I remember the first time I heard someone quote Scripture at length. It was a pastor who taught for nearly fifteen minutes before giving all the references to what he’d just quoted, stringing together passages as though they were his own words. In fact, he had made those words his own when he began the practice of treasuring God’s Word in his heart. That’s the treasury the Spirit draws from when He speaks to us and through us.
As that pastor spoke, I was humbled, challenged, and impressed—but most of all, I was intrigued. I wanted to do that too! I wasn’t sure where to begin with my goal of Scripture memory. Maybe you’ve been there—stumped before you start?
When I have a goal in mind, I try to ask myself this question: What obstacles are keeping me from achieving this goal?
For me, it wasn’t that I had a bad memory; after all, I can remember song lyrics and movie quotes. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time; my phone’s weekly time allotment graph proves that. It wasn’t that I didn’t value God’s Word; I spend time reading it daily. Eventually I narrowed my obstacles down to three primary issues. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of them. And if so, I hope my solutions will be helpful for you too!
I knew I needed someone to say my verses to, someone who could prompt me where I forget, encourage me when I’m falling behind, and celebrate my progress in this important endeavor. It was also helpful to me to find someone who also wanted to memorize Scripture. I first began implementing this as a part of D-Group International, a network of Bible studies I lead. For each study, we pick a passage of approximately ten to fifteen verses and establish a timeline of memorizing approximately one verse per week. Each week we step into accountability by reciting our verses out loud to each other, one person at a time. This can feel intimidating, especially for people who are new to Scripture memory, but it really builds confidence over time as you begin to see your progress. Practicing accountability in this way also has some built-in benefits to reinforce your efforts. For instance, by hearing others say the same verses out loud, it helps you commit the passage to memory even more!
We all have different learning styles. As I was aiming to memorize Scripture, it was important to figure out what worked for me. Personally, songs were what stuck with me most. Each week in D-Group we have an individual verse song that fits into the greater cumulative verse song—which means I could not only say the Book of James to you, but I could also sing it to you (though I’ll spare you!). Melody accesses a different part of the brain that tends to retain information long term. Some studies have even shown that long after people with Alzheimer’s have forgotten most things, they can still recall songs. Since I want to embed Scripture in my heart for the long haul, this method seemed the most effective for me temporarily and permanently.
Other beloved methods include reading the passage repeatedly out loud or recording yourself reading it and playing it frequently. This is especially helpful for people who are auditory learners. Some like to write the verse in dry erase marker on their mirror. Others may prefer to print it out and put it in places they’ll see it frequently—on the fridge, inside a coffee cabinet, on their desk, or even inside a zippered plastic baggie and then stick it to the shower wall.
Regardless of what method works best for you, try to set aside five minutes each day to work on your passage or to revisit things you’ve memorized in the past.
As I mentioned, I prefer to learn entire passages one verse at a time, as opposed to just one verse on its own. That means I’m adding to what I learn and say each week, not replacing it. This kind of cumulative learning not only helps you pace yourself, but it also helps you understand its context and meaning. And one of the biggest benefits comes in the area of retention. For instance, by the time I finish learning a section of twelve verses, I’ve spent twelve weeks saying the first verse, eleven weeks saying the second verse, and so forth. This usually means the most recent verse will feel like the most difficult one, but that’s often because it’s the one you’re least familiar with.
By overcoming my primary obstacles, I’ve memorized more Scripture than I ever thought possible. But the goal of Scripture memory isn’t to boast about how much Scripture we’ve memorized. That would be like saying the goal of dating is to brag about how many free meals you’ve eaten. Scripture memory is about what we gain in our relationship with God.
This practice has given me a new affection for reading and living out the Bible. It has also helped me to feel more comfortable praying aloud. And I’ve been more able to weigh my circumstances by God’s Word and know how to walk in wisdom toward those around me. The Spirit has used it to humble me, prompt repentance, and to grant me peace in spaces where I might normally lean into fear or doubt. Memorizing Scripture has been one of the most fruitful spiritual disciplines I’ve ever engaged in. The vast amount of fruit it has yielded in my life far outweighs the time it takes to do it.
As Christ-followers, we must build and measure everything by who God has revealed Himself to be in His Word—we must not only study the truth, we must live it. Your LIFE is the accumulation of your days, so if your days aren’t built on treasuring the Word, then the chances are slim that your life will be.
I want to live and die with the Word of God on my lips. It directs me when I’m confused. It corrects me when I’m wrong. It comforts me when I’m aching. Knowing Him well doesn’t happen apart from the truths revealed in His Word. I desperately need and want to understand those truths about Him, because if I know anything at all, I know this: He’s where the joy is!
Grab your copy of Tara-Leigh Cobble’s new Bible study, He’s Where the Joy Is. Join Tara-Leigh Cobble in this 7-session study as she breaks down the intimidating doctrine of the Trinity. You’ll discover a beautiful, foundational view of our Triune God that will transform how you relate to Him. Understanding God’s three-in-oneness and each of the Persons of God individually—Father, Son, and Spirit—will lead you to deeper intimacy with God and greater joy in knowing Him! Read an excerpt here!
Tara-Leigh Cobble’s zeal for biblical literacy led her to create D-Group (Discipleship Group), which has grown into an international network of three hundred-plus Bible studies that meet every week in homes, churches, and online. She also writes and hosts a daily radio show called The God Shot, as well as a daily podcast called The Bible Recap which unpacks the richness of Scripture alongside the chronological one-year reading plan. In just over two years, the podcast garnered seventy million downloads and reached number three on the Apple Podcast top overall charts. More than twenty thousand churches around the world have joined their reading plan to know and love God better. Her book, The Bible Recap, a 365-day guide to reading through the Bible, aims to help people not only read and understand Scripture but love it too!