9 Steps to Easier Memorization
You know the kind of experience that really seals something in you? While much of life happens in process and with slow growth, there are some things that cause you to walk away immediately changed.
I’ve cherished Scripture memorization since I was a little girl, but the first time I read Corrie Ten Boom’s book, “The Hiding Place,” many years ago, something really hit me. In my life, it’s been an incredible gift to have always had access to a Bible. But what there comes a day when I lose that freedom, for one reason or another? What if I’m ever in a place where I can’t get my hands on a Bible?
Right then, I knew that I needed to hide as much Scripture as possible in my heart so that no matter what my future circumstances would be, no matter where I ended up, I’d have access to God’s written Word.
I was in high school when I first memorized a book of the Bible. I didn't have any intention of memorizing the entire book when I started. In fact, I began with just a few verses from the last chapter of the letter. My practice until that point was to memorize a few verses at a time, maybe a whole Psalm, but it was usually just whatever felt needful and relevant to me at the time. This is where I started in James:
"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops," (James 5:16b-18).
The very same day I memorized those words, God was already using them in my life to help me to trust Him more. I started to understand, in even the smallest way, what the Psalmist means when he says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you,” (Psalm 119:11).
The hunger for Scripture memorization grew in me from there and I couldn’t get enough of it. I would read through new passages and pray through them at night, then work to memorize them first thing in the morning, and I’d carry little “cheat sheets” (on which I would write the first letter of each word of the passage) along me throughout the day.
The craziest thing happened. Within just two weeks, I had memorized the entire book of James. What?! I know—I don’t really understand how it happened, either. But from there, I never wanted to stop. God had sealed a passion in me. From James, I went on to Ephesians, to Philippians, to Colossians, then to chapters from Psalms and Isaiah, from the gospels and from Romans…
Little did I know, when I began hiding His Word in my heart, how very much I would need those words available to me in dark moments later on.
James was my prayer over my babies during long nights awake with them.
Philippians was my anthem while suffering with CRPS and throughout painful nights in the hospital.
Psalms like 27, 34, 124, and so many others were lifelines to me during the hardest moments of my marriage.
Romans 8 has been my battle cry against fear.
1 Peter helped me to hang onto hope through some other very difficult and confusing circumstances.
Psalms 16 and 63 and Isaiah 35 have been continual reminders of God’s joy in moments that have felt mundane.
Deuteronomy 6, Isaiah 40, and Colossians 3 have been huge helps in my parenting.
The Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 reminds me every day how desperately I need God’s strength to follow after Him at all.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it,” (Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV).
God is so faithful. I want to know Him more. I want to love Him more. A dream of mine is to ultimately memorize the whole Bible. Is it possible? Is it necessary? Is it a little bit crazy? I don't know. But here’s what I do know: it's the living, breathing Word of my God, and I want it deep in my heart. It’s strength and it’s guidance and it’s peace and it’s security and it’s hope.
I get asked often what my methods are for memorizing Scripture, and I’m sure there are countless ways to do it. I have not, by any means, cracked a code. I’ve just figured out what works for my brain, so I’ll pass it along in case it can help you, too:
9 Steps to Easier Memorization
1. Think and pray. What truth do you need to focus on right now? Ask God to point you to the words He wants to lead you with in this season so that you can better know Him, love Him, and follow Him.
2. Meditate on the Words. Words won’t mean much to us if we don’t understand them. We need to process what the words are really saying and how they fit into the whole Bible. What does this verse teach me about God? What is the truth that I need to cling to?
3. Say the verse out loud. Acknowledge the truth and let it sink in.
4. Write out the words of the verse(s). Write them out three times, by hand. Writing the words out helps to create a pattern in your mind so you will be more likely to remember them.
5. Make a cheat sheet with the first letter of each word and the punctuation. You can use this for practice while you’re memorizing and for reviewing later on. Try writing it on a card you can take with you on-the-go or placing it somewhere you’ll regularly see it.
6. Using just your cheat sheet as a guide, write out the full verse again.
7. Carry the verse with you. Go back to it again and again. Place copies of it in strategic places where you’ll see them as you go about your day.
8. Using your cheat sheet, practice reciting the verse out loud.
9. Once you’ve memorized a verse, revisit it often so that it stays fresh in your memory. Ask God to help you live His Word out.
There’s a printable version of these steps below. If you want a place to work through the same tools, you can grab a Hidden: Scripture Memory Journal in the To Choose Joy shop.
If any of this has been encouraging or helpful to you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you have more methods for Scripture memory, would you please share those, too? We’d be so grateful to hear them!
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.