Doesn’t Everyone Know How to Memorize Scripture?
When people talk about the importance of memorizing Scripture there is sometimes an underlying assumption that folks already know how to memorize scripture. While everyone does have the capacity to memorize there are some concepts that, if practiced, can make the process more beneficial.
Why Memorize Scripture?
Psalm 119 is traditionally attributed to King David. The Bible refers to David on more than one occasion as “a man after God’s own heart”. In Psalm 119:11 we learn that David memorized God’s word and we learn at least one reason why.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
To further address the “why” of scripture memory I defer to John Piper’s article by the same title.
Some Misconceptions About Memorizing Scripture
Misconception: I need to have a good memory.
The Truth Is: Your memory is good enough. When asked your name you do not have to look it up on a note card. The fact you are reading this article suggests you have memorized thousands of words in at least one language. Most people find memorizing text to be difficult. Welcome!
Misconception: I don’t have time to memorize Scripture.
The Truth Is: Put down your phone. Turn off your TV/console. Talk less. If these three don’t free up enough time to memorize one verse per week then you’re right … you don’t have enough time to memorize Scripture.
Misconception: Once memorized, always memorized.
The Truth Is: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Misconception: Memorizing a passage is the ultimate personal achievement for a passage of Scripture
The Truth Is: Obeying a passage and sharing it with others is more important than memorizing it.
Misconception: Memorizing scripture is for super-Christians (or will make me a super-Christian)
The Truth Is: Scripture memory can enhance your spiritual formation. However, it is not “magic” and will not in itself make you more Christlike. Even Satan recited Scripture during the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Scripture memory doesn’t seem to have helped him much!
How to Memorize Scripture
So, you want to memorize some scripture? Here are some tips:
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Those of you with photographic memories can skip this step. For the rest of us, repetition is the name of the game.
Say it out loud. I find it helpful to say passages out loud. When recalling a passage you will likely want it to be recited out loud and it can tie the passage in to muscle memory.
Write it down and carry it with you. The act of writing a passage will help you remember it. Carrying it with you will allow you to redeem those spare moments through the day. Any time you pick up your phone to check messages, first pull out the card you wrote the verse on and recite it five times.
How important is the reference? The book name, chapter number, and verse number are not the inspired Word of God and therefore do not have the power to transform your life. Having said that, there are some reasons you may want to memorize the reference along with the passage:
- Knowing the reference can be convenient.
- Knowing the reference can help when sharing a passage with others.
Meditate on the scripture (and write down what comes to mind). If you allow your memorization to outstrip your obedience, it can lead to pride. Take time each day to read/recite the passage, think about it, and listen for God’s voice.
Share your insights with others. When you come to some understanding be sure to pass it along.
Devote time to review. Find a time each week (or daily) to review passages you’ve already memorized.
Find a partner. Asking someone to join you in your memorization efforts can be a blessing:
- Asking sends a message to the other person that they are important to you.
- They other person will receive the same blessings you will receive from the process.
- Involving another person brings some built-in accountability. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
I just finished a top-ten list of scriptures to memorize for a young person. These passages are powerful for folks of any age, though. If you aren’t sure where to start, give the list try!