How I Memorize Scripture

My mind sometimes gets tripped up like a broken record, repeating the same thoughts obsessively. I am 41 and I wonder if days like these are a hormonal symptom of perimenopause or if I’m just going crazy. 
But even if the repeated thinking feels out of control, I do have control of what I think.  Recently I discovered that I can turn off mucky thoughts if I turn on the familiar passages of the Bible and just let those words tumble around in my mind. And when I do, I trust that God gives me those verses for that moment in time, and the Spirit speaks to my heart.
I used to be better at memorizing Bible passages. While I lived in Texas, it was easy to devote the 30 minute ride on the commuter bus from the suburbs to the big downtown city memorizing passages while gazing out the window if I wasn’t sitting next to someone chatty.  My lifestyle is different now in Kansas - sometimes I memorize while walking to and from parking lots, on walking breaks, waiting in lines, or a momentary mind vacation from my work while in the office.  Not being as diligent as I used to be, I decided to develop a more systematic method in hopes that a plan would set my pace.
First, I flipped through the Bible and wrote out the reference to every verse/passage that I had ever committed to memory, including those I no longer remembered quite so well.  In the process, I came across passages that I wished I had committed to memory, and wrote them down too. Then I made a chart that listed each reference with a few words to trigger my memory and boxes that I could check off each time I reviewed it.  My goal was to review all the verse I knew 4 times this year so that I could transfer short-term memory verses into the long-term part of my brain.  My table is set up something like this:
John 3:16-17
For God so loved

James 1:22-25
Do not merely

My Scripture memory method is divided into 3 parts: 1) reviewing a verse I already know, 2) memorizing something new, 3) refreshing my memory on a verse recently learned:
1.  Review a verse on the list that I already know, saying it several times without looking. Then I use the verse in prayer while thinking about what it means and how God wants me to apply it to my life.  I listen.  Then if I can recite the verse fairly easily, I place an x in the box. If I can’t, I will practice it again the next day.
2. At the beginning of the week, I choose a new verse or two and type it in italics on the list. Then I write it on the back of an old business card and carry it around with me.  I learn it by:
o   Understanding what the verse really means in context and consulting commentaries for fuller understanding if I desire;
o   Breaking it into phrases, repeating each phrase five times to myself;
o   Adding two phrases together and repeating them five times;
o   Adding three phrases together and repeating them five times, and then another phrase until eventually I have put the whole verse together. 
o   When I can repeat the verse five times to myself the following day without looking, I know that I have committed it to my short term memory and can pick a new verse while still working on committing it to my long-term memory.
3. Repeat the previously learned verse daily until it comes to memory easily for the next few days.  I put an x in the box when I feel like I really know it.
I want Scripture memory to be a tool for talking to God and hearing Him speak into my heart and actions every day instead of just another thing to check off my list.  As much as I wish I were more systematic and disciplined, I protect my head from legalism by not berating myself if I go for days without practicing.
Yet, I want to be disciplined too, so finding the balance without teetering on legalism is a challenge.  Ultimately, I never do all that I plan and desire to do, but if I go for weeks at a time without any effort, I eventually notice enough to ask myself why. Did I get overwhelmed? Was my plan to complex? Am I just lazy? Did I feel like I needed a break?  I diagnose the problem and push myself back into a plan, maybe starting with smaller bites.  I know that God sees my heart and is cheering me on during those times that I make the effort, and the effort will be rewarded.


  1. I think it's really helpful, i love memorizing scripture and I am pretty good at it too,..have you ever read the book How To Study The Bible for Yourself by Tim LaHaye? He's got some great ideas for memorization in that book. Anything to draw us near to God!

    1. After reading your comment, I searched for Tim LaHaye's book "How to Study the Bible for Yourself" on my book shelves. Yes, he has an excellent chapter on memorizing Scripture! Maybe I'll blog about it too! My ideas must have originated from this book when I read it many many years ago.

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  3. Oh so you have read his book? I ordered like 20 new ones (mine is from the 70's thrifted) and have given them to new believers etc because I am such a believer in reading God's Word daily for transformation to happen! I know the minute my life has ANY sort of worldly chaos in it it's because I have spent less time in the Word and less time with God. Tim LaHaye's book is so so good for us to see why the bible is so so vital etc...
    thanks for this wonderful post again!

    1. I re-read parts of the book since your first comment -- wow -- It's really good! How does it compare to the new one? Even the 1976 version would be a great book for new believers (or even older believers) who really want to know how to dive into studying the Bible and hearing God speak to them without the crutch of a devotional. I think "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth" by Fee & Stuart would be a good advanced tool after reading LaHaye's "How to Study the Bible for Yourself". Thanks for pointing me back to this book and for being a sister sojourner in Scripture memory!