How to remember the Bible passages you memorize
I know this might sound like a lot of effort but it is worth every second to have God’s word stored up in our hearts.
The discipline of memorizing Bible verses pays great dividends in the life of a Christian. Having Scripture stored up in our hearts helps us to remember God’s promises in tough times, flee from sin in moments of temptation, possess greater confidence in sharing the gospel, and give fresh words of encouragement to struggling Christians.
The problem for us is that while memorizing a verse presents a challenge, remembering it in three months is a great difficulty. We often find ourselves wanting to quote something we spent two days memorizing but cannot remember the exact wording of the verse or the precise reference to save our lives.
How can we remember the Bible verses that we memorized a week, a month, or a year ago?
For the long haul
We often fail to learn Bible verses well the first time we memorize them. We can’t remember them a month later because we never really got them into our minds and hearts.
When you memorize a Bible verse, make sure that you are learning the precise wording of the verse and the exact reference. Do not be content with forgetting whether the verse says “so that” or “in order to.” The scholars who worked on the translation that you use made the choices they did for good reasons, so learn it as it is printed on the page.
In addition, think of memorizing Bible verses as a multi-day task. Too often, when we memorize a Bible verse, we work on it for one day, say it somewhat correctly, and then move on to the next verse. If you struggle to remember a verse a month after you memorized it, work on memorizing it for three days instead of just one day. The first day, read it repeatedly until you have the flow of the verse. On the second day, read the verse out loud several times again, then cover up the verse and say it at least five times, only looking at it to make sure that you said it correctly. Use the last day to read the verse out loud again. Then say the verse multiple times without looking at it. If you memorized it correctly, move on to the next verse you want to learn. If not, work on it one more day to make sure that you have it down.
Memorize in context
Often our Scripture memory consists of individual verses we learned from many different books of the Bible. We struggle to remember what they say because we plucked them out of their context and we have no frame of reference for remembering what the verse said.
One tactic that will help you down the road is memorizing the entire paragraph where the verse you want to memorize is found. For example, let’s say you want to memorize Romans 3:23. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That seems easy enough to remember, but our minds are clouded with lots of information. So, in order to better recall the verse in the future, memorize Romans 3:21-26 instead of just Romans 3:23.
This approach has practical and theological advantages. Practically, you get into the flow of how Paul wrote the letter and this always helps recall move more smoothly. You start with the first few words of a paragraph and the rest has a way of coming back to you as you pick up momentum. Theologically, this method helps you to keep Bible verses in their proper theological context. You won’t quote Philippians 4:13 to get your team psyched up for the baseball game when you remember that Paul was initially speaking of his learning to be content in whatever position he found himself.
Use a schedule
In order to remember the Bible verses that you memorize, you must get on a review schedule. Ideally, you would spend a few days memorizing a verse and then the next couple of days reviewing it. Then, let it sit for a couple of days and review it again. After that, review it next week, the in two weeks, and then in a month. Determine the maximum amount of time that you can allow between reviews to keep the verse fresh in your mind. (For me, it’s three months. And honestly, this may be too long. I worked back through some verses I had not reviewed in three months and struggled with them mightily.)
Here is one area where our smartphones can be an aid to our devotional lives, as there are several helpful Scripture memory apps on the market. Both Fighter Verses and Verses have great interfaces and use multiple types of interactive quizzes to memorize Scripture. (Fighter Verses also has music and other resources to aid in memory.) My personal favorite, though, is ScriptureTyper. For me, ScritptureTyper allows me to keep verses in collections the way I prefer to have them and puts verses on a review schedule. You can manually set the maximum time allowed between reviews.
Put it in a “microwave”
Using a review schedule to keep our Scripture memory fresh will reveal verses that have slipped from your grasp. You may stumble through portions of the verse or have forgotten it completely. When this happens, you need to pull this verse out and treat it like you are memorizing it for the first time. Think of it as sticking leftovers in the microwave. (I borrowed this terminology from my father-in-law, Mark McCullough, who is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Frisco City, Alabama.)
The first day you put the verse in the microwave, read it out loud multiple times and then cover it up to try to say it from memory. On the second day, read it out loud a few times and say it from memory again. The final day should consist of ensuring you have it fully memorized. After you have done this, review it once a week for the next month to ensure you have it down before putting it on a less consistent review schedule.
I know this sounds like a lot of effort. It is, and it is worth every second to have God’s word stored up in our hearts.