Archives For Scripture Memory

Easily, my most important educational choice was deciding 25 years ago to systematically memorize Scripture.

The first principle of Scripture memory is to "repeat to remember." Wear a rut in your mind with the words of Scripture. Here is a brief summary of the system I use for memorizing Scripture. I originally learned this approach from Jim Jeffery in the Fall of 1990, though I have adapted it over the years. My system shares similarities with An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.

Repeat to Remember

My system for Scripture memorization is divided into two parts. First, I repeat to remember.

After identifying a verse to memorize, I say it aloud. Ideally, I interpret the verse with the inflection of my voice and attitude of my heart as I say it. But there is some “chanting” involved. The idea is to wear a rut in my mind with God’s Word. My goal is to to say the words of a verse so many times that they are as second nature as a phone number or address.

I “repeat to remember” using the following regiment for each verse I memorize:

  • Day 1- 25 times
  • Day 2 – 20 times
  • Day 3 – 15 times
  • Day 4 – 10 times
  • Day 5 – 5 times

So by the end of the 5th day I have repeated a given verse 75 times. As can be seen from the image to the right, there is nothing fancy about my system. I write the verse out and tally each repetition. The image shows that in July of 1991 I was memorizing Matthew 20:37-40 followed by the 10 Commandments.

On the first day, I often look at the verse while quoting it. If it is a longer verse, I memorize it one phrase at a time. I also look closely at it on the page and form a mental snapshot of the verse. I don’t mean to imply I have a “photographic memory.” I don’t. But the combination of repeatedly vocalizing the words of the verse, hearing it as I say it, and picturing it in my mind, all serve to engrave the words on my memory.

On days 2-5, I still need to look at the verse again. But it grows easier to remember each day. If I struggle to remember a verse when reviewing it, I may quote it additional times.

Saying it aloud is important. The discipline of vocalizing each word aloud means that I also hear it.

When I am memorizing verses, I also incorporate quoting the texts into the fabric of ministry. For example, I have recently been memorizing Paul’s wonderful prayer in Colossians 1:9-14. So even as I followed the formal regiment for memorizing those verses, I have repeated or paraphrased it many additional times during my own times of prayer and counseling sessions.

ScripturememoryfrontAt other times, I incorporate verses I am memorizing into conversations or counseling sessions. I simply say something like, “Recently, I have been memorizing Colossians 1:9-14. In those verses, Paul prays . . .” Sharing verses in conversation models a commitment to God’s Word and shares the content of particular passages.

Review to Retain

Second, having repeated to remember, I review to retain.

After I have completed the sequence of saying the verse 25-20-15-10-5 times across consecutive days, I write the verse on a 3×5 card and review it daily. Ideally, I review a particular verse:

  • Daily for 45-60 days
  • Weekly for a year
  • Monthly for 2-3 years
  • 2-3 times per year for life

This is the back of a Scripture memory card.When I make a mistake in reviewing a verse, which I often do, I correct the mistake and say it the right way more than once. If I really struggle quoting a particular verse, then I put it through the “repeat to remember” sequence again.

Of course, there are many other memory techniques that can be employed including using music or association techniques. But in my experience, long term Scripture memorization comes down to repetition. Intentionally repeat a verse 4-500 times across several years and you will remember it.

Systematic long term memorization of Scripture requires only minutes on any given day. I took a break while writing this to review 10 verses. It took me one minute and twenty-two seconds to recite them. It was a minute and twenty-two seconds well spent.

See also:

Memorize a Psalm in Order to Be Moved

Scripture memory should begin with gospel verses. Which verse of Scripture do you think should be memorized first? Do you agree with my choice? Tell me in the comments.

Memorizing Scripture is one of the most beneficial practices you can ever adopt – – watch the below video from John Piper and you will hear a powerful argument for doing so. But which Bible verse should be memorized first?

Of course, there is no one answer. But the first verse you memorize should probably be a gospel summary verse. We should begin with the good news of how we can know God. (See what do Christians mean when they reference the Gospel or Good News).

I started my system of Scripture memory over 23 years ago. The first verse in my system is Ephesians 2:8 from the KJV. Every time I work through another round of reviewing my verses, I write the date on the card. I have long since moved to writing dates on the back of this card. But it is fun to see all the times I reviewed and meditated on Ephesians 2:8 since October of 1990.

Consider Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace are ye saved through faith. And that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

If you sink this verse into your soul, you will be unsinkable. I quote that verse to myself often when I preach the gospel to myself (see this post on preaching the gospel to ourselves).

Someone has said, grace is:






Like any gift, the gift of salvation is a package that must be opened. We open the gift of salvation by faith – – by deciding to receive the gift of eternal life.

Salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” God is the one who does the saving. If we did anything, we would brag about it like an NFL defensive back after making a big play.

I could think of some other choices of verses to memorize first – – but let me hear from you?

