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How to Memorize a Book of the Bible

  • Sue Schlesman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
How to Memorize a Book of the Bible

When I was a fifth and sixth-grader, I memorized the book of James. I had memorized other long passages by that point in my life through AWANA, Sunday school, and church camp, but I had never memorized a whole book of the Bible before. Forty years later, I can still quote a good portion of it.

I had just started attending a Christian school, and we attended combined grades. For my last two years of elementary school (then 5-6th), I had the same teacher. Each morning, we began school by learning a new verse in James and quoting all we knew up to that point. We learned the first 2 chapters of James in fifth grade, and the last 3 chapters in sixth grade. It was actually pretty simple, just oral recitation, like something out of a one-room schoolhouse. It took a commitment of time and willpower, and it was fun because we did it together.

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Why should we memorize?

Why should we memorize?

Not many people spend the time and energy required to memorize Scripture. Memorizing the Bible is not exactly a party trick. It seems to be an unnecessary skill except for one massive reason: if I memorize it, I will know God’s words on any given topic the second I need it. If your days are like mine, temptation, frustration, anger, worry, and despair can threaten to send you in a downward spiral at any moment. While most of us text a friend or search Google for a remedy, someone who has taken the time to memorize Scripture has an arsenal of spiritual weaponry ready to fire. They are armed for war, even when they aren’t aware of it coming. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

When I know what God says about a topic—like marriage, anxiety, discipline, poverty—I won’t have to poll the masses to find out God’s expectation of my stance on the subject. I won’t be swayed by popular opinion. I won’t react sinfully. I won’t misuse my spiritual gifts or calling. In fact, I will have the only answer that keeps temptation at bay and sends my spiritual enemy running for cover: the Bible. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

Nothing is more powerful than God’s words. That’s why He put them down in a book—the most influential book for the last 2,000 years. Even Jesus quoted Scripture to the Pharisees, the Devil, and his disciples when He wanted to communicate important truths—and Jesus was the Truth! We can’t really argue against reading and learning the Bible.

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But can you memorize it?

But can you memorize it?

The first thing you can do to help you memorize is just to read the Bible enough on your own so that you have a general idea where everything is and how it’s put together. Context is important in memory recall.

Next, start memorizing as early in your life as you can. Children memorize more quickly and effectively than adults. What you learn as a child, you often remember as an adult (What I memorize as an adult, I have to frequently re-learn). The Holy Spirit will bring verses to our minds when we need it, if we have memorized it. If we haven’t memorized anything, there will be nothing to bring to mind. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Here are a few helpful hints about memorizing in general and memorizing a whole book in particular.

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1. Memorize verses about a single topic.

1. Memorize verses about a single topic.

When you discover that you have questions about something or struggle with something (like lying, for example), do a search on Bible Gateway or in your Bible’s concordance on words related to the topic and focus on learning those verses. You will notice that your struggle diminishes and maybe disappears completely. 

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2. Make sure you understand the content.

2. Make sure you understand the content.

It’s hard to memorize without reading comprehension. This is why students who struggle with reading comprehension are often not good at memorizing hard facts and statistics in school. The message must make sense. Those who struggle with comprehension should try listening to the audio Bible.

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3. Write down verses on 3x5 cards so you can read them regularly.

3. Write down verses on 3x5 cards so you can read them regularly.

Review often while you’re doing other things, like driving, doing dishes, or getting ready in the morning.  Reading out loud helps auditory learners, writing helps visual and tactile learners, and looking at the card helps visual learners. Longer verses can be written on notebook paper or in journals. Repeat and recite often, looking away and trying to quote without looking. 

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4. Add motions, music, or other physical memory techniques to help you learn the material.

4. Add motions, music, or other physical memory techniques to help you learn the material.

 Many popular worship songs are Scripture verses (which were songs originally)—they sing well for a reason. Many versions and translations of the Bible have a beautiful, lyrical style that makes memorizing easier. Choose a translation that’s easiest for you to memorize.

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How do I memorize a whole book?

How do I memorize a whole book?

Now for you eager beavers who want to tackle a whole chapter or a whole book. Books have themes, and chapters have topics, so if you take a minute to understand the context of a larger piece of Scripture, that will help you remember what you’re learning and saying. Most Bible translations divide chapters into sections according to topic or theme, so my suggestion is to learn verses in these logical divisions. The same suggestions apply to longer passages as to shorter passages. It will take you longer, but the process is the same.

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What should you memorize?

What should you memorize?

My fifth and sixth-grade teacher taught us James because the book of James is packed full of helpful information for life: wisdom, friendliness, compassion, faith, prayer. There are many practical chapters and books you could begin with—memorizing single psalms—like Psalm 1, 40, 51, 100, and 119 or any chapter in Proverbs—are practical and relatively simple because the verses are familiar, and they are poetic in structure, making them easier to remember.

Because of their length and content, some great books to start memorizing are: 1 John, James, 1 Peter, Philippians, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians. Other short books are 2 and 3 John, Jude, Philemon, and 2 Peter, although their verses are not as familiar to most people as the previous suggestions.

You can do it! Read some of my suggestions and choose the one that speaks to you. Memorizing is always easier and more enjoyable when you are learning something you actually want to know! Blessings on you as you memorize. You won’t regret it!

Sue Schlesman is a Christian writer, teacher, blogger, and speaker. Her blogs, fiction, and non-fiction reach a wide audience. She has a BA in Creative Writing and is earning a MA in Theology, Art, and Culture. Her book Soulspeak: Praying Change into Unexpected Places comes out in 2019. She is the content writer and editor at www.themystoryproject.com. You can find her philosophizing about life, education, family, and Jesus at www.susanwalleyschlesman.com.

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