How to Memorize Scripture—Part 4

Practical Tips and Tools for Scripture Memory

This is part four of this article. Please click here to read part one, two, or three.

Work Out Loud

This is why we have chosen a quiet place, alone. This is part of the process that works. You see, God emphasizes “hearing” His Word. “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:22). 

You’ve read it, written it out, now you are “hearing it,” as phrase by phrase you commit it to memory. Some verses are easier to memorize than others so don’t get frustrated. Keep going over pieces of the verse at a time and then adding more to it – always repeating all of it out loud. No secrets here, this takes time; but look at it as an investment. God said: “For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her” (Proverbs 3:14-15). He adds in verse 18: “And happy is every one that retaineth her.

Walk While You Memorize

Your body has rhythm. I’m sure you can tell who is coming down the hall of your house by their walk. Little children are able to memorize the words to songs long before they can read because the words are written to the rhythm of music. I can guarantee that you will memorize Scripture faster walking than sitting in a chair (or behind the wheel of your car stuck in rush hour traffic).

I was preaching at a teen camp one summer. I came out of my room and there was a young girl about fifteen sitting on a rock with her Bible in her lap and she was crying. I went over to her to see what was the matter. She said: “I’ve been trying to memorize this verse for the last thirty minutes and I just can’t get it!” (She was trying to earn points for her team.) I took her Bible from her asking which verse it was that she was struggling with. I said, “Let me hear what you’ve got so far.” Quite honestly, she didn’t have much. She stammered through the first couple of words and got stuck. I must admit it was a rather difficult verse. I said: “Stand up.” I pointed to a trailer about 50 yards down the sidewalk from where we were standing. “Take the Bible and walk toward that trailer and come back. Do exactly what you have been trying to do to memorize the verse while you walk. I’ll wait for you right here and when you get back, we’ll see how much you know.” She looked at me weird, but took off. She made it to the trailer and turned around (I could see her lips moving as she was mouthing the words), she got about ten feet from the trailer and began running toward me, yelling: “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” Sure enough, she did too. Now granted, she had been working on it before my experiment, but the walking sealed it. 

Try it – the exercise won’t hurt you either. I have been in small guest quarters at times and had only enough space to take three or four steps and turn around and walk back, but it makes all the difference in the world.

The rhythm in your body will make the verse not only a part of your mind but also a part of your entire being. And later, when you use it in preaching or teaching, it will come alive – it will become, as I like to say, “animated.” One of my great concerns is that the average person in the world today thinks the Bible is some stuffy book, written centuries ago, with no relativity to man today. When you quote it, and your whole body language is a part of what you are saying, the Word becomes alive! People sense its power and authority – its “Thus saith the Lord.”

I must warn you here though. When you go to use it, you’ll have a hard time standing still. It is very difficult for me to stand behind the pulpit when I quote Scripture. I memorized it on the move, so my body wants to go! But, oh, the freedom of being able to move away from the pulpit and your notes and look into the eyes of your audience and “preach the Word!”

Review, Review, Review

Repetition is the key to learning. Some memory plans will tell you that if you say the verse a certain number of times for a certain number of days, you’ll never forget it. That doesn’t seem to work for me. I’ve got to keep reviewing every verse. I have often stated,“We’ve all had more than one telephone number in our life, but we probably only remember the one we are using now.” Use it or lose it, as they say. Until you have learned your entire stack of verses under a subject, you’ll need to go through all of them every day. Once you have that whole topic memorized, you may be able to reduce your review of that subject to once a week. Perhaps later, less, but you’ll have to keep going over them.

I figured it out one day. For every verse I have memorized over these years, counting all of the time it took to write out the verse, the memorization time and the review time, I have spent 200 hours on every verse that I have memorized! Now do you still think I have a photographic memory? I mean, really – I could teach a bad parrot to quote a verse in 200 hours! Don’t tell me you just can’t memorize, or you’re too old, or whatever. You can, but like I said, it’s “time and work.”

Set Goals of Time

Once you start memorizing and using God’s Word, you won't be able to get the verses written on cards fast enough. Let me caution you, don’t set a goal of how many verses you want to memorize in a day, week, month or year. The truth is, some passages are much easier to memorize than others. You are already familiar with them, or they are narrative or story-type in nature and thus the material flows very easily and logically. Others are not like that. The Biblical wording is sometimes different than the way we might say it today, and the sentence might be compounded in nature. You might spend several days on one verse. You will get discouraged if you set your goals on the number of verses. Set a goal of the amount of “time” you are going to spend daily, weekly, monthly on memorization. Commit yourself to that time no matter what; and as you do, the number of verses will add up over the months and years.

In conclusion, let me say that some of the most enjoyable times of my life have been spent alone memorizing God’s Word. In the wee hours of the morning, just God and me with His Word, putting into my life something that He went to a lot of trouble to give to me. I have found that He has blessed that effort.

Oh how I have enjoyed seeing God use it. I have a message that I call the “Scripture Sermon” that is forty-five minutes of solid Scripture – no references, no comments – just the pure Word of God. How I’ve enjoyed seeing God bless that. My friend, “Preach the Word!” You can’t beat it!

This article is an excerpt from Appendix 1 of Homiletics from the Heart available from Striving Together Publications.

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