When I was a child I had a crystal-clear memory. My mother tells me she didn’t look forward to playing the memory game Concentration with me because she always lost! But scripture memorization wasn’t part of our family’s or church’s culture in my early years.
I memorized my first scripture when I was twenty-six. My memory was still fairly strong, and only beginning to get a little fuzzy. Then came children, homeschooling, homesteading… many distractions. As the years pass, my mind seems to be filling up, and I am finding it more and more challenging to commit scripture to memory.
Perhaps you are a whiz at scripture memorization. But you may be like me and find that sometimes it just doesn’t stick. Here are ten things to consider if you are struggling with remembering bible verses:
1. Take care of your body!
Sleep deprivation is a sure memory stealer. Are you getting an adequate night’s sleep? If you are in a season of life when sleep is challenging, consider taking a ten minute nap during the day.
Dehydration also impairs brain function and memory. If you notice yourself losing focus easily or having that “in one ear and out the other” feeling, try setting a timer and drinking 8 ounces of water every hour. You might be surprised by how much more clear-headed you feel.
2. Consider the real goal
What is your goal? Is it to be able to say “I memorized the entire book of Numbers”? Or is it to hide God’s Word in your heart?
It is worth taking the time to reflect on this in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you your heart in the matter. This will require humility! He will be sure to help you see if your goal is self-glorification or His glorification.
3. Be sure your plan reflects God’s goal and the circumstances of your life
Once you understand God’s goal for you in hiding His Word in your heart, your motivation will be more clear. Does your scripture memorization plan match God’s goal for you?
You also need to take into account your life and your schedule. What is a realistic plan to implement in view of the other demands of your life?
There certainly might come a time when God calls you to clear something out of your schedule to make time for memorizing scripture. But being in a busy season of life does not prevent you from memorizing. It just impacts your pace.
4. Pray for your mind
Pray that the Lord will help you take captive all distracting thoughts unto the obedience of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). Pray that you will have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Pray that He will transform you by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
5. Meditate on the message
Before you start memorizing a new scripture, spend time meditating on its meaning. It is much easier to remember a verse that means something to you than to memorize a string of words.
6. Start a new verse at your best time of day
Are you most alert first thing in the morning, or do you need a while to wake up? There are no rules about when to memorize scripture. Think over your day… at what time of day do you feel most productive? When is your mind at its most focused? This is the ideal time to work on scripture memorization.
7. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Say every new verse out loud at least ten times. You may need to say it more than ten times. Just say it a lot! Like lifting weights, you need to exercise your memory muscle with repetition.
It’s also okay to take more than one day to learn a verse. Just keep repeating it until it you feel comfortable with it.
8. Take into account your learning style
Are you a visual learner? Use a first letter memorization tool. Or print out the scripture and tape it up anywhere you might linger for a moment… in front of the kitchen sink, on your bedroom mirror, etc.
If you are an auditory learner you will probably benefit from listening to the audio version of your scripture repeatedly. Bible Gateway offers many versions of scripture in audio format for free (just click on the little sound button below the name of the verse you have searched for). If you can’t find the version you want, record yourself reading it out loud on your computer or smart phone. Auditory learners will also be receptive to verses set to music. If you can’t find scripture songs for your verses, make up your own tune and sing away!
Kinesthetic learners will enjoy making up hand motions to go along with the verses. While I am not a kinesthetic learner, I have still found it very helpful to use my hands to mime active phrases like “press on” and “lay hold.”
Both visual and kinesthetic learners will benefit from writing the scripture by hand.
9. Review throughout the day
Get in the habit of reviewing scripture throughout the day. You might tie it to another activity, like washing the dishes, folding laundry, or sitting at a stop light.
10. Don’t give up!
Whatever you do, persevere. Run with endurance the race that is set before you! (Hebrews 12:1). If it takes you a whole month to learn one verse, that is one verse more than you knew before you started. With God’s help you can do it!