When I was a kid, memorizing verses was one of my favorite things to do.
Well, mostly because I knew I would get some type of prize in Sunday School and those at the top of the class got a trophy and toy at the end of the year. Clearly, I was motivated by other things, but the verses I remember now as an adult are from those early years.
As a child, music, games, flashcards, and rewards were the best ways to memorize Scripture, but as an adult, could I still use the same methods? I set out to try to memorize seven verses in one week using these methods to see if it would work.
Let it be known, though, that “mom-brain” is real and after having four kids, they have taken some of my brain cells away. And let it be known that dementia runs in my family line, and I am constantly losing my reading glasses that I end up finding on top of my head. And let it be known that even with an M.Div., and over 20 years of ministry, and being consistent in my daily time of Scripture, adding to my Scripture memorization is a real struggle that I blame on years of eating Nerds and drinking too much Mountain Dew.
But let’s begin.
I found that I could easily sing worship songs, Disney songs, and 80s pop hits word by word. If I could memorize those songs, why not put Scripture to song? The key to this method is finding the right verses to fit with the right cadence of common children’s songs
I have been reading through Matthew so I started picking verses in Matthew that I could memorize.
“’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). This verse went great with a “Yankee Doodle” tune. I sang this verse about ten times. It actually stuck. I started on a second verse.
“’I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’” (Matthew 3:11). This verse lent itself better to a “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” tune, and being longer, took more time to memorize. I tried to start on a third one.
“And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:3-4). The image of bread reminded me that I was hungry, so I went to get a snack and family life took over.
Was it Day 5 already? I had already typed the following verses below to memorize but the days had already passed. I completely forgot about my goal.
“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:19
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt loses its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 5:13
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
If you are trying to memorize verses better and look up on the internet ways to do so, you will find methods like this:
- Read it aloud after reading the context.
- Sing it to music.
- Write it down on paper or flashcards.
- Recite it aloud from your flashcard or paper or memorizing app.
- Write it everywhere (assuming you have a pen on hand wherever you go).
And if you just search “ways to memorize better,” you will find:
- The Mind Palace: associating what you want to memorize with a specific image and place.
- Mnemonics: word associations with acronyms, rhymes, or music.
- Storytelling: Visualizing what you need to memorize with an elaborate, exaggerated story with lots of images.
- Chunking: grouping words together according to context or pattern.
These are very helpful tips and tricks to memorize verses, or anything for that matter.
But the reality is, the first step is the hardest step to overcome. I often think, I just can’t memorize anything because it’s too hard, but the truth of the matter is, it’s simply because I haven’t prioritized it in my life. I haven’t scheduled it in my calendar. Other life priorities get in the way, so I choose not to.
So, my best tip to memorize Scripture verses?
- Make it a priority.
- Tell someone you want to memorize more Scripture and let them keep you accountable.
- Read it. Write it. Speak it. Sing it. Repeat it.
Whatever tips or tricks you use (flashcards, a memorization app, rubber band around your wrist, etc.), the truly best way is to actually start trying and keep trying, even if you get sidetracked and daily life takes over. Keep at it and it will eventually stick. It might take longer than you realize, but over time, His words will remain hidden in your heart.
And ultimately, giving yourself grace and setting a realistic goal will do wonders. One verse per month is doable and still a great place to start. That’s twelve a year which is more than many other folks. Of course, there are others who can memorize more, and my former seminary professors often have half the Bible memorized. But God doesn’t judge me on others’ abilities. He knows me and loves me still as I struggle with memorizing moving forward.
Staying in His Word and doing His Word is always more important than simply memorizing Scripture. But go ahead and set some goals for memorizing verses. But in it all, remember that it’s less to get the task of memorizing done, and more to have God’s Word in our hearts and minds to help us meditate on who He is and how we can be more like Him. So in our daily life, as we soak ourselves in Scripture, let’s let Scripture teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16), even as we struggle with memorization.