One of the most helpful, yet neglected, spiritual disciplines is memorizing Scripture. Why do we often neglect to memorize verses of the Bible? After all, it is the living and active Word of God (Heb 4:12). Don’t we want to know countless verses and passages of God’s Word by heart, so that we can recall them at a moments notice when we are tempted, or when sharing the gospel with a neighbor, or when we are in the daily grind of mothering, studying, working? Don’t we want that?
Simply, we do not memorize the Bible because our sinful flesh will always resist it. Our flesh is naturally prone to laziness (Prov 6:9), specifically laziness in this area of our Christian life. The devil will prey on the sinful desires of your heart and do whatever he can to keep you from your Bible. He will work even harder to keep you from putting your Bible in your heart, rendering our enemy defenseless against you from recalling God’s truth at a moments notice.
Don’t be discouraged if you struggle here. God gives more grace. We are all sinners. The blood of Jesus has covered all our failed attempts and neglect in memorizing Scripture. We will never memorize the Bible as we ought, but where we fail in this habit Christ is gracious to forgive us (Rom 8:1, 34). So let’s resist the devil, draw near to God, and lean into Christ and his grace, asking him to help us memorize the Bible.
I want to briefly give us a few (not all) Biblical mandates for why we should memorize God’s Word, and then I will present helpful methods for memorization that anyone can apply.
1. Memorizing the Bible revives our weary souls and makes our hearts rejoice in God.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right rejoicing the heart.” -Psalm 19:7-8
God’s Word is what allows us to enjoy God, which we were made to do. Fill your heart with the enjoyment of Christ. For this reason, David tells that we should desire God’s Word more than fine gold (Ps 19:10). Put it this way: we should desire to memorize God’s Word more than we desire to have 10 million dollars.
2. Memorizing the Bible gives us a vault of verses for fighting sin.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against God.” –Ps 119:11
Even the sinless Son of God used God’s Word to fight off the Tempter.
“And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” –Matt 4:3–4
Fill the warehouse of your heart with the sword of the Spirit, ready to be drawn out at a moments notice to extinguish the flaming darts of the enemy (Eph 6:16–17).
3. Memorizing the Bible gives us words of transforming power when sharing the gospel.
“[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening of my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” –Eph 6:19
When I am sharing the gospel with an unbeliever, it won’t be my words that have power; it will be the word of God in the gospel that has the power to save.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” –Romans 1:16
So let's memorize the gospel from God’s Word so that when we are having a gospel conversation we are able to speak God’s words not our own. Let the Word do the work.
Methods and Resources
These are just a few of the many practices you can use to help you memorize scripture:
The Index Card –write a verse on an index card and keep it in your pocket and periodically check it throughout the day. This approach is helpful while at school or work.
The Pen Scratch – write a verse reference on your hand so that you can constantly be reminded of it throughout the day.
The Lock Screen – taking a screenshot of a verse and setting it as your background on your phone for you to constantly see each time you grab your phone.
The Doorpost – Using the language of Dt. 6:9, take a verse and write it out and stick it somewhere visible to be seen constantly in your home: mirror, cabinet, fridge, walls, closet, pantry, desk. You get it.
The Masterpiece – If you like drawing, you can draw pictures in a notebook that describe the different elements of a verse. You may remember visual pictures better than words.
The App – There are multiple phones apps helpful for memorizing. The one I use and highly recommend is Fighter Verses. It costs a few bucks, but for the sake of your soul I think it is worth it.
Yet, there is one method that I find most helpful for memorizing verses, specifically larger passages of Scripture. It comes from Andy Davis (Pastor, FBC Durham, NC). I will call his approach:
The Long Term
It is a method built on reading and repetition, for the purpose of memorizing longer passages of Scripture (which I find more valuable than individual verses). The approach looks something like this.
Let’s say you set out to memorize Ephesians 2:1-10 (a glorious gospel text!). Here’s what you would do.
Day 1: You would read Eph. 2:1 ten times out loud. Read intentionally with your eyes on the page of your Bible. Look carefully at the words each time you read. Then, close your Bible, and try to repeat the verse out loud ten times in a row. Do not minimize the number of times you recite it. You may be tempted to stop as soon as you think you’ve got it after saying it only 3 times. Keep going up to ten times. Repetition is vital.
Day 2: Repeat out loud Eph. 2:1 ten times again. Then move to Eph. 2:2 and repeat what you did on day one.
Day 3: Repeat Eph. 2:1, out loud only one time. Then repeat Eph. 2:2 out loud ten times. Then repeat day one for Eph. 2:3
Day 4: Repeat Eph. 2:1-2 out loud one time, then Eph. 2:3 out loud ten times. Then repeat day one for Eph. 2:4.
Follow this pattern for as many days necessary for your passage. The only verses you are reading and/or repeating ten times is yesterday’s verse and today’s verse. All the other verses leading up to this will be said out loud only once.
As the days go on, it is helpful to review the passage you have memorized by saying it out loud to yourself about once a week.
You may find yourself getting hooked on this method, and getting hooked on memorizing the Bible! Praise God!
Start with a paragraph of Scripture you want in your heart and apply this method to it. After you get hooked on this, move up to memorizing a chapter you love (like Romans 8 J). Then after you get hooked on this, set a long term goal to try to memorize an entire book of the Bible! Christ is with you. He will help you. Start with shorter books like Philippians, Colossians, or 1 John.
I pray memorizing Scripture becomes something you realize God will help you to do as you ask him. I pray it becomes a great delight to your heart and pleasant to your soul.
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col 3:16).