How do you memorize a Bible verse?

Girl memorizing her Hebrew lesson photographed by the Government Press Office in 1979
Image: “Girl memorizing her Hebrew lesson” photographed by the Government Press Office in 1979

You want to begin memorizing Scripture verses. But what do you do? How does it work? What are the steps? Here are a whole lot of practical pointers:

 

SAY IT ALOUD

Many people find it helps to say it aloud. It is more effective to “say” it than to “think” it.

By saying it aloud, you involve a whole lot of muscles in your memorization. Your lips and tongue and jaw and lungs and diaphragm are all in on it. It feels like they conspire to make memorization easier.

Saying your verse aloud means that you add the auditory element. Now you’re hearing the verse. For many people, hearing helps them remember it. Faith comes by hearing, St. Paul said.

You might feel a little embarrassed to be saying your verse aloud. I mean, the people on your walking trail might think you’re a little “off” if you seem to be talking to yourself.

But you might be able to pick a location where you’re alone. How about your office? Your car? A secluded sidewalk? While vacuuming the living room or raking the leaves?

 

SAY IT VERBATIM

To be able to quote a verse verbatim is powerful. The text becomes living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (see Hebrews 4:12).

But some people feel the important thing is to get the “concept” of a verse. They don’t worry so much about getting it verbatim. The weakness of this approach is that you’ll never really “have” the verse.

You’ve probably met people who said something like this: “As it says in the Bible, ____.” That’s pretty unconvincing, both for the hearer and for the speaker. Its a thousand times more powerful to quote it verbatim, both for yourself and for your hearer.

Even though you quote it verbatim, there’s no need to be narrow-minded or legalistic about what it says. Just because we can quote the Bible doesn’t mean we know it all.

 

WRITE IT

For some people, writing the verse by hand really helps them memorize the verse. They might write the verse a dozen times, and by doing that, they “have” the verse.

If you were to make a Scripture Memory cards, if you write them out by hand, you’ve written the verse once.

Here’s a hand-written Scripture Memory card:

Scripture Memory Card hand-written

Note that it is marked it up. Feel free to highlight and scribble notes on your Scripture Memory cards.

The Holy Spirit will likely give you all sorts of insights as you memorize, and they’re worth remembering. If you write your highlights and notes into your cards, you’ll come to associate those insights with that card. They’ll stick with you, even years and decades later.

Here’s a Scripture Memory card printed on a business card:

Scripture Memory Card business card

It looks nice. But it doesn’t add the element of writing it out by hand.

 

LISTEN TO IT

You can make a recording of yourself reciting the verse. Then you can listen to it as you walk or drive or do housework.

If you set your player to repeat your recording, in a brief 10 to 20 minutes, you will have listened to it quite a few times.

 

GO PHRASE-BY-PHRASE

Many people find it useful to work on one phrase at a time. Get that first phrase down, then add a second phrase. Get those two phrases down, then add a third phrase. Get those three phrases down, then add a fourth. And so on.

Let’s say you were to memorize John 3:16, in the King James Version. Here is how you could do this phrase-by-phrase model:

Start with the verse address: John 3:16. Memorize that.

Add a first phrase. John 3:16. For God so loved the world. You might need to repeat that five times or 50 times. We prefer to go slowly and prayerfully. But some people say the words very quickly, sort of like an auctioneer, feeling that the speed helps them memorize easier.

Add the next phrase. John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave. What insights are you receiving as you say these important words?

After you’ve gotten that down, add more: John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. Is the Holy Spirit impressing anything upon you as you do this?

Add more: John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever. What light does that shed on God’s plans?

Add another phrase: John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him. How does that stand out to you?

Adding one more phrase, we’re getting close to the end of the verse. John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that hegave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.

We’ll add the final phrase: John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that hegave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Now we’ll conclude the verse: John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that hegave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16, King James Version.

  • By including the address here at the end, it gives you one more way to remember the address.
  • Adding the name of the translation will serve you well.

 

REPETITION

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

In our own lives, when we start a new verse, we might go for a walk. The walk might take an hour. For most of that time, we’re repeating the verse, over and over.

In an hour, we might have said the verse a hundred times.

 

BEGIN AND END WITH THE ADDRESS

If you deliberately memorize the address, along with the verse itself, the address will always be with you. You can recall it at-will.

On the other hand, if you only memorize the text of the verse, you won’t “have” the verse.

You’ll be like this: “Well, it says somewhere in the Bible that _______.” To hear somebody say that is unconvincing. And its unconvincing even to yourself.

 

INCLUDE THE TRANSLATION

Years from now, you may well have hundreds of verses memorized. You might have memorized verses from many different translations.

We’ve found that it is important to remember which translation each verse came from.

 


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


 

Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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