Memorize the Bible as Jesus Did.
Memorizing God’s Word is crucial to success as a Christian. But the question that often introduces differences is: How do you memorize God’s Word?
Here are some testimonies on Bible memorization:
“Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization” Dallas Willard
“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” Chuck Swindoll
Principles to follow as you memorize the Bible.
Don’t make any effort to memorize or remember chapter and verse numbers. If you read the Bible over and over again, you would naturally remember some verse and chapter numbers without trying. Like John 3:16, many Christians could tell you what it says without having ever made any effort to remember the verse and chapter number. All our focus should be on memorizing what the Bible actually says, the content and none on the numbers associated with that content. Don’t attempt to memorize chapter and verse numbers. You should instead know who is speaking in that verse, why, what occasion, to whom was he speaking, when was that etc. That information is easier to remember and adds understanding and context to the verse memorized that an arbitrary chapter and verse number.
Memorize in your own words. It is a scientific fact that it is easier to memorize and recall something in your own words (your own vocabulary) that in another person’s vocabulary. There are over 200 Bible translations with many of them using the different words to say the same thing. Many Bible teachers advise you to stick with one version and memorize the verses verbatim. Don’t do that. That is a recipe for failure or slavery. Remember that the entire Bible was written to be heard, remembered, and obeyed. From the time of Moses to the time of Jesus is about 1500 years. From the time of Jesus to the reformation is about 1500 years. For these 3000 years, people only heard the scriptures and obeyed. You will remember some verses verbatim simply by reading your Bible a lot, that is enough. Don’t try to. What you should do is learn to understand what the verse or passage is saying, say it in your own words and then memorize it in your own words. It is a scientific fact that we learn by association. When we learn a message that is communicated in our own vocabulary, we easily remember it and associate it. When we try to memorize the vocabulary of the translators (in the version you are memorizing) is much more tedious and unnecessary. You can gradually learn the difficult words in your Bible to increase your vocabulary, not to memorize.
Memorize in Context. Memorize only verses that you have studied in context. Don’t simply collect verses and memorize. Most people who interpret the Bible wrongly do so because they take verses out of context. Memorizing verses that you haven’t studied in context is a sure recipe for interpreting the word of God out of context and forming a wrong theology.
Memorize systematically. Create a system where you have a plan for your Bible memorization. Then seek to memorize verses that speak on the same topic. For example, verses on prayer are grouped together, verses on healing are grouped together. That helps you to see a more clear picture and when you want to use it, you pull them out. Situations in life should be handled one at a time. You may be faced with a sickness that you need to believe God for. You then will need to pull out scriptures that you have memorized on that subject. If you just memorized them at random, you may not be able to connect them easily.
Chapter and verse numbers are very useful for writing books and papers. If you plan to write books and papers frequently about the Bible, then you may need to remember chapter and verse numbers. Note, even when you are preaching a sermon, you don’t have to quote even one chapter or verse number. Remember than out of the 3500 years we have had the Bible (OT), only the last 500 years had verses. Jesus and the apostles, those before them and those after them could quote the bible well.
Remembering chapter and verse numbers WILL NOT help you with evangelism: Paul almost single-highhandedly evangelized the entire world. He did more evangelism than anyone who is living today, yet he verses didn’t exist in his day. God’s word when spoken has the power to touch hearts and stop even Satan (see Jesus’ temptation in the Book of Matthew) without using any verses. It suffices to say it is written.
Verse and chapter numbers discourage people from memorizing God’s word: The number one thing that discourages people from memorizing God’s word is 1) The fact that people try to memorize chapter and verse numbers. Soon, when they fail or do poorly, they get discouraged. 2) They try to memorize verbatim. Some make an unfortunate mistake to try to memorize the KJV verbatim. It’s possible but difficult and unnecessary. Even in a modern translation, verbatim memory is unnecessary. Note that many of the quotations of the old testament in the new testament are not verbatim. Very few of them are verbatim. For many, the words are changed slightly. The goal should be to remember the word in a way that you can say it in your own way. If you only have 6th grade vocabulary, you should be able to memorize and remember it in that vocabulary, not in the vocabulary of a PhD holder (as many Bible translators are).
Here is what happens to many people who want try to memorize the Bible.
They pick a verse and memorize. Memorize it. Later they try to recall the verse. When they do, many invariably fail to reproduce the verse word for word as it was in their Bible version. Even if they miss just one word, discouragement sets in.
