March 4, 2014

Memorizing Scripture, Part 2: The "How"

Yesterday, I wrote about the "why" of memorizing Scripture. Today is the "how."

So, what is the best method for memorizing God's Word, anyway? While there is no one way to go about this task that will work best for every person, there are a few methods that seem to be more user-friendly than others. I have listed seven of these below. "Why seven?" you may ask. If I were playing super-spiritual girl here, I'd say it's because seven is the biblical number of completion. [Snort.] While that may be the case, I can assure you that I am not playing super-spiritual girl today. I can also assure you that there are far more ways to memorize Scripture than seven...so my list is in no way "complete." Yesterday, I gave seven reasons as to the "why," so today mirrors that in the "how." My list below is but a meager attempt to share the methods I have found most useful for me over the years.


1) Use a whiteboard. Write out the entire verse or passage. Then read the passage out loud several times. Erase a few words, interspersed throughout, and read aloud several more times. Erase some more words, and read again. Continue this pattern until all the words are erased from the board, and you are still able to quote them all aloud.



2) Make a keychain. As featured in the title picture above, simply write the verses on small cards that you can attach to a keyring. Keep the cards ever-present, in a pocket or hooked to a handbag. With the keychain option, opportunities abound (think: while in line at the grocery or elsewhere) for reading through the verses and saying them over and over. This is also a super-fun idea to use with kids and youth, as the keychains can be made during a craft-time project at weekly church meetings, etc. The size is up to you, as you can cut your own or go pre-made (like the ones to the right, bought in the school supplies aisle at Target for a couple of bucks). Bring plenty of fun-colored cards to the table, and consider opting for a stronger material as a "cover" for the front and back of the pack. Clear plastic works well, as you can still read the front card through it; however, opaque colors are more readily available (e.g. cut up a folder or other thick material in pieces that match the card size). Then simply secure the stack with a small rubber band so they don't go astray. Cool tip on this one: you can keep adding cards weekly as you select more verses to ingest...just keep some extras on-hand. 

3) Write the verses out, and post them around your home/office/car. By displaying the verses around your home or office, you end up glancing at them pretty frequently - thus giving you a chance to ingrain the words. If your work will allow you to display Scripture, this option allows you to 1) witness to your co-workers and 2) be encouraged by God's Word at otherwise stressful and hectic times. And I bring up the car option not to make you a less competent (read: dangerous!) driver, but because there are many times when we are kept "waiting" in a motor vehicle (e.g. stoplights, banks, fast food drive-thrus, school carpool lines, etc.). I also need to note here that it might help you to place memory verses in areas where the Word can actually apply to your daily affairs. For example, if you struggle with fear and are wanting to memorize 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" - why not place this verse wherever you struggle with fear the most (like on the nightstand - so that when you wake up from a bad dream, you can meditate on that verse)? This way, not only are you able to memorize the verse but also you're able to have it accessible in your time of greatest need.

4) Draw out the verses. Mixing art with learning can oft-times cause the left and right sides of your brain to work in collaborative harmony. I've included a brief example of this to the right, but the key is to make the pictures and words go hand-in-hand in order to help you visualize the verse in your mind and thus recall it better over time because you can "see it" in your head.

5) Sing it! Setting Bible verses to song is an old-as-the-hills tactic...and it's not just for kids! In fact, the Psalms were precisely that: songs, often "songs of ascent" that the Israelites sung as they ascended the topography on their travels. If you are a musician, you may want to write your own tunes; however, revamping songs you already know can be a bit easier. For example, one time I replaced the chorus of DC Talk's "In the Light" with 1 John 1:7. If you know the tune, feel free to sing along with the new lyrics:

"I wanna be in the light
As You are in the light
And have fellowship one with another
And the blood of Je-
-sus Christ, His Son
Cleanses us from all sin."
I also enjoy listening to Christian artists who write Scripture-based songs, often singing the verses word-for-word. Duo Shane and Shane put out an album a while back called "Psalms" that featured music like this.

6) Use the "first letter" system. This happens to be my favorite method because it works very well for me. Once you have read the Scripture through a few times, write down only the first letter of each word. In the picture to the right, you will see my first letter system for James chapter one (part of my current memory project). After I typed it up, I saved this as a picture file that I could set as my smartphone's background and lockscreen. This ensured that I was rarely without a way to freshen up on the passage. Also, this system ensures you can have "prompts" that don't really feel like cheating because you are not having to look at the actual words. [Note: before the days of smartphones, I used to write the first letters of my verse for the day on my hand. This is very effective since it's, like, right there. And I still use it from time to time, but I realize that some of you aren't into "temporary tats."] BTW, you can also use your first word charts for methods 1, 2, and 3.

7) This time, with feeling! Recalling and reviewing your verses should not sound robotic. I remember the days when I sounded like that robot from Lost in Space ("Danger, Will Robinson!), and it was usually due to the fact that I was desperately trying to get through a load of words in order to say that I had memorized them. If you are memorizing for your own personal growth in Christ, you should be lovingly and expressively interacting with the words that you commit to memory. The longer I have known James chapter one, the more I have grown to understand and embrace every verse. And with that knowledge and love comes a passion in proclaiming those words. The person I've seen best embody this non-robotic recall of verses is David Platt. If you have some free time, feel free to click this link to hear him quote Romans 1-8. The entirety is about 24 minutes, but you can hear what I mean within the first few.

As I mentioned at the start, there are many other methods for memorizing Scripture (so feel free to leave your faves in the comments below!). The seven above are the ones I have the most first-hand experience with, as they have really worked for me over the years.

Finally, remember to practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at memorizing God's Word is to keep at it, engaging in the methods that work best for you over and over and over again. Scripture memory is a discipline that takes time to develop - at any age! Don't let length of years fool you into thinking that you're "not good at memorizing" things. I only bring this up because I've heard this excuse time and again. Rest assured, I've seen the above tools work for men and women from 2-92 (or thereabout!) if they only work at it.


So hold your breath, take my hand, and let's jump into this vast ocean of Scripture memory together. You will not regret it! And if you are visiting this post and wondering about the reasons "why" we memorize God's Word, please click here to check out yesterday's blog. [Click here for PART 1 on the "why"!]

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