking about the passage a lot more. So focusing on a verse or verses that you are studying helps both your study time and the memorization.
Practical Tip #3: Get a partner or two.
Tell a couple friends that you’re trying to memorize Scripture and what you’re memorizing. It works best if they’re memorizing something too. For me, it’s my dad. I tell him what I’m memorizing, and he tells me what he’s working on. We check up on each other periodically (usually every week or so), and do something a friend of ours calls “soul wash” where we recite what we’ve memorized to each other and talk about what we’ve been meditating on. This helps keep us motivated and focused on “the good stuff”—what we learn through meditation.
Practical Tip #4: Read the verse/passage you are memorizing out loud at least once a day.
I know this sounds inconvenient, but it is something that’s really helped me. With the passage I’m currently memorizing, I was reading it every day for a while, and I was packing verses away like crazy. But then I stopped reading it every day, and since then, it’s been significantly harder to memorize the rest of the passage. So I highly recommend reading your verse(s) every day.
Practical Tip #5: Write your verse (or verses) out on an index card and carry it in your pocket or wallet.
This is my favorite thing to do when it comes to memorizing things. This just keeps your verse(s) handy throughout the day. I like writing it out by hand because that’s just something that helps me; my dad goes on biblegateway.com and prints his out and keeps it in his work truck. So, basically, get your verse(s) printed or written and keep that handy throughout the day.
Practical Tip #6: Swap out music for memorization (aka: multitask).
I love to listen to quite a bit of music—while I’m milking, when I’m driving somewhere, when I’m doing dishes, when I’m in the shower, and a basically any time I can squeeze it in. Recently, I’ve been trading music for working on memorization. So instead of jamming to some Needtobreathe for half an hour while I milk, I work on verses. (For peeps who don’t find this tip helpful because they don’t listen to much music: my dad doesn’t listen to a lot of music, and so he works on his verses on the 30 minute drive to and from work.) Basically, the idea behind this tip is to be multitasking—memorize while doing something else. For some reason, this has helped me more than setting aside a half hour a day just for memorization.
Practical Tip #7: Don’t add verses too quickly.
Personally, I recommend working on a verse or small set of verses for at least a week before you add more. I tend to memorize in chunks of three verses at a time, and so I focus on those three in my meditation for about a week (sometimes longer) before I memorize another chunk. If you add too many verses too quickly, you’re probably not spending a lot of time meditating. Even if you can memorize like crazy, it’s best to have a week or so to review and meditate.
Practical Tip #8: Write down the references to the verses/passages you have memorized and go through that list periodically for review.
I write my references in a small notebook and try to go back once a week through all the verses. As you add more verses and passages, this can get kind of time-consuming and begin to feel daunting, and so I recommend reviewing a few verses every day of the week (e.g. – on Mondays review your verses in Psalms, on Wednesday review your verses from the Gospels, etc.).
And there you have it. 12 tips on Scripture memorization.
They make a lot of sense in my head, and so I hope they make sense to you guys as well.
Did you find these tips helpful? Which one was the most helpful and which was the least?
What are you memorizing right now? What are your memorization goals? What are your tips for memorization?
P.S. – I used different forms of “memorize” 49 different times in this post. That’s crazy.