The Bible is more than just an advice manual or a self-help book. It holds words of encouragement for the weary and messages of comfort for the lonely. Even more than that, God's Word is alive with power that transforms. Experiencing that transforming power has made me passionate about Scripture memorization.
As a child, verses learned from the Bible formed the framework for my understanding of God and the world. I knew God created all things (Genesis 1:1), that He would look after me (Psalms 23:1), and that He wanted me to praise Him (Psalm 100:1). Much of who we are stems from how we think. My parents understood that reality, emphasizing the importance of memorization when I was young and giving me a foundation of truth.
As an adult, meditating on God’s Word has brought about change in my attitude, strength to alter my behavior, and peace in the midst of chaos.
How Memorizing Scripture Changed My Life
Although memorization has long been a pattern in my life, I was surprised anew last summer when God used a chapter on faith to increase my trust in Him.
The chapter was Hebrews 11, often known as the role call of faith. I had often admired the people in this list from Israel’s history. This catalogue of heroes begins each verse with the words "by faith:" “By faith Noah…,” “By faith Abraham…,” “By faith Moses…,” and then it explains how their lives exemplified incredible faith. It was after several months of working on memorizing this chapter that I discovered God had been quietly transforming me.
The company my husband works for was having deep financial difficulties last summer, and we were unsure as to whether or not it would survive. We wanted to remain loyal to the company, but that meant a long season of uncertainty. Three months had passed before the realization hit me that I was not as stressed as I normally would have been given the circumstances. Instead of doubt or worry, there was a confidence inside me that God would see us through this difficulty. The profound truth is that by studying, learning, and reviewing the men and women of the Bible who exhibited great trust in God, faith was increased in my heart.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This doesn’t mean assuming that God will work everything out the way I want Him to, but rather that God can be trusted to do what is best and to guide me through.
Those who live by faith don’t focus on the results; instead they focus on God. “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). These are two very different outcomes, yet both are commended for their faith.
Daily studying and reviewing this passage taught me to focus on God, not my surroundings. That was exactly what Moses did. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
How to Memorize Scripture Effectively
It must be understood that memorization of Scripture is not an easy task. Those who think it should be simple give up quickly, deciding they can’t memorize. Instead, it requires diligence. If hearing about the power of God’s Word has encouraged you to memorize, but you don’t know how, here are some principles that have helped me:
It takes time. Set aside time to memorize, about 15 minutes, at least five times a week. Allow yourself at least six weeks to learn a passage of 20-30 verses.
Choose a version. Choose one Bible from which to memorize. You can use any version with which you are comfortable. I like the NIV because it has a nice flow, but I still have many verses in my brain in KJV from my childhood. Always using the same Bible helps you become familiar with where the verses are on the page.
Choose longer passages. I would encourage you to try a longer passage rather than just one or two verses. Not only does it broaden your understanding by giving you the context of the verses, but it is also easier to remember an entire chapter than many individual references.
Begin by reading. Before starting to memorize, I like to spend a week just reading over the passage. Read it out loud three times each day. This sets the stage for memorization because both your ears and eyes are taking in the information.
Next is memorizing. When you are ready to memorize, read the whole chapter. Next review a smaller section again and again, until you can say it without looking. Then, finish off by reading the whole thing through again. Hopefully you will find that by the time you near the end of the chapter, the flow of the words will be so familiar that it is easier to remember.
Broaden your understanding. By the time you have memorized the passage or chapter, you will have read it at least one hundred times. I have found that my understanding is much greater when I am done, regardless of my grasp on the subject when I first started.
Keep on repeating. To retain a passage once it is memorized, say it often. Use quiet times of highway driving, shoveling snow, or before you drift off to sleep at night, to say the verses quietly in your head. With just a bit of review, you will retain what you have memorized.
Memorizing God’s Word takes time, but like any spiritual discipline, the reward of growing closer to God is beyond measure!