If you’re like me, “2010” feels like it belongs in a science fiction movie rather than on next year’s calendar…but here it comes regardless. And since it’s time for new year’s resolutions, let me suggest that you focus on memorizing scripture this year. I’ve found it to be an incredibly valuable discipline because when God’s Word is always with me, I can more easily interpret the events and relationships of my life through its wisdom.
Since scripture memory can be frustrating at times, here are a few tips that you may find useful in your efforts to store up God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11):
- Choose a good translation. Some translations might phrase things in a way that is awkward and difficult for you to remember. Memorize out of a translation that is easy for you to use.
- Go slow and steady. Set aside five minutes each day for scripture memory. You don’t need to take a lot of time, but it does need to be every day! If you try to set a deadline and then “cram” for it the same day, odds are you’ll forget everything you memorized before long.
- Take shortcuts. Memorizing the chapter and verse references can be very challenging. So many numbers! It’s okay to “cheat” and memorize only the book and chapter number where the verse is found. That’s specific enough to find a verse if you have to look it up—no need to know the exact verse number. If you’re reciting Romans 6:23, you can always tell people, “Paul writes in Romans 6 that ‘the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.'”
- Memorize the context. Try memorizing a paragraph or two at a time rather than an assortment of individual verses. It’s easier to remember because God’s Word wasn’t written as a random collection of verses but as complete thoughts spanning paragraphs (in prose) or stanzas (in poetry). By memorizing whole paragraphs or chapters, you can follow the author’s train of thought, and you’ll also see the meaning of the verses in their context! For example, instead of just memorizing Romans 3:23 and then moving on to another verse, try memorizing Romans 3:19–26 one verse at a time.
- Use memory tools. Try using flashcards and reciting the verses out loud. That way you can see, speak, and hear the words, which can help reinforce your memory. You may want to try writing them out repeatedly if that helps. Use whatever tools help you the most. For example, I use Genius, a virtual flashcard program for Mac computers, which forces me to type out the verse word for word as I recite it aloud.
- Get some help. Have a friend hold you accountable for memorizing scripture each week. Set goals for you to memorize, and have your friend ask whether you have been setting aside time throughout the week to do it. Have your friend quiz you on the verses you have been assigned.
The most important thing you can know about scripture memory is that there is no magic secret to it. If your heart is not set on treasuring up God’s Word, none of these tips will help. But if you do want to keep his Word with you to guide and protect you, you’ll find a way to memorize it that works best for you.