And why not write your verse on a card and say it over and over again?

See also Choosing Verses to Memorize


Put your memory verses on a 3x5 card.

Put your memory verses on a 3×5 card.

Repeat to remember. That’s the ticket for memorizing God’s Word. Follow a progression of saying the verse 25-20-15-10-5 times on consecutive days. Then put the verse on a 3×5 card and keep reviewing. Walks are a great time to review verses, provided you can see. . . 

For years, I would take a stack of Bible verses on walks. In one walk, I could easily review 50-100 verses.

Then I found that I needed reading glasses. While image is not something I worry about too much, I thought it looked a little strange to wear reading glasses on a walk.

My children started to protest when I wore both reading glasses and sunglasses. They thought it bad for their image.

Finally, I found a solution compliments of our friends at L.L. Bean. I discovered sunglasses with bifocals. Granted, they’re not Ray Bans. But I’m looking cool (or as cool as I can look) and hiding God’s Word in my heart.

Today when I go out for a walk, the 10 commandments are the first verses on my stack. I started memorizing these verses on July 13, 1991. I’ve been reviewing them ever since. Just give 10 minutes a day to memorizing Scripture. You will be amazed at the difference it makes. The Word of God is the means He uses to revive the soul! (Psalm 19:7-11)

See this category of posts on Scripture memory.

A Vision Verse for God’s People!

Chris —  January 31, 2013

Church leaders would do well to memorize Nehemiah 12:43. It envisions joyful worship.˚

In the past, I have objected to Proverbs 29:18 being used as the rationale for a church vision statement (See “Where there is no vision the people perish, one of the most miss applied verses in the Bible”).  Proverbs 29:18 calls for the proclamation of God’s Word rather than writing a mission statement.

Having said that, local churches clearly do need a vision of how they dream their local church will move forward. And the vision for any local church should include joy. Currently, I am memorizing Nehemiah 12:43. You don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to appreciate how this thought from Nehemiah should shape our vision for the days to come.

And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away (Nehemiah 12:43).

If you need to be moved from one place emotionally to another: (1) Identify a Psalm that relates to your experience.  (2) Systematically memorize it over a period of time.  (3) As you do so, experience the movement of the Psalm and be transported by the Spirit in conjunction with the Word.

Psalms are poetry.  This means that they are truth to be experienced.  The idea with poetry is not that we simply learn objective truth.  Rather, poetry, particularly in the case of the Word of God,  transports us through an experience.

You might respond, “Well, when I read Psalms, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

We cannot experience poetry with a quick read.  Rather, we need to hear the Words – – to reflect on them – – to prayerfully take in delight at pondering the images.  There is no better way to accomplish this than through memorization.


But, how does one go about memorizing?  As I have posted in the past (see these posts), a system is needed.  (This post provides a concise summary of my approach).

Below are two pages from my moleskin that picture how I went about memorizing Psalm 65 this summer.  While you wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it was larger, you can see that my basic approach was to mediate on the Psalm by saying it over and over again.


If you were to turn to the next page, you would see notes that I made while memorizing the Psalm – – ways that the Psalm moved me.

I appreciated this Psalm initially, but nowhere near the degree to which I savor it now.


Why Psalm 65?

I chose Psalm 65 initially because of verse 6, “The one who established the mountains being girded with might.”  I was staying in the Lauterbrunnen valley (see below) at the time, arguably the most beautiful valley in Europe.  My goal was for the poetry of the Word of God to interpret the beauty for me so that I could move from the place of initial awe to one of worship.

What I discovered by memorizing the Psalm – – was that this is a Psalm about joy and happiness.  Indeed, the place where it moves the prayerful “meditator” is to one of celebration.

One of my favorite things to do in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was watch this cog wheel train wind its way up the side of the mountain.  It was as though I was watching a life-toy train.  What a joy to meditate on the truth that the Triune God established these mountains, being girded with might (Psalm 65:6).


Which is the right Psalm for you to begin memorizing?  There are only 150 to choose from.  So it shouldn’t take that long to identify one.

Just take the time to read any of the below verses. If you love Christ and His Word, I think you will understand why I chose to memorize them.

People sometimes ask how I choose verses to memorize.  Rather than giving a longer explanation here, I decided to share 16 verses that I reviewed this evening and that I’ve had in my system for more than 20 years.

Jude 24-25 is one of the most beautiful benedictions in Scripture.

24 eNow to him who is able fto keep you from stumbling and gto present you hblameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to ithe only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, jbe glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 37:3-4 both exhort us but also assure us that God will give us the desires of our heart.

3 zTrust in the Lord, and do good;

adwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.2

4   bDelight yourself in the Lord,

and he will cgive you the desires of your heart.

Revelation 3:20 is a verse I memorized while going through an evangelism program. Looking back on it, I think we may have been taking the verse out of context. Notice it’s