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Top tips for memorising Scripture

Author: Esther King, 17 April 2020

Whether you’re a beginner looking to start small or an expert wanting to take it to the next level, here are some tips to help you on your way to a lifelong habit of Bible memorisation.

‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’ 
Matthew 4.4 (GNB)

We know it’s a good thing to memorise verses, passages or even whole books of the Bible, but many of us feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to actually doing it. There’s no getting around it – it takes time, effort, discipline and perseverance. But it’s absolutely worth it!

As we think about verses we’re memorising our understanding grows. We’re more likely to apply God’s word to our daily lives and it’s rich fuel for our prayers. It places the gospel message at the forefront of our minds and on the tips of our tongues – ready to be shared with others.

When we focus our minds on the word of God and store it up in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is at work, shaping our characters to become more like Christ.

Let’s get started! Why not try some of these techniques to help you memorise the word of God? Find out what works best for you.

Drill it in

Much like the ‘look, say, cover, write, check’ method for learning spellings, when it comes to memorisation repetition – particularly over time – is king. It might not sound exciting but it works.

For example, to memorise a single verse or short passage:

  1. Read it 10 times out loud
  2. Recite it 10 times out loud without looking at the page
  3. Write it out on a card, carry it around with you and review it regularly

You can adopt the same kind of approach for longer portions of Scripture:

  1. Chunk up the text and work out how many days it will take to build up to memorising the whole thing (be realistic)
  2. Day one: follow steps 1–3 above
  3. Day two onwards: First recite the verses you’ve already learned 10 times, before following steps 1–3 to add the new section for the day 
  4. Once you’ve memorised the entire portion, continue to recite it every day for 100 days

The more you repeat and use information, the more likely it is to get stored in your long-term memory, so don’t miss out step 4! You might also find listening to an audio version of the passage a helpful way to refresh your memory.

Further reading: Check out An Approach to Extended Bible Memorization by Dr. Andrew Davis. It’s excellent and the most thorough explanation of how to follow this method I could find.

Listen to it/sing it

I love music and have it playing as often as possible. Even when I can’t listen, lyrics and melodies are floating about in my head. I find myself humming or breaking out into song at my desk … I find I’ve memorised something without even trying.

A little YouTube search can yield a whole bunch of Bible verses set to music. They’re catchy, bite-sized, repetitive (a good thing … see above) and ‘portable’. Listen in the car, out walking, whilst you’re stuck doing household chores … the possibilities are endless!

Yes, many of these songs are aimed at children and could be described as ‘cheesy’ but if you want to memorise Scripture, they really do work.

Recommendation: Search for ‘Seeds Family Worship’ online. They’ve set over 160 Bible passages to music, many of which are available on YouTube and on streaming platforms.

Make it fun and share the experience with others

Memorising need not be a joyless experience! Junior Church and Youth group leaders have been finding ways to make it fun and interactive for decades and have willingly shared their ideas online. Just make a quick search on the internet for ‘Bible memory verse game ideas’

There’s another benefit to this approach – sharing the experience with others. You can encourage and remind each other, and have great conversations about what the verses mean.

Slow down and relish it

Mere memorisation of Scripture isn’t the end goal. It’s possible to learn something by rote and entirely miss its meaning. We need to relish God’s word and, chewing it over, imbibe every bit of nourishment we can from it. The more we understand, the less likely we are to forget it too!

Here are a few ways you can slow yourself down and meditate on a Bible passage:

  • Turn it into a piece of art – you’ll have to spend significant time crafting it and thinking about how to reflect its meaning artistically. The visual and tactile nature of working in this way will also strengthen the place the information holds in your memory. 
  • Bible journalling/close reading – check out these ideas for zooming in and spending significant time on a passage.
  • Study it – if you’re going to the effort to memorise a whole book of the Bible you might find it helpful to read a Bible commentary or study guide about it to help you understand it as much as possible
  • Spend time praying through the Scripture – responding to the Scriptures with prayer encourages you to consider what they reveal about God and his work in the world and reminds you that he is the living God who wants a relationship with you. 
  • Lectio Divina – it’s a dynamic way of reading the Scriptures involving reading, meditating, prayer and contemplation. Find out more.

Move on from it

Most people have a limit when it comes to how much they can memorise and recall indefinitely. In An Approach to Extended Bible Memorization, Dr. Andrew Davis calls it ‘saturation level’ and in a toss up between endlessly revising one book of the Bible and moving on to start learning a new one, he recommends the latter. ‘Why? For the sake of all the new insights you will gain by learning a new book of the Bible.’ 

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