Drumroll….. Here’s the final installment of my series on memorizing scripture. I hope it inspires you to start your own great journey of mind/heart/soul expansion! Please let me know where it takes you.
“The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”
If you’re ready to do some serious memory work, “morning by morning” needs to become your new mantra. I’m guessing that unless you’re a teen, a shift worker, or a tortured artist, you already have a morning routine that gets you out of bed and hopefully into some time with God before launching into your day. From now on, memorizing Scripture will be the pleasure that awaits you every morning.
‘Experts’ say you can set a new habit by doing it for 66 days – even if you miss a day now and then. By the time you’ve absorbed this new discipline, you’ll be seeing and feeling the benefits of “knowing the word that sustains the weary” – and that includes sustenance for your weariness, too. I’m not a morning person per se, but since I’ve started this routine, my brain is eager to wake up every morning and get started. And as my brain soaks up the Word, my heart and soul are deeply nourished. It’s the best spiritual breakfast I can know!
Here’s my routine: Get out of bed. Turn up the thermostat. Put on the kettle. Toss two dog biscuits into the dining room for the dog (that’s what gets him up in the morning). Replenish the pet food bowls. Brew a tall mug of jasmine green tea (good for the brain!). Sit in my scripture-memorizing chair where my memory pages are already waiting… and plunge in.
Of course, being a teen, a shift worker or a tortured artist doesn’t automatically exclude you from doing memory work — the key is daily-ness, not necessarily mornings. It just seems like the things we hope to do ‘later in the day’ often get pushed out by unexpected interruptions and distractions. And sometimes our brains are just tuckered out by the end of the day.
Here’s how I do it; this is what works for me. You might find different methods that work better for you, and that’s great. Experiment at the beginning to see what helps you most, and then keep at it. Don’t get down on yourself and don’t give up! As I’ve said before, your brain will get better and better at memorizing as you go along, so don’t be discouraged if you start off slow.
- Start by choosing a book or psalm that you already ‘know’ but really want to know better. Don’t be put off by length; remember, it’s verse by verse, chapter by chapter. A longer book will take more time to complete, but that’s fine. It’s not a race. Also, by choosing a book you’re familiar with, there should be some ‘stepping stone’ verses in it that you already know quite well. These will help you when the current seems strong and you’re tempted to feel overwhelmed.
- Type out the first chapter – or write it out neatly by hand, if you prefer. I type so that each verse stands separate on the page, double- spaced between verses. Sometimes I combine two verses to a line if they’re short and flow together. I’ve chosen not to use index cards, because I want to be able to see the whole chapter on a page or two. This helps me get the flow of the verses and see patterns more readily. (I urge you to not use your phone to memorize for the same reasons.)
- Don’t worry about verse numbers, unless you want to add that challenge to your work. If you’re a numbers person, maybe you do. Not me.
- Read through the first verse or two, preferably aloud. Hearing yourself say the words as you read them reinforces them in your mind. Repeat a few times. Now close your eyes and repeat them again. Do this several times until you keep getting it right. If a word or phrase keeps tripping you up, try repeating it or even marking it on your page.
- Don’t worry about how many verses you do every day. Some passages will be easier to remember than others, so go at your own speed. Once you master the previous verse, go on to the next one, but keep repeating the ones you’ve just learned, too.
- Once you think you’ve got a section memorized, practice by writing it out from memory, by typing or by hand. If writing or typing it out helps you a lot, do this as often as you like.
- Pray through the verses you’re memorizing every day – it will deepen your prayer life and bring fresh meaning to the words.
- Carry your memory sheet/s around with you whenever possible, so you can keep practising throughout the day. I practice when I’m walking, hiking, driving, cleaning, waiting for people or things, spacing out at my desk – be ready and alert for those pockets of time! It’s also helpful to do a quick review before you go to sleep.
- Once you feel ready, ask friends or family to help you practice. Give them your study sheets so they can follow along carefully and gently correct your mistakes.
- Go for word perfect recall. Since we live by ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’, pay attention to every word and don’t let yourself get sloppy.
- Always keep reviewing what you’ve already learned so you’ll retain it. You’ll figure out a pattern for this. Sometimes you can plow ahead and add new sections; at other times, you’ll need to spend your time reviewing and cementing what you’ve already learned. After a chapter is really nailed down, you won’t need to focus on that one as much as others. (For example, I’m technically finished with Hebrews, but find I keep mixing up sections of chapters seven and nine, so I keep reviewing those. Last week I also spent time reviewing Colossians, memorized last year, and next I plan to brush up on 1 Cor. 1 -4. I can remember most of these chapters, but periodic review helps tremendously.)
- Let your brain be creative and use memory tricks – mnemonics – to help you remember those trickier passages. I use acronyms (the first letter in a series of words) a lot. (e.g. Colossians 3:8…rid yourselves of all such things as these: Anger, Rage, Malice, Slander, and Filthy Language from your Lips = ARMSFuLL). Sometimes I’ll set words to a little melody to remember a difficult verse through music. Use your imagination to tie the last word from one verse to the first word in the next. Your brain will invent ingenious mnemonics if you relax and let it help you!
And that’s pretty much it!
My motivation has stayed high throughout the many, many months I’ve been memorizing. I haven’t grown weary of any of the chapters, even after reciting them countless times; if anything, they just get richer and better. Going through the books I’ve memorized while hiking or cleaning a house is like swimming in a deep, lovely pool – and it makes the time fly by.
How much of the Bible can a person memorize and retain over the years? I wonder that, too. I’m inspired by the example of Fanny Crosby, who was blind, wrote over 9,000 hymns in her lifetime, and memorized all four gospels and much more of the New Testament! Now there’s a woman who was swimming in the Word of God!
I haven’t set any lofty goals, except to keep reviewing what I know and memorizing more. I’m convinced it’s staving off dementia, and I know I’m being inwardly renewed – morning by morning and verse by verse.
How about you?
Categories: The miracle of memory
Simple… I love it! Work on Philippians is underway…
Marilyn, thank you for sharing your experience! This is so helpful. I feel that every since I have become so cell phone dependent, my memory and ability to remember and quote Scripture has just tanked. It’s just awful..instant access is not helping me wade in the deeper waters of the Bible. There is even a book called The Shallows that talks about what the internet is doing to our brains!!) I came across a great article on memorizing Scripture a while ago but got sucked into 6th grade homework land and didn’t pursue its suggestions. Your blogs have made me renewed my conviction on this. Here is the article:
At the end there is a booklet which you can download called An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andy Davis which is just excellent, too.
Marilyn, thank you! Thank you! I am going to start with Colossians. I send a big hug!!!!
Hi Marilyn, Thanks so much for these articles. I did begin trying to memorise chapter 1 of John a few weeks ago. But I was doing it on my phone. I’m excited to work on this every morning. Thanks for your focus on this and sharing it with everyone. I think it will really inspire every area of my life.
I see how the electronic age has made my mind very lazy!! Thanks again! Xx
Oh, you inspire me to get back to it! Thank you! Just discovered your blog this evening and I’m so glad I did!
So grateful for your invitation to hike through Hebrews and to be back in touch after fifteen years! You are inspiring me and challenging my sluggish brain and over the last few years sluggish heart…..but I hear and believe this call is from God to reach into my heart more deeply, so I am slowly taking the memorising to heart not knowing how it will be possible!……..will keep you posted …..thank you Rose
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Rose, I’m glad you’re hiking with me! I think you’ll be amazed at how your memory muscle will improve with practice and prayer. Thanks for commenting!