In a minute, I’m going to share 3 simple memorization methods that can help you memorize short or long passages of scripture, even if you have difficulty memorizing—like ME. But first a little story.
When I was a teenager I had a conversation with a friend about the Bible. Actually, it was more like an argument. I wasn’t a believer at the time and this guy was backing me into a corner about some of the things I did and did not believe. I didn’t have an answer—so I just made one up.
I figured the Bible was such a big book, he’d never know the difference.
So I told him, The Bible says, blah, blah, blah (can’t remember what I claimed the Bible said), but the guy spoke right up and said, “No it doesn’t.” Hmph! How could he be so sure? What I didn’t realize was the Bible isn’t just a bunch of random passages bound into a big black book.
It’s a story.
If you’re familiar with a story, let’s say, C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and someone tells you the witch was the heroine, and Aslan was a loco lion that mauled little Lucy, you’d say, “Whoa! I know that story and that’s not the way it goes. Besides, I know the author and he would never write that kind of book.”
I would say that I know the story of the Bible well enough that you’d have a hard time getting some weird doctrine by me.
I know lots of scriptures. Not all the references, but I know generally where to go to find them. And I know how to use a concordance if I can’t find them. AND I know that now-a-days, all I have to do is ask Siri and she’ll find them for me. I have ten or twenty Bibles on my phone, and I don’t go anywhere without my phone, so if I need a scripture, it’s right at my fingertips.
So why memorize scripture?
Here are just a few of the benefits:
One: Memorizing scripture is good for your brain health.
Two: Memorizing scripture can help you fall asleep. Really!
Three: Memorizing scripture can make you less sin conscious (that’s a good thing!).
Memorizing scripture is good for your brain health.
Memorizing ANYTHING is good for your brain health. In times past, students were required to commit works like long poems and historical documents to memory. When I was in grade school, I had to memorize Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.
“Listen my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere . . .”
I can still remember part of it.
Rote learning has been out of educational “fashion” for a long time because emphasis has turned to analysis and critical thinking.
Having been an educator for many years, I understand the need for those elements, but studies are now showing that “rote” learning actually enhances critical thinking. Having the facts stored in our amazing brains makes it easier to access and analyze. Makes sense!
A lot has been written about the brain-health benefits for older people who memorize and learn new things.
Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health says, “Older adults who work their brains through memorization are stimulating neural plasticity, which alters the brain’s neural pathways in response to new experiences. These functional brain changes occur whenever we acquire new knowledge or learn a new skill, and they appear to be important in warding off cognitive decline.”
I love that word neural plasticity. Our brains are plastic!
They aren’t set in cement! To tell you the truth, I have a little memory problem going on sometimes. Can’t find my keys. Can’t remember if I paid my phone bill. My kids remind me when I’ve told them something for the 10th time.
Anything I can do to improve my memory is welcome.
So if memorizing can help my brain health, why not memorize something that can advance my spiritual health as well? The proverbial two birds with one stone thing. More about advancing our spiritual health coming, but first another unexpected benefit of memorizing scripture.
Memorizing scripture may help you get to sleep at night, and sleep more peacefully.
I have one of those minds that doesn’t always stop just because I’m lying on my memory foam mattress. A year or so ago, I memorized all 22 verses of Psalm 103. It took me a while, and I used the tricks I’m going to share with you to accomplish it. When I can’t get to sleep, I start quoting it:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies
Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
And so on . . .
I’m usually asleep by verse 8 or 9.
Sometimes I fight to stay awake so I can get through the whole thing, but I don’t often make it. It’s kind of like counting sheep, but much more beneficial! And I sleep better.
Have you ever found yourself awake in the middle of the night, thinking about the movie you watched before you went to bed? Of course. Especially if it was a scary movie. Since I started quoting scriptures to put myself to sleep, I’ve found when I do wake in the night, I have the scripture I was quoting on my mind. If I can’t go back to sleep, I start quoting it again. AND I usually wake up thinking about it.
By memorizing scripture and quoting it before I go to sleep, I’m feeding my spirit unconsciously during the night.
Psalm 63:5-6 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips. When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.
When we remember God on our beds (through quoting His Word) we’ll find ourselves praising Him with joy in our hearts. I can tell you that this works.
Memorizing scripture can make you less sin conscious.
Some of you are possibly saying, Why would I want to be less sin conscious? I thought that was why I was supposed to read the Bible—to learn what not to do.
Well, there’s some truth to that statement. When God gave the Law to Moses there was a lot of Thou Shall Not’s in it. But how many people were able to comply with all of them? ONE! Jesus. Jesus obeyed the whole law and then He died on the cross and took the penalty for all the lawbreakers in the world.
Satan’s job is to keep accusing us of breaking the law.
If we let him do that, we’re not valuing the blood that was shed on the cross to pay the price for our sin.
It’s a little like dieting. The more you try to diet, the more you think about food, and the more you eat! That’s been the story of my life. Have you ever noticed that people who are naturally thin don’t think about what they eat all the time?
The more we look at what we’re doing wrong, the more likely we are to repeat the behavior. Even the Apostle Paul went through that.
Romans 7:15 . . . For what I desire, that I do not do, but what I hate, that I do.
So how can memorizing scripture help us to stop dwelling on our sins and start dwelling on God?
Maybe we should start thinking more about the grace of God. But won’t that give us a license to sin? No. Exactly the opposite. When I meditate on the grace of God, it doesn’t make me want to go out and get drunk just because I can. It makes me want to please my loving Savior. It makes me praise Him and worship Him.