In fact, even when they substitute a word with an appropriate synonym when they recite the verse, they still feel discouraged that they didn’t memorize it well. Satan is very good at bringing guilt on these people for something that isn’t even a problem at all. The reason we feel guilty is that the goal was to memorize the verse verbatim (word for word). Even if you miss one word, you haven’t succeed. It’s almost like putting yourself under the law. You must obey the entire law. If you fail to obey one law, you have broken all. Memorizing like that is not what God had in mind. The goal should be to read a verse or passage and explain it in your own words, paraphrase it with your own vocabulary, and remember the paraphrase. All you need to care about is remembering the message in that passage. What is God saying? Then put it your own words and memorize it. When you remember it later, you don’t even have to say your own paraphrase word for word. Only the message is important. Even if you say it by using sign language or by saying it in another language than the one you memorized it in, that will be enough. Note, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. If you don’t read it in those languages, you are already reading it in someone’s words. And those words are NOT perfect! Bible translations do have errors in them. The Bible is without error only in the original manuscripts, none of which we have.
The Best way to memorize is to do a book study of that book of the Bible, make an easy outline of the book and memorize the outline first. That’s the skeleton. Then choose a verse from a part of that book, note where the verse occurs. Know who said it, why he said that verse, who it was said to, what the verse meant to those people. Then memorize the verse. As such, let’s say the book was a journey from Cameroon to Austin Texas. Your outline may be something like this: You take a bus from Bamenda city in Cameroon to Douala city where the International Airport is. Then you take Air France from Douala to Paris. You fly Airlines from Paris to Atlanta. From Atlanta, you take Delta to Austin, Texas. That is the skeleton. Now, your verse may be about something that the author said while he was in Paris. Memorize it, remember that the author said it while he was in Paris, remember the occasion he said it, who he was speaking to, why etc. That puts the verse in context. It also helps you to remember the book in an amazingly simple way. You can then add flesh to the bones–add more verses to different parts of the journey to make the the journey more rich.
How to Memorize Bible Verses.
You memorize verses through a process of Repetition and Review. Even though we are talking here of memorizing Bible verses, you don’t have to memorize whole verses. Remember that the separation of the Bible into chapters and verses is uninspired (it’s not part of the word of God) and sometimes arbitrary. It can break the thought of the passage. What you should focus on is memorizing a portion of scripture that speaks to your soul. God’s word is food four your soul. The portion of God’s word that will feed your spirit may happen to be exactly one verse. If that’s the case, fine. It can be a verse and a half or two verses or three or any number of verses. It’s been said that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.”. You don’t have to limit yourself to those two words unless those are the words that you are hungry for in God’s word. Memorize to fill your hunger!
Pray: Pray for God to give you the discipline to memorize verses.
Set aside time: It’s very crucial to set aside time for memorizing the Bible. If we fail to plan and schedule this activity, it often gets forgotten. What time should you do it? There are two good possible times to do it. We recommend that all Christians read their Bible daily. If you want to read the Bible through in one year, then you’ll need to read about four chapters each day. This can take about twenty minutes to read. If you choose to read one chapter a day, then it will take you 3 years and 3 months to finish reading the entire Bible. Choose the pace that you want to go with. You have the freedom to modify it as you need to and read more some days and read less on other days. But it is advisable to be consistent and have a minimum that you must complete in one day. Another thing that we recommend that all Christians do daily is to have a quiet time or devotional time with God where they read a small portion of God’s word, memorize and meditate on it, and pray and listen to God. You can do a quiet time in 15 to 30 minutes. The overwhelming number of Christians in Scripture, throughout church history, and today do their quiet times or devotional times early in the morning. If you want to do a stable, daily, and consistent Bible memorization, doing it with your quiet time and meditation is a great time. You memorize the scripture before you meditate on it. If you want to then do additional memorization of scripture, you can do it at anytime that you choose. What some people do is they combine their personal devotional time and their daily Bible reading. If they were on a 1 year Bible reading plan (about 4 chapters per day), they may set aside about 45 minutes early in the morning. The first 20 minutes or so, they may spend reading the four chapters that is part of their Bible reading plan. The next 25 minutes, they will do a personal devotion. 5 minutes in the personal devotion could be spent on memorizing the scripture alone. If its a short and familiar portion, it may take much less than that.
