5 helps for memorizing Bible verses

5 Helps for Memorizing Bible Verses_LisaNotes

Maybe you already memorize Bible verses. Maybe you’ve never tried. This isn’t a post about why you should or shouldn’t. It’s just about some ways you can.

1. PRACTICE WITH FIRST LETTERS

This helps in the early stages. Insert the verse you’re memorizing in the empty box on this site—“How to Memorize Verbatim Text”. Click “convert” to get the first letter of each word. Then by looking at the first letters only (you don’t have to memorize these), practice saying the verse. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can say the verse using only these letters.

For John 15, I’m reviewing only the previous week’s verses and the current week’s verses twice a day this way. I copied the letters into my Outlook calendar as a recurring appointment each morning and afternoon. Each review takes only about 30 seconds.

2. LEARN THE FIRST WORDS

A big stumbling block is the inability to recall the first word of each verse. Make special efforts to learn it solidly. Try highlighting the first word of each verse of a chapter or section you’re memorizing. Then look for loose patterns among those first words. With Isaiah 55, verses 8-10 all started with “For.” Even though I wasn’t consciously trying to memorize that, it helped push me from the end of one verse to the beginning of the next.

When you’re memorizing several verses in a row, little things can give you a huge boost forward.

3. DRAW IT UP

Make a cartoon sketch to capture the flow of the verse, using whatever images help you best remember the words (sometimes the crazier, the better). You don’t have to draw out every word, but at least hit the main nouns and verbs.

I don’t do this with every verse, but it definitely helps burn a verse in my memory when I do it with hard ones.

4. MAP IT OUT

Hard-core memorizers of random strings of numbers and cards use a map method [read Joshua Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein]. It should work even easier when memorizing connected things. Here’s how I used a mental map to memorize Isaiah 55.

Isa 55:1 – “Come, everyone who thirsts” (Start at my kitchen sink)
Isa 55:2—“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread” (Go left to the pantry where I keep bread)
Isa 55:3—“Incline your ear” (Keep going left to hear the ice maker—it’s a stretch, I know)

And so on with each verse, one step at a time around my kitchen. 13 verses, 13 sequential stopping points. With John 15, I’m mentally starting at my bedroom door with verses 1 and 2, working through dresser drawers, windows, wall pictures, etc., with subsequent verses.

5. DISSECT IT

If word etymology interests you, look up each main word in its original Greek or Hebrew to uncover a fuller meaning. (I use e-Sword.net which makes it super easy and it’s free.) Better understanding the original intent makes it stickier in your memory. I only spend a few minutes at the beginning of the week doing this, but it goes a long way in comprehending and remembering the text.

Also try reading your verse in different translations, looking up what others say in commentaries, cross-referencing key words to other passages, etc. Your memory verse can be a great study opportunity.

And finally:

Don’t do every thing every day! You’ll give up after the first week. [Read “5 reasons to not give up”] Just a few minutes per day of concentrated effort can take you farther than you imagine.

Because in the end, it’s your relationship with God that matters the most, not how many words you’ve memorized.

Embedding his words in your head is worthless if they don’t do something to your heart.

Like any other spiritual discipline, memorizing scripture is only one means to this beautiful end: discovering how much God loves you and loving him back because of it.

* * *

Please share your own practical tips about memorizing scripture.

Related:

31 thoughts on “5 helps for memorizing Bible verses

  1. Sharon

    Great advice! I have trouble memorizing – I have trouble remembering where my keys are!! So these are great helps! And the result? – “discovering how much God loves you and loving him back because of it” – oh yeah, that’s quite a reward!!

    GOD BLESS!

  2. blankKortney

    I love this! Thank you for this post. I especially like how you talk about mapping. I do hand motions with my daughters, but I never thought about walking around the room to memorize some portions of scripture that I want to memorize. Ive been trying to memorize Hebrews 11, and Ive just been stuck on verse 9 for about 6 months. 🙂 I really am going to try that and see if it helps, because I so want Gods word in my heart. Im next to your linky on holleygerth. Glad I stopped!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Hand motions are wonderful too, no matter what our age. Maybe I need to incorporate them into John 15….

      Mapping really made a difference for me with both Isaiah 55 and Ephesians 1. Even though I still can’t get all the words straight for Ephesians, I at least remember the general concept of each verse because I associate it with a walk through my house. 🙂

  3. blankDavid

    Dear Lisa

    I am finally learning a bit of Scripture myself (just a few verses from James), so I can try some of these out.

    In the past learning large chunks of prose I’ve just dinned it in with kind of brute force. (1) sounds *really* hardcore! I like (2) (once when our son was small we learned a poem together by shouting out the last word of each line)(last because of the rhyming).

    Learning sonnets or speeches from Shakespeare, I think to myself, “How would I say this if it was really me saying/thinking/feeling it?” That helps with learning, and of course it helps with understanding. It might work sometimes with scripture.

