Friday, December 19, 2008

Tips for Memorizing God's Word

I was extremely moved and blessed by this blog entry from Please, please read it for wonderful tips on Scripture memory, but also be sure to watch the video clip of the man psalm 22Image by celeste343 via Flickrreciting Psalm 22. It helped me so much to hear that Psalm spoken with meaning and passion, not just read like a dry piece of fiction.

After being blessed by that blog, I felt drawn to act on an idea that's been floating around in my mind for a while. I couldn't follow through on it while I was being so deeply moved to write the series on false assurance, the false gospel, etc, that I've been focused on. Maybe that's why the inspiration for that series seems to have dried up for the moment. Perhaps it's time for this entry to be written at last.

Memorize the Word!

We don't know how much longer we'll be free to read or quote from the Bible openly, or even how much longer it will be legal to own the Scriptures at all. Canada, our "democratic" neighbor to the North, has outlawed the preaching of certain portions of Scripture, and has persecuted pastors for preaching truth (hate crimes against homosexuals, you know). So it's not melodramatic to think that our religious freedoms are threatened here.
Memorize the Word!
How does one do that? How do we commit the Word to memory? Once again, I recommend the entry from that I referenced above, but of course there are many different methods that help different people. Today I'd like to tell you what has helped me, in the hopes that it may help some of you as well.

First, pray for help with memorizing.
After my heart attack my brain turned into sludge. I couldn't remember anything anymore, it seemed, and I don't know why. It's been four years now, and I know that my memory is much better than it was, but it's still not great. So I frequently ask the Lord, especially before beginning a practice session:

Please help me to memorize beyond my ability.

If you have problems with your memory, or doubt that you can memorize, pray for help. Then step out in faith, setting memorization goals that have no restrictions based on what you are able to do. If we are doing what He wants us to do, then our abilities don't matter. His do. And His are limitless.
Second, make a master "Want to Memorize" list
This is a list of all passages that strike your heart, your conscience, or your mind in any way, but which you aren't able to work on now. Keep this list handy whenever you study the Word, so that you can write down references as you find them. If the list gets too long to be manageable, wonderful! You're treasuring the Word!

I use the software program "Memorize" from Laridian on my Palm OS device. It's the best memorization software I've found to date. It works in conjunction with the wonderful "My Bible" program, and easily imports verses in whatever version(s) you own. It allows you to keep various lists of verses, and you'll see as we go along just how I use this feature. If you don't use this software, use anything that works for you. For many people, that may just be a spiral notebook.
Third, make a "Review Daily" list
This is for passages that you're actively memorizing. You don't know them at all yet, or not well enough that you feel confident you could retain them without daily review. I would recommend that you have more than one passage on your "daily" list at a time. That's because sometimes you'll find that a particular passage is harder than others. If you only work on that passage, it will become a cork in the bottleneck of your memorization plan. If you have several passages to work on at any given time, the tough one may stay on your "daily" list for quite a while, but in the meantime you will be mastering easier ones and continuing to accomplish your goals. Currently, my "Daily Review" list has 22 passages on it, for a total of 48 verses. Remember, it has nothing to do with how many I am able to memorize, but simply with how many I feel led to work on now. The Lord provides the ability. Some will require a lot of time, and others will be easier to master. It's all good. Don't try to set a specific number for yourself, unless that sort of thing helps you.

I think it's important to note here that nothing could be worse than stressing out over your memorization. Don't let Satan get you into that trap! This is a pleasure. A joy. A glorious privilege. Enjoy the Word as you receive it with meekness and the Spirit implants it in your soul (Jas. 1:21). Besides, you'll memorize more easily if you're relaxed with it.

The genius of the "Memorize" program lies in its memory game. When you're ready to work on a passage, you click on "Test." The program gives you a blank screen and asks you to type just the first letter of every word. If you hit the right first letter, the whole word will appear on the screen. If you need help, you hit "Help," and the next word will appear for you. It's simple, but very powerful.

You can do similar things for yourself without software. Copy your passages on a white board or chalkboard and then erase one word at a time, repeating the entire passage and mentally filling in the blanks everywhere you've made an erasure. Or copy the verse on paper and scribble out words one at a time. Use your imagination. It all helps.

When you feel confident that you know a passage well enough to be able to review it only once per week, then move it to a specific day of the week list.
Make Review Lists for Each Day of the Week
Actually, I don't have a review list for Sundays, and I often use Sundays to catch up if I've gotten behind during the week. But each of my lists for Monday through Saturday is populated with verses that started in the "Want to Memorize" list, were memorized on the "Review Daily" list, and have now graduated to being, say, a Monday verse, or a Tuesday verse.

After a while, as my "day of the week" lists got longer, I realized that it was important to keep them fairly even in length, so that I wouldn't have one really simple day and another one that gave me a mental tsunami. Of course, if your schedule is such that you logically need some days to be lighter than others, then adjust your lists to meet your needs.