Choose the Scriptures: How do you pick the portions to memorize? I suggest that you should choose them out of your daily reading. If you are on the on year plan and read 4 chapters a day, then pick a brief passage from it to memorize and meditate on. You may also read other chapters of interest to you outside your regular reading and harvest some verses from there for memorization and meditation. But always try to know the context of the verse before you meditate on it. You often get the context by reading before and after the verse and asking yourself 5Ws and 1 H questions to establish context. When you choose a passage to meditate, you can write an “M” in the margin with a pencil to mark it as a passage you need to memorize. One thing that has been helpful to me is to write down these verses and the dates at the back of my journal. I turn my journal around and start writing towards the middle. That helps keep the verses together so that you can go back and review them.
Memorize the verses or passage: To memorize a verse or group of verses, take the first verse and read it ten times. After that, close your eyes or shut your Bible and say the verse aloud five times. Paraphrase the verse and say it out in your own words five more times. That’s it for that verse for the first day. You simply read it 10 times and say it aloud 10 times (five of them in your own paraphrase). Repetition is the way you memorize a verse.
Set a goal SMART goal: Set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound to go with your memorization. This is an important step because it allows you to measure success. Your goals should not be verbatim memorization and it should not be to memorize the verse and chapter numbers. Your goal should be to be able to say what the verse says either in your own words or in the words of the translators. Remember that what you read in any Bible translation is the words that the translators think best translate what God has said in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. They used their vocabulary to do that. Their vocabulary is not your own. If you can accurately say what the verse says in your own words and not make it too long, that is absolutely good. If you can’t paraphrase a verse, it may be because your vocabulary needs to grow a little more. In that case, you may read the verse in three or four different translations and choose the translations whose words are much closer to your vocabulary. You will know because it just seems clearer and easier to remember–why? Because you can associate the words in the verse with words you already know better. We learn by association. So, remember your goal. The next day, when you need to recall the verse you remember, if you say what is says either in the same words or in your own words, you have succeeded! If you don’t set this goal, you may be tempted to memorize verbatim, and when you miss a word, you feel discouraged.
Review the Verse: Review is another key to memorizing a verse. The other key is repetition. After have memorized a verse and meditated upon it, then throughout the day, when you remember it, think about that verse and what is says. That helps you stay focused on God’s word. The next day, before you memorize another verse, open your Bible and say the verse you memorized yesterday 5 times. You can say it more than five times if you still find that it’s difficult. Then memorize the new verse, read it 10 times and say it aloud 10 times (five of them paraphrase). Then say the two verses together. That’s it, you continue to memorize like that. The next day you review what you memorized the day before and add a new one. Write the new verse in a book for easy review weeks down the road. Another thing that you can do is to write the verse you are memorizing for the day on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket. Then when you have time during the day, you can think about it and nourish your soul that way. That’s if you think you may not remember the words. You can carry the verse on your cell phone if you have one. Remember that reviewing is crucial to memory.
If you remember the memory curve, we forget over 80% of what we learn in 2 days. So review is crucial to memory. But with repetition and review, you will build stronger neuronal tracks in your brain that will make the memory last longer.
That’s how you memorize the Bible.
FAQs on How to Memorize the Bible.
How do you keep from forgetting scriptures that you have memorized?
The short answer is that you cannot. Extremely few people with photographic memories can remember most things they have learned. The rest of us, you settled in your heart that you will forget verses that you memorize and don’t worry about that. If you have memorized it well, even if you forget, there is a trace of it that the Holy Spirit will still use to change your life. So not being able to recall it to active memory doesn’t mean that it is lost completely or that the time was wasted. So there is no way to memorize anything in such a way that you never lose it. However, frequent reviews helps you to keep the scripture in your memory longer. What we advise people to do is to select a group of scriptures, say 20 to 30 verses or passages that they want to always remember at anytime. Those should cover different areas that will bring encouragement to you and allow you to fight the good fight of faith and resist the devil like Jesus did. Set those aside for frequent review so that you always have access to those even when you don’t have your Bible with you. But make it a habit to memorize scriptures every day. If you memorize one everyday, you will have memorized 365 verses by the end of the year. You will forget 90% of those. But don’t worry. You haven’t lost them forever. If you were to see it again, it will not be like you’ve never seen it before. But make sure you remember your core verses so that anything you can encourage yourself with those.
How do you choose scriptures to memorize?
This question is answered under Choose the Scriptures above.