Several months ago, a friend challenged me to memorize a
book of the Bible with her.
Yes, you read that right: an entire book of the Bible. I wasn’t really sure I could do it (Obviously I had a very optimistic attitude 😉), but before I had time to think it through, I heard my people-pleasing self say yes, and that decided it. It couldn’t hurt to try, right?
My friend gave me the choice of James or John, and I chose James because it’s shorter, naturally.
Well, my friends, after five chapters, about six months, and
a few weeks off when my brain was just too overloaded…I did it! My friend and I
both memorized the entire book of James. In my case, by the skin of my teeth.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy for me. As a kid,
memorizing did come easily – I attended a Christian school, I went to
church every Wednesday night, and I even had a brief stint in JBQ (Junior Bible
Quiz), all of which required regular scripture memorization. I grew up
memorizing a verse or two a week from kindergarten through sixth grade.
As an adult, I have not continued that pattern. I’ve been
pretty happy just retaining a good portion of what I memorized as a kid, and
that was enough for me until my friend motivated me to try something more
It’s been a challenge indeed, all the way through! Here’s what I’ve learned in the process and what I wish I could tell myself when I began this journey:
Set realistic goals. My friend and I aimed for five verses a week, and honestly, this was too much for me. I got too legalistic about it and it took me hours to memorize each week, especially when we got several verses into memorizing and I also had to retain each previous verse. If memorizing is easy for you, by all means, aim high! But in the future, I think one or two verses a week would be a better choice for me.
Choose a version of the Bible that you like and understand. I seem to be learning everything the hard way, because I didn’t do this, either! Ha. I memorized the ESV when I really prefer The Passion Translation or The Message. I thought the ESV sounded more scholarly, but I think I would’ve been happiest if I’d chosen the standard NIV. The Message and The Passion can be pretty wordy so they may not be the best choices for memorization purposes, but the ESV hasn’t been my favorite, either. Choose the version that works well for you!
Utilize the audio feature in the Bible app. I am not an auditory learner. I learn better by doing and seeing. But since I didn’t have time to read through the same five verses 100 times per week, I found that listening to them over and over was the next best thing for me. I took a clue from my friend, who listens to the Bible while she cleans houses, and I’ve been trying to do the same while I fold laundry and get ready in the morning. I’m still not a huge auditory learner, but listening to these verses did help me, especially once I’d already started to memorize them and could begin reciting them out loud along with the narrator’s voice.
Focus on one verse or phrase at a time. I can read all five verses over and over without learning a thing, but when I break them down into small chunks, it’s much easier for me to memorize them.
Choose verses or chapters that interest you. Is there a bad part of the Bible? Of course not. All scripture is God-breathed and it’s all useful. But you’ll probably enjoy memorizing more if you feel you’ve chosen a passage that’s especially relevant and interesting to you.
Take a break if you need to! There were weeks when I just couldn’t do it. I was too busy, too tired, or too overwhelmed. Some weeks I charged ahead anyway and failed; other weeks I recognized that I was taking on too much and gave myself a break. Give yourself grace! This isn’t a competition. (Did you hear me? This isn’t a competition.)
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Read your verses, listen to your verses, and say them out loud until you can practically recite them in your sleep. And then keep reciting them after you’ve memorized them so you don’t lose them. I’ve found that saying the verses I’ve already learned about once a week works for me to retain them, but maybe a different frequency will work better for you.
Don’t beat yourself up. The friend I memorized with is a decade younger than me and has already memorized several chapters of the Bible on her own. Although she says it doesn’t come easily for her, either, it was hard for me not to compare myself to her – my own slower pace, my shorter list of previously memorized verses. I think she’s a rock star, and I want to be just as motivated as she is! But the fact is, I’m 10 years older and I haven’t been memorizing much since the sixth grade, so it just might not come as easily for me, and that’s okay. I can still do something, and what matters is where my heart is – not what I’m achieving compared to someone else.
This whole memorization thing hasn’t exactly been a piece of cake for me. But it has been rewarding, and slowly but surely, I reached my goal. I hope these tips get you started on the right foot if Scripture memorization is something you want to tackle this year!
Just remember to give yourself grace and know God is extending his grace to you, too. I believe he honors our efforts to learn and obey his Word, and he will help you retain it as you do your best to learn it. You won’t regret hiding his Word in your heart!
Are you a master memorizer? What are your secrets? Share
them with us below!
Hey! I'm Brianna and I'm a millennial. I'm also a reader, writer, God-lover, introvert, and recovering perfectionist. ☺️
I want to inspire millennials to retain their morality, hope, and faith as they transition into adulthood and full-fledged "adult."