Study · The Word of God

How to Memorize Long Scriptures

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Why on earth should I memorize Bible scriptures if I can just look it up?

Nearly all the information I could possibly want is at my fingertips–quite literally. Memorization seems an outmoded system in our all-access information age, but what would happen if we lost connection? How would we remember those valuable ancient words?

There is more to memorization of the scripture than simply committing the words to memory. Memorization is about storing God’s word in our heart. These words protect us from temptation, comfort us in trouble, and strengthen us in adversity

For memorizing smaller passages, check out 5 Benefits of Memorizing Scripture (And 4 Ways to Do It). You don’t have to memorize long chapters or books to commit the word to your heart. Start small! Work toward verses on God’s promises first (like Hebrews 13.6 or 1 Peter 5.6-7). Memorizing smaller verses eventually leads to longer sections… and longer.. and longer.

For longer passages, our approach may need to be modified. For the remainder of 2018, I am working on memorizing the book of James. I will be using some of the methods in the post mentioned above, but I am implementing a modified approach for book memorization.

Here’s how to memorize a book or long passages:

#1: Begin at the End

In memorization, our habit is often to start with a word or two at the beginning, gradually adding to it until we get to the end. What often happens is we have a strong start that peters off as we reach the end, fumbling around with the last sentence or word.

For a longer passage like a chapter or a book, begin with the end. In the image below, I’ve inserted a screenshot of James 5.13-20 taken from BibleGateway.com. The first segment to memorize would be verses 19-20 (surrounded in orange). The second segment could be verses 17-18. It does not always need to be limited to two verses; the second segment could include verse 16 to make it a complete thought. Try to group my verses so it makes a complete sentence or thought. Each time you practice your segment, tack on the following section you have already memorized. Be sure to quote the book, chapter and verse of each segment as well.

James 5

Beginning at the end will help you have a stronger grasp of the chapter. By memorizing it in sections, you’ll be able to remember “where” the passage is found in the Bible.

#2: Listen Daily

Listen to an audio recording of the chapter each day. At the present, I am listening to James 5 once each day so I don’t fall behind on my regular bible reading. Listening provides a flow of thought and a somewhat musical inflection to emphasize ideas. Certain phrases may stick out by the way they are read, helping you to commit it to memory.

I remember my dad listening to a King James Version audio of James when I was younger. The reader’s inflection of “Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool” made such a distinct impression that I’ve never forgotten the scripture regarding the sin of partiality!

#3: Get an Accountability Partner (or enlist some little helpers!)

When I told my mom I wanted to memorize the book of James, she asked to join me. We have been quizzing each other about once a week on Skype with a section we are both working on. You accountability partner can be a parent, a friend, a mentor, or spouse. Maybe they will join you in the memorization effort or maybe they will just ask you how it’s going once a week. Having someone check your progress will motivate you to stay on track.

My children have a copy of my verses at the table and they quiz me at every meal. They often giggle over my missed words and have me start over to fix small omissions. My “little helpers” are unknowingly reaping their own benefits. By hearing these verses over and over, they will recall these passages to mind in bible class or in future situations. By seeing their parents work toward memorization, they will know we place value on the task of memorization and be encouraged to practice their memory work too!

Have you ever memorized a book or a chapter? How did you approach it?

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18 thoughts on “How to Memorize Long Scriptures

  1. Good stuff, Elihu, and timely for me! I am actually on a project to memorize the entire Book of James, so I may have to try some of these things. I had already figured out that memorizing sections helps because then it is an actual thought rather than just a bunch of words. Thanks

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    1. Yes! James is an awesome book and totally helpful to memorize. I refer to these passages so often I figured it was high time I start committing the whole thing to memory. Do you have any additional suggestions or helps you have found useful?

      May the Lord bless you as you store up His Word in your heart. 😊

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    1. I love Psalm 103! How many fifth graders are you working with and what is your approach? I enjoying hearing different ideas because we all absorb information differently. May you be blessed in your efforts!

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      1. Yes it’s one of my favourite Psalms. I have 9 students. We learn about a verse a day,trying to get the chapter memorized in this month. We read it aloud together and I give them time to write the verses and go over them quietly. I think it’s very important that children understand the meaning of the verses they’re learning,especially if we’re using an older translation with unfamiliar words and expressions. I’d love to hear more about memorization techniques!

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  2. My mother told me of going to a preachers conference with her grandfather when she was a child. Her grandfather began his presentation by quoting the first three chapters of James. More than seventy years later, after she suffered a stroke, the first book of the Bible Mom wanted to hear read was the book of James. It had become her favorite as she listened to her grandfather memorizing it.

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    1. It’s such a beautiful thing when the scriptures grow dear to us coupled with memories of others gone before. Thank you for sharing such a dear memory, Michael. 😊

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    1. When I was growing up, it was almost a weekly assignment for Bible class. Our current congregation has the kids do about 3 per quarter. I like memorizing because it not only helps me internalize the scripture, but it deepens my understanding. God be with you, Lynn. 😊

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      1. I’m right there with you! Yes. We memorized a lot, too, in both kids’ classes as well as in the adult congregation. Just doesn’t seem to be emphasized much anymore. Sigh. Thanks for your wonderful post! 🙂

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      2. Yeah… it seems to be a dying art sometimes, but there’s nothing saying we can’t restart an old trend! 😊 God bless you, my friend!

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    1. I do like the search function on bible gateway and YouVersion. Before I had Bible Apps etc I would use my concordance to look for familiar words. I hope you are strengthened as you store up God’s Word in your heart. God be with you.

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  3. Such good tips!

    I memorized Romans 8 a few years ago. I started out by reading it aloud to myself every day and then, as I did that, over time, the words just became ingrained in my mind and I became able to recite it from memory. I felt so accomplished when I finally had the whole thing down!

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    1. Romans 8 is an excellent chapter! Great job memorizing the whole thing. Reading aloud is an excellent method of memorization. My oldest daughter used to have Dr, Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish memorized by doing the same thing. May you continue to be blessed as you memorize. Thank you for sharing your method! God be with you.

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  4. Great advice! I’m going to try starting at the end as you suggested. It makes sense. I also like to write the passage I’m trying to memorize on a marker board and draw pictures above certain words I find difficult to remember. For instance, in Ps 1:4 (KJV), I had trouble with this part, “which the wind driveth away” I kept saying incorrectly “bloweth away,” Once I drew a little picture of a car above the word “driveth,” I finally made it past that hurdle. Thank you for all your wisdom and insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an excellent idea! I think writing it down helps commit it to memory, but I had never thought about drawing a picture. I’m going to use that with my kids (and probably myself!) Thank you, Lydia! God bless you as you commit His word to memory.

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