Memorizing Psalm 103 has helped me with that.
Psalm 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
I would say that the theme of Psalm 103 is the mercy of God, and when I quote it on my bed at night I’m not thinking about my sins. I’m thinking about how good God is, and how much He loves me.
So we’ve talked about how memorizing scripture improves our brain health, how it can help us sleep, and how it keeps us focused on God’s grace and mercy, not our failures. We’re going to look at 3 Simple Methods for Memorizing Scripture in just a minute, but first, Rebecca has just a few words about her own experience.
As usual, my mom explains things so well.
As a child, I learned the importance of scripture. Before post it notes and cute little signs became popular, my mom would write scriptures on pieces of plain white notebook paper and plaster them all over the house—including the bathroom mirror! It really made it hard to get ready in the morning sometimes, ha-ha! But it was there. BAM!! In your face every morning when you brushed your teeth.
To be honest, as a teenager I thought it was stupid.
Sorry mom. Now I love it and realize the importance and wonderful benefits.
But as my mom said, sometimes you need to do more than post it around the house. We can find ourselves in situations where we aren’t standing in front of that mirror reading that scripture but emotionally standing in a messy situation where we desperately need the Word of God at that moment.
Ephesians 6:17 talks about the Word of God being the sword of the Spirit. In those messy moments we need scripture to fight the negative thoughts that are coming at us hard and fast! What better way to do that than having those scriptures right at the tip of our tongues.
I recently went through a very painful experience. I got to the point where I would literally go to sleep thinking about it and wake up thinking about it.
It CONSUMED my thoughts.
But I knew what to do. I knew I needed to replace those negative thoughts with what God said, not what my feelings were telling me. I began to put scripture memorization back into practice and actually played scripture all night via an amazing YouTube channel that reads scripture to you while you sleep.
Nowadays when those feelings overwhelm me, I have the Word of God in my memory and can come at that negative feeling immediately with what God says.
So now let’s get on with learning how to do this! Back to you, Mom.
Thank you for that, Rebecca. I’m so proud of the wonderful woman of God you’ve become.
3 Simple Methods for Memorizing Scripture
There are several books written on methods to memorize scripture. I didn’t realize that until I started writing this article. I haven’t read any of them, but I intend to. I’m sure they’re full of valuable information. But right now, I’m trying to make this really simple so you’re not overwhelmed. So here are my suggestions: See it. Sign it. Say it.
Let’s start with part of Psalm 103. I’m using the English Standard Version.
(1) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
(2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits
(3) Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases
(4) Who redeems your life from the pit
(5) Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
(5) Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
So do you SEE some patterns here?
I keep a composition notebook where I write out the scriptures I’m memorizing. The very act of “writing” kicks some part of our brain into gear. I underline the patterns with a colored pen. The pattern in the first two is pretty easy. I probably wouldn’t need any aides to memorize those.
Next, I note that there were 5 sections that began with who. So when I’m quoting I know if I’ve forgotten one.
I memorize the scriptures verbatim, but I emphasize certain sections as cues.
That helps me to keep them in the correct order.
If I’m having difficulty getting the scripture exact, I’ll circle the connecting words: but, and, as, or—whatever I need to carry me to the next part of the verse.
I also use mind maps.
Here’s one I used for Psalm 103:8.
I use a motion or an image as a reminder.
The great thing about this method is a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll remember a picture. But I don’t use one for everything or my mind gets all muddled. Just a few to jog my memory.
(1) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
In verse one, I might make a circular motion around my heart to remind me of all that is within me.
If I needed a little help with the last part of the scripture, I might point to the place on my body where I would wear a name tag and picture the word HOLY on it. That would make me think holy name. I wouldn’t put JESUS on the name tag because then I would want to say Jesus.
The physical movement of pointing and then picturing is a double whammy way of remembering!
(2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits
For verse 2, I’d tap a finger on my temple twice to remember forget not. Tapping twice reminds me that there are 2 words.
You should experiment with what works for you.
You can use these techniques in other areas also. Twenty years later, I still remember a picture I created to memorize information on a driver’s test. The trick is actually taking the time to do it. The things I commit to memory are there forever, but I seldom take the time to picture where I parked my car, so if you see some woman wandering endlessly through the Walmart parking lot, it’s probably me.
We need to speak the scripture aloud while we’re memorizing. Hearing your own voice is another reinforcer. After you’ve got it down, you can say it in your mind, but it’s still good to speak it aloud once in a while.
I try to get one scripture pretty well memorized before I go on to the next verse in the passage. When I get that one down, I recite those two together, and so forth. The trick to getting things into your long term memory is reciting them frequently.
One great benefit of memorizing scripture is that it’s readily at hand when you need to quote it to someone.
So many times I’ve wanted to give a person I was ministering to a particular scripture, but I couldn’t quote the whole thing, and I didn’t know the reference, so I’d just let the moment pass.
These are just a few of the methods I use. Next time we’re going to talk about how to understand the scriptures you’re memorizing. After all, the Scripture isn’t going to do us any good if we have no idea what it means. You might want to take a look at our post Is There Really Such a Thing as Your Own Truth. I’m going to introduce you to some great apps that will help you find the Greek and Hebrew definitions of key words in the Scripture. In the meantime, ask Siri to show you your favorite scripture in several versions. She pop them right up on your phone, and you can get a head start.
Many blessings from Rebecca and me. We love you. Please share this post with anyone you think might benefit from it.
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