I would like to share the most important principle involved in memorizing Bible verses. The secret is to establish a set amount of time daily to memorize and not a certain number of verses. Do not worry about the number of verses that you memorize, rather determine to give your best effort during a certain amount of time each day. I would suggest that you begin with 10 minutes a day.
Any person is able to apply the techniques presented in this article for 10 minutes without the stress of having to achieve a certain amount in that time. This eliminates the pressure to advance and the discouragement that can result from that pressure. Think of giving God your very best for 10 minutes and be satisfied when you have finished them. If you cannot remember anything the next day, do not worry, but rather once again apply the techniques to the best of your ability on the same verse for another 10 minutes. If, on the third day you still cannot remember the verse, do not worry, simply fulfill this short daily period of time once again.
You might think that you will be memorizing the same verse forever, but I assure you that this will not be the case. When you give your best for an established time and let what God has created work to achieve the goal of memorizing His Word, you will be surprised at how much you will memorize during one month, and astonished at what you memorize in one year. Success in memorization does not depend on capability, but rather on consistency. God took charge of the matter of capability. Just appreciate what He has done and decide to discipline yourself to use it as He designed, for a certain amount of time daily.
There are four initial, practical steps that will give your memory what it needs to assimilate, store, and later recall verses of Scripture.
1. Read the Verse Several Times
2. Achieve a Better Understanding by Answering Questions about the Verse
- Who wrote it?
- Who was this person?
- To whom was the verse written?
- Was it written to a particular person, city, or group of people?
- Under what circumstances was it written?
- What was happening in the life of the person, town, or people?
- Why was it written?
- What purpose did God have to speak this message, through the writer, in that time?
- What is the message for us today?
Answering and meditating on these questions will not only help you know the words of the verse, but also clearly understand what you’re reading. In addition, you will begin to achieve the spiritual benefits of memorizing Scripture.
3. Analyze the Structure of the Verse
Notice if it is a complete sentence, more than one complete sentence, or if it is a part of a sentence. Look for periods, commas, and other punctuation marks. How is the verse divided by these punctuation marks, and how many divisions does it have? How many phrases are there, and what are they? Also, observe the words of the verse. Identify the nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Does it mention people, places, or events? Are there commands? Is there any other significant form of grammar?
Another part of analyzing the structure is to concentrate on the first word of the verse and its relation to the previous verse. Does it complete a sentence? Does it answer a question? Does it explain or continue the previous verse?
The first word is like a door to the rest of the verse for your memory. If you remember the first word, the door will be open to the rest of the verse. If you do not remember the first word, it will be a closed door to memorization. Normally, understanding it’s relation to the previous verse is very helpful to remembering the first word of a verse. These three steps should take 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how long or complex the verse is.
4. Find “Curiosities” in the Verse
These curiosities can catch the attention of your memory. I call these curiosities “nails” because they are details that rapidly stick in long-term memory and also stimulate the memory to remember other information in the verse that is associated with them. In other words, they “nail” the phrases of the verse to your long-term memory.
Things that are odd, unusual, or strange stimulate the memory much more than things that are normal and common. Order and patterns also stimulate the memory better than something without order. Because of this, it is of enormous help to find, or even to invent, “nails” in the verse in order to memorize it more easily, rapidly, and permanently.
In some cases, you will find similarities between two or more words. They might have the same prefix or suffix or, even better, they may rhyme. Sometimes you may find alliterations—several words that start with the same letter. Some verses have words whose first letters form a word. These acrostics are especially useful to the memory.
Other verses have similarities related to the number of words. It might be that the phrases have the same number of words, or perhaps the number of words increases or decreases in sequence (three, four, and five words; or five, four and three). Another possibility is to find a pattern of numbers of words or symmetry in the number (four, three, four, three; or four, five, four). Once again, these curiosities will stick in your memory and make it easier to remember the related words.
Similarities in the order of the words is another possibility. Occasionally, there are keywords whose first letters are in alphabetical order. Oftentimes, there may be a chronological order to the words or to the principal ideas of the verse. You will be surprised at how many different types of “nails” or curiosities exist and how they will help your memorization skills.
Sometimes these “nails” are found in the nature or structure of the verse, as in the case of similarities in words, numbers, and order. However, if there does not appear to be any nails, you can invent them. One example of “inventing nails” is to take the first letter of the keywords and make a strange sentence with words using the same first letters. The strange sentence will easily stick in your memory, giving you the first letters of the keywords of the verse. This will help you recall the entire verse.
This is part three of this article. Click here for part four.