As you move items from your "daily" list into a "day of the week" list, you'll want to re-stock your daily list with new things to memorize. That's where your "Want to Memorize" list will come in handy. I find it very helpful to try to replace outgoing passages with ones of a similar size. So if I just mastered a passage with three verses, I might want to bring on roughly three new verses to take their place.

Oh, and I think it's important to mention here that you might not want the verse references (or "addresses") to be a major issue. I am horrible at remembering addresses, and if I refused to graduate a verse off of my daily list until the address was perfectly mastered, I'd have far less of the Word in my heart right now. I do my best with them, but I don't let them hold me back.

I always feel excited when I get to bring new verses onto my "review daily" list. It's like a mini-Christmas, looking back through my big "Want to Memorize" list and choosing what to work on next. God's Word is so precious!

Currently, each of my "day of the week" lists has between 70 and 76 verses. God is answering prayer and faithfully enabling me to memorize beyond my ability! Praise Him! However, the length of the lists is beginning to be a problem, and there are days when I don't get to do the whole thing. So my next logical step will be the use of "Monthly Review" lists. (I don't mean a list for January and a list for February, etc. That would mean that those passages would be reviewed only once per year!) But I need to establish a list for passages that I know well enough to take off of a "day of the week" list and move to a "once a month" list. And then I need to set aside time in my months to work on that list.

Do you have a plan for memorizing Scripture? Any tips to help others do the same? Please let us know in a comment below, whether by putting the details right in the comment or linking to your own blog. And if you have an encouraging word about how memorization has helped you in your walk with the Lord, please let us know as well.


Mary Moss said...

This is awesome! I really appreciate your sharing this method. I have long wanted to commit so many verses to memory and they just get all jumbled up!

I'm going to print this off and start right after the first of the year. I might even challenge myself to see how many verses I can have memorized by the end of the year:-)

Julie said...

I like to memorize passages, rather than individual verses. They flow together in a coherent way, and I remember them better (than a list that is disjointed).

My trick for memorizing:

Write down the first letter of each word in the passage, with punctuation. Thus, the beginning of Psalm 23 (NIV) looks like:



That helps give my memory a little jog and prevents me from getting off course. And I can get a little "hint" without giving myself too much of a hint.

Just my 2 cents.


Yvonne said...

I've been wanting to get serious about memorizing Scripture this next year, too.

I find it easiest to learn whole chapters or sections. It puts the thoughts into context and you can also remember the reference easier.(at least the book and chapter)

My mother-in-law had Alzheimers and even though she could read anymore or even recognize her own children, she could quote Scripture after Scripture that she had memorized. It shamed many of us into learning more, while we still can. I wrote about her in "Whistling to the Lord" on a FaithWriter's Challenge.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

OK, I feel so guilty after reading this; I'm not a good least not a deliberate one. I do keep notecards by my bed and with me to review, but I know this must become a higher priority in my life. I love your tips and your non-emphasis on perfection. Sometimes I just sit with a passage for a few days until it seeps in. I'm a concept girl, more than a word for word gal. Addresses are becoming more familiar to me; at least I usually hit the right book!

Thanks for the kick. I need it!


karin said...

Attending Sunday School was where I learned to memorize Scripture. We had a Golden Text to memorize every Sunday. If we learned another 100 verses in addition to the 52, we got to go to camp for free! I went every year! This was a wonderful incentive for us immigrant kids.

With a little refresher course I can probably recite them all - in German, of course, because that was the language spoken in our church.

To memorize Scripture now is a huge challenge! One way I've learned a lot of English verses is in song! What a help it is to sing. I still know the disciples because of the songs. I taught all those Scripture choruses to my children and they are teaching theirs.

I work with seniors and find so true what your commenter Yvonne said! That's one of the things I do with our residents who are Christian and who suffer from dementia. I'll start the Bible verse and you should hear them finish it for me!!! One of our residents was a pastor who had brain surgery and subsequent dementia setting in. His attempts at ordinary conversation were no longer effective, but when asked to pray he spoke fluently! What a joy that was to my spirit!

Thank you so much for this post and all the wonderful memories and inspiration it evoked!

Laurie M. said...

Oh Betsy,

Your blog has been one of the most encouraging to me! I've had memorization on the brain lately. I'm becoming keenly aware that my memory is not what it used to be. I've been, as your friend Elaine puts it, a concept person. But I feel compelled to fight harder to not give in to mental laxity. I want to have the Scripture at the ready, stored in my heart for any emergency. I think I'd like to take a book of the Bible, one chapter at a time. The New Year seems like a great time to start.

Now I need to pick a version.

Josh said...

What a wonderful and in-depth post. You have given a lot of great tips.

I attended a private elementary school, and back then, we were required to memorize scripture. What a wonderful exercise that was! I need to begin memorizing scripture again.

This is a wonderful topic, and you have motivated me to start marking down my favorites and implanting them in my heart and head.

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