When most people memorize things, they simply read it over and over until they "program" their memories. Repetition, repetition, repetition. If you ask me, that sounds kinda boring!
But memorizing Scripture is a great way to meditate on God's Word (Psalm 1:2)! In my later years at school, I competed in multiple Scripture memory competitions. One year, I managed to memorize over 1,100 Bible verses in about 6 months. I gained many useful memory skills (also helpful for other school tests!), and I was able to turn memorization from drudgery to delight. Here are my top tips and tricks.
While you can memorize a verse by simply re-reading it frequently, I have found it more beneficial to set aside a specific amount of time, like 15 minutes, to learn the verse(s) and then review it on a frequent basis, perhaps for the same amount of time each day.
Pick a place free from interruptions—and silence your phone. (It's amazing how quickly a glance at social media can derail us!) As you begin, ask God to teach you and help you hide His Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11).
When you start memorizing a new verse or passage, it's important to understand what it means. It is very difficult to memorize something you don’t fully understand. Not to mention that applying that verse is nearly impossible if you don’t fully get it.
Yes, memorizing the words of the Bible is important, but don’t overlook the importance of understanding what it really means and how it applies to you. Words without meaning are just words and have no power.
Study the verse in context and maybe even check cross references if necessary. One of our favorite context resources is BibleRef.com. If there are any words or phrases that you don’t understand, look them up first. You can also ask your youth pastor or use a study Bible to learn more.
If you usually memorize Scripture by repeating the verse silently, try repeating it OUT LOUD. Hearing your own voice saying the words can help you to stay focused. When we're sitting in our own heads, sometimes we can get mentally distracted. Using an auditory tool like your voice engages more of your senses and skills at once (i.e. hearing, reading, speaking), which can heighten the formation of long-term memories.
As you repeat the verse out loud, try to visualize the words. What symbols help you remember them? Try writing out the verse and drawing images above each word. Use shapes or colors that will help spark your memory. Try highlighting repeated phrases or words in the same color. For example, maybe every time you see the word "God," you highlight it in yellow. If I was memorizing John 3:16, I might draw the following pictures:
As you can see, you don't have to be good at art! These are just symbols to help the brain recall the words. When you're trying to remember a verse from memory, you can imagine those symbols in your mind’s eye to help you.
Here's why I did what I did:
You don’t have to follow my example. Just do whatever makes sense to you!
Now we're going to take our symbolic visualizations to the next level by adding physical movements to help the brain reference the words. For example, if I were adding actions for John 3:16, I might do something like this:
When drawing symbols or creating actions, it's important that you keep the same pictures and motions for each repeated word but make sure to have different symbols and actions for different words.
For example, if your action for "prayer" is folding your hands, then always use that action for "pray" when it's included in a verse. If you use a gold triangle for "God," don't also use a gold triangle for the word "king." Use a different symbol for "king," such as a purple crown. It's like you're creating a whole new language for yourself—even if only you know what it means.
Having these symbols and actions ready, as you say the verse out loud, you can look at your visuals and do your movements. This engages even more senses and skills! If trying to keep track of both those things proves to be a little overwhelming, try doing the actions alone or just the symbols. Sometimes you may only need the cues for challenging sections. Other times, you may want all the help you can get for the whole verse. When choosing symbols and actions, find things that are personal and familiar. Be as crazy and vivid as you’d like! These techniques make it easier to recall what you're memorizing.
Review your verses one hour after you have finished your memorizing time for the day. This helps to move your verse from short term to long term memory. Review new verses on a more frequent basis, but don’t forget to also review old verses to keep them fresh.
Sometimes I would record myself reciting from memory, then I could listen to those verses throughout the day or as I was falling asleep. You could ask other people listen to your recitations to make sure you've got it. You can record yourself in a voice note or video, then check yourself while following along in your Bible. If there's a mistake, underline it on your written copy so you can be aware of that spot as you do future reviews.
TBH, when I first started memorizing, I did it to please my mom. But as I went through the motions, God changed my heart. Instead of memorizing to please others, I wanted to do it to please the Lord. As I began to hide Scripture in my heart, His words indeed became sweet to my taste (Psalm 119:103).
I found great joy and delight in memorizing and mediating on His teaching and being in His presence through the Bible (Psalm 16:11). My relationship with God became living and active because I was learning to know Him through His Word (Hebrew 4:12; John 17:3).
There are lots of great ways to memorize Scripture; this is just what worked for me. If you have a method that works for you, please share it in the comments so we can learn from each other! The time you spend memorizing God’s Word is the best investment you will ever make.
Memorizing Scripture is important so that we can hide God’s Word in our heart (Psalm 119:11) and meditate on it throughout the day (Psalm 1:2). First, find a quiet place with few distractions and set aside at least 15 minutes to focus on learning your verse(s). If there's any part of it you don't understand— whether content, words, or phrases—seek Bible resources to help. Try reading aloud, drawing symbols, or acting out motions for each word, using all your senses to help the memorization process. Be sure to review verses frequently to remember what you have learned. The time you spend memorizing God’s Word is the best investment you will ever make.
Hanna loves spending time with kids and teens. She enjoys being detectives with them to investigate God's Word to discover truths to answer any questions. She is the co-author of a newly published apologetics curriculum for children and teaches one online for highschoolers-adults. To learn more about her ministry you can visit networkerstec.com. For fun, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee, read historical fiction, and paint.