Beyond Bible Reading: Memorization


It's that time of year again.  With New Year's Day comes that question:  do you have any resolutions?

One of your resolutions might be to read the Bible more.  If you're looking for a Bible reading plan, check out these five Bible reading plans.  But today, I want to remind you that there are more ways to interact with the Bible than simply reading it.

Reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is no small feat, and I encourage everyone to do it because it is good to be familiar with the Bible as a whole, but we should be taking time to focus on smaller chunks as well.

A fantastic way to do that is by memorizing scripture.  I promise it's not so hard as it sounds.  How many song lyrics have you memorized over the years?  Or baseball stats?  Recipes?  Memorization isn't as hard as we try to make it.  It just takes a little time and commitment.

"Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You."  Psalm 119:11 (NASB)

I memorized that one in VBS years ago.  Memorizing the word of God helps us to know the difference between right and wrong and can keep us from sinning.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  Psalm 119:105 (NASB)

This is another VBS memory verse.  The Bible can give us direction in our lives, to keep us from stumbling off the trail and getting lost.

Memorizing the word of God makes it easily accessible.  In this technological world, we may begin to think that memorization is unnecessary.  I disagree.  If you're in the midst of a trial, the Holy Spirit can call scripture to your mind, and it's a lot easier if it is already in your mind.

If you're speaking to someone about God, whether in evangelism or encouragement, the other person might not be willing to wait for you to fire up your iPhone to look up a passage.  If you know it, you can simply tell them what the word says rather than stall the conversation to find it.

Choose a translation.  In my opinion, you should memorize from the translation you use most often.  It should be one that you don't have too much trouble understanding, and you want the words to feel somewhat natural to you.

If you have trouble choosing a translation, I suggest you look at the English Standard VersionHolman Christian Standard Bible, or the New American Standard Bible.  If you're still not certain, you can leave me a comment or talk to your minister.

Memorizing scripture comes down to repetition.  When I was in college, we had memory work for almost every class, so we had to come up with a system.  I wrote my memory work on index cards and would carry them with me while I was working on them.  Sometimes I would walk around campus with the notecards and read them out loud over and over until I could say them from memory.  If you have the scriptures you're memorizing easily accessible, you can take advantage of small pockets of time to work on them, such as waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in the waiting room at the dentist.

One of my professors suggested posting scripture in the shower.  My eyes are not good enough to read anything without my glasses, so I never attempted this, but if you have good eyes, you can type or write out your verses and then have them laminated.  Put it on your shower wall and repeat them aloud while you're soaping up.

The main thing is to put them in front of you often.  Repeat them over and over again until you can say them without looking.

Once you have them memorized, don't forget to come back to them every so often.  Keep them in your mind.  Memorizing scripture isn't beneficial if you forget them.

Decide what verses you want to memorize.  I'll offer you a few scriptures you could start with, but you should choose scripture that you find useful in your life.  If you struggle with worry and anxiety, choose scriptures that calm you.  If you struggle with believing in God's love for you, choose scriptures that remind you of His love.

My biggest suggestion is that you be careful not to take verses out of context.  When you find a verse you like, read at least several verses before and after it.  Make sure you are not pulling a single verse out of a group of verses that should be taken together.

For example, one of the most memorized verses is John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  (NASB)

It's a beautiful verse, but the next several verses add quite a bit to the thought.

"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."  John 3:17-21 (NASB).

I realize that is a mouthful, but you can break it up, memorizing one verse at a time.  Memorizing larger chunks of scripture is hard work, but it is much more fulfilling.  One semester in college, I memorized the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in lieu of a final exam.  It was difficult, but it was a great experience.  I won't suggest that you memorize whole chapters, but know that it is possible if you have the desire to do so.

Suggested Scriptures

Psalm 27:1-3
Proverbs 3:5-8
Isaiah 40: 28-31
Lamentations 3:21-24
Matthew 11:28-30
John 3:16-21
John 14:6-7
Romans 3:21-26
Romans 6:20-23
Romans 8:28-30
Ephesians 2:1-10
2 Peter 3:8-9

Of course there are many others you can choose to memorize, but I don't want to overwhelm you.  Choose one of these or one of your favorite passages and get started!

Did you memorize Bible verses as a child?  Do you still remember any of them?  Have they been useful to you as you have grown?

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4 Responses to Beyond Bible Reading: Memorization

  1. Great ideas Kirra...while I was in SE Asia this fall, a member of my team asked the persecuted Christians there what Americans could do to prepare for persecution. Their answer: memorize Scripture. It's been a great motivator for me to memorize more of God's Words. Just thinking of what I already had memorized helped too. And just think of all the Scripture we have memorized through music we sing during worship! Thanks again for your encouragement!

    1. Several years ago, the church that I was attending had a Sunday School class on the persecuted church. We learned about instances of persecution and prayed for those who are persecuted. On the last day of the class, we had a mock class as if we were in a persecuted county. We "snuck" into a small storage room off of the side of the church, read scripture from scraps of paper or quoted what we had memorized, and we sang a few songs, and then we "snuck" back out a few at a time.

      I know it is a poor example of what it would really be like, but it was an interesting experience.

  2. I still remember verses I learned as a child in VBS. Sadly, I have not continued to memorize as I should. I often remember a verse but no where it is located. Thanks for reminding me I need to put more work into that.

    1. Remembering the words is so much more important than remembering where it is. If you need to know where something is, it's easy to look up online. Knowing what it says is what is going to change lives.

      It's hard to take the time to memorize scripture. Once you get out of school, memorizing anything is almost like pulling teeth, but when we realize how great it is to have scripture stored in our minds, it is much easier.


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