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March 03, 2016

How to Memorize Scripture

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In an age of near-instant access to information, it is easy to argue that Scripture memory isn’t as important as it once was. It can also be hard to know with which scriptures to start, and how to go about memorizing effectively and efficiently.

However, the most important reasons for committing the Word of God to memory haven’t changed, and there are more suggestions and helps now than ever before.

Why Memorize Scripture?

There are many amazing reasons to memorize Scripture. Here are just a few.

To meditate on God’s Word at all times

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. (Joshua 1:8)

I’ve often heard that the best time to be in the Word is first thing in the morning. The times that I’ve been able to heed that advice, I’ve found that I am kinder, more patient, and more able to keep Christ in mind from moment to moment.

However, I am naturally a night owl, my children are early risers, and I don’t wake up quickly or well. I’ve consistently failed at the discipline of getting out of bed early enough to have quality time with Jesus.

In his kindness, the Spirit has led me to have my solitary time in the Word later in the day, and to start the morning meditating on a few verses that I know from memory. I do this as I go about my morning routine to set my mind on things above.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

To increase your delight in the Lord

King David took great delight in the Word of God because he committed it to memory and could immediately refer to it in trouble. Knowing Scripture brought him joy:

In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:14-16)

In Psalm 40, we are given a prophetic look into the life of Christ: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Jesus’s delight was to do the will of God, even unto death—because he knew the Law of his Father by heart.

There are many Christians who struggle with joy when it should be a hallmark of following Jesus. One of the Bible’s suggestions to increase joy is to delve deeply into Scripture.

To recognize and combat sin

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11)

The Word teaches us how to recognize and combat sin. The more you are in it and it is in you, the easier it will be to predict sin’s advances and fight back.

During his temptation in the desert, Jesus himself used memorized Scripture to rebuke the devil, giving us a wonderful example of how the scriptures can keep pure the way of the righteous.

Earlier in life, I was careless about what I let into my mind—I did not know the scriptures sufficiently to guard my way. Due to this, I still struggle with unwanted thoughts and images.

However, as I memorize more of God’s Word, I not only have the weapons to fight those temptations, I reprogram my mind to dwell on the things of God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

The knowledge of Scripture doesn’t just fight sin now; it is used by the Spirit to destroy the effects of past sin.

To prepare and equip you to serve Christ

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Knowledge and adherence to Scripture is paramount to the success of every arena of Christian service. The more of the Word you have available to you, the more prepared you will be in all circumstances.

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). If you are able to speak the words of Christ to someone as you serve them, they have the opportunity to come to greater faith.

We are called to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Many Christians stumble in this by not having the tools with which to give that defense, or not having the trust in God to speak in gentleness or respect.

Committing Scripture to memory begins to solve these issues, by granting both knowledge and wisdom of God, and humility, in speaking to others.

How to Memorize Scripture

Start small

Don’t get overwhelmed—start with a single verse. Meditate on it for a week throughout your day. When you have learned it, pick a new verse. Occasionally review any previously learned verses. Slow steady progress will yield amazing results.

Choose a helpful program

There aren’t really any bad choices, but a Scripture memory program can help you in your selection. The Fighter Verse program is a great one, with levels for all ages. If that doesn’t seem right for you, search online for Scripture memory programs or talk to your pastor.

Memorize well

It’s easy to get overwhelmed or bored with the thought of mindlessly repeating the same verse over and over—like memorizing facts out of a textbook. Remember that Scripture is never meant to be gone over mindlessly; think about each word as you review it. Stressing different words within the verse each time you repeat it can emphasize meaning while you go through the act of repetition.

Also, write down your verse, and any thoughts you notice about the verse, while you are meditating on it. Studies show that writing something down with a pen aids in retention much more than typing.

Pick some sort of picture or visual to go with your verse. Scripture is rich with images and wordplay that make such associations easy. For example, let’s take Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the workmen labor in vain.” I picture men in overalls building a house over and over, after it falls. Finally, Jesus comes to build it, and it stays up. When I want to recall the verse, I start with the image, then the words start to come. Again, studies show that visuals help with memory work.

My favorite memory aid is singing. I can still remember all the words to pop songs I haven’t listened to in years; that same tool can be used to learn Scripture—there are also studies that back that up! If you need a place to find Scripture set to music, look into Seeds Family Worship or Fighter Verse Songs, the song companion to the Scripture memory program mentioned above.

The best would be to use a combination of several of these processes. You will find that with just a little practice, you can start to memorize a good deal of God’s life-giving Word.

However you choose to do it, start committing Scripture to memory, that you may have more of Christ.

What other tips do you have for memorizing Scripture?

Brad Archer

Brad Archer lives in Buffalo Grove, Ill., with his wife and three kids. He is active in several areas at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church of Barrington, Ill. In his increasingly limited free time, he enjoys playing board games with friends, catching up on his reading, and writing his thoughts down before they run away.
Brad Archer lives in Buffalo Grove, Ill., with his wife and three kids. He is active in several areas at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church of Barrington, Ill. In his increasingly limited free time, he enjoys playing board games with friends, catching up on his reading, and writing his thoughts down before they run away.