    Thank you

    David

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Hey, whatever works. 🙂 My daughters used to make up songs to their memory verses and record them on our cassette player (it dates us, I know). But it made them stick.

      I totally agree that if we try to get behind the words, it makes a difference too. And if it’s something we’ve decided to remember, it’s something we want to spend time with and sink in deep. Thanks for sharing, David. Great verses you’ve chosen to learn!

  4. blankSherrey Meyer

    Lisa, stopping by from #TellHisStory and enjoyed reading your memorization tips. A simplified form of these would be great to use with elementary age kids in our Sunday School. I used to be great at memorization, even on the job I could remember client file numbers without looking, client names if the boss couldn’t and he’d give a description, phone numbers — you name it! But since childhood, every time I’ve tried to memorize Scripture, I have faltered. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’ll keep your post handy and it give a try. I do have favorite verses, read so many times they are engrained. But to start out to memorize something intentionally, sigh ……..

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      If you were once good at memorizing, I’m guessing it’d come back to you easier than you think. My youngest daughter is like you: things come so easily to her, always have. She memorizes circles around me. I was concerned once she went to college that I would stop trying to memorize scripture. But now I do it with Do Not Depart and they keep me on track.

  5. blankDianna

    Lisa, thank you for sharing these tips here today. I am impressed that doing #1 twice a day can bring such wonderful results. I’ve been using Scripture Typer because of all of its different options it gives…changing the words, typing for speed, typing for accuracy. But I am finding that when you’ve put up the first letters over at Hide His Word that I don’t always get it right the first time. SO…I’m going to the application you linked to here today and give this method a try! And I love it that you put it on your Calender to do it twice a day! GREAT idea!

  6. blankAndrew Budek-Schmeisser

    These are some great ideas – both in the blog, and in the comments.

    I memorize by writing things out, again and again. When i was studying for my PhD qualifying exams, there was a mathematical derivation whose logic I just couldn’t follow.

    So I carried a notebook everywhere, and wrote the thing out whenever I had a free moment.

    One day I was doing this while standing in line at the grocery store, and the rather attractive woman behind me asked “What are you writing? Ideas for a novel?” (I was single at the time.)

    I showed her the pages of Greek letters and mathematical symbols, and she said, “Oh.”

    Thus was I consigned to Nerdville.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      What a great story, Andrew. Guess that wasn’t the right woman for you. ha.

      But you make a great point: writing it out is a wonderful way to memorize something. Some of the ladies in our Do Not Depart memory group have done that. It takes a lot of effort but I guess that’s part of what makes it stick. Thanks for reminding me of that option; I need to do it a bit more. There’s something about writing things out by hand that makes connections in our brain….

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      If you like to get analytical, the dissecting part is lots of fun. 🙂 I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I enjoy it and I always learn something extra to help me understand the verse better.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Ha. Actually I don’t think I have a very good memory about a lot of things that I don’t pay attention to. I probably have to work twice as hard to learn half as much. 😉

  7. blankRiana

    Thanks so much for this Lisa. I definitely need to set reminders for myself, I think that might help me more in getting the memory verses to stick. 🙂

  8. blankKim Adams Morgan

    Hi Lisa, I love that you are teaching this. I’m not great at remembering anything, but from way back our first pastor was big on this and so I dug in. I’m so glad I did. I still remember the first one we learned. I’d like to say I can recount all of them…but I can’t. One day I will be closer.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I can’t recall all the verses I learned once upon a time either. 🙁 But I like to think they’re still in there somewhere floating around. Even if we can’t remember them word for word, hopefully the concepts remain and continue to draw us closer to the Living Word.

  9. blankPamela

    I had to laugh when I read the “draw it out” idea, Lisa. My family laughs at me because every story I ever told was marked up with letters and drawings. I memorized them and told the story from the long string of them down a page. Somehow I could see the symbols. I will admit, the older I’ve gotten the harder it is. I’m so thankful for those chapters I committed to memory as a child. The mapping it out intrigued me–I’m going to try it. ~Pamela

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’d love to see your drawings, Pamela. Things that we draw, we’re more likely to remember, right? It works that way for me, too. But my drawings would help no one else but me, I’m sure. ha.

  10. Pingback: Laudable Linkage | Stray Thoughts

  11. blankBrooke Espinoza

    These are great, Lisa! The map it out one was very interesting! I like doing word studies and listening to Bible teachings on verses with words or phrasing that are unfamiliar to me at face value. It helps me better understand the message communicated in the verse. I think I will try drawing it out, too. That’s a great idea! Thanks!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Brooke. It’s really been helpful to me so far with John 15 to have a mental map. I’m walking through my bedroom with it (in my mind). It’d make sense to no one but me, but that’s okay if it’s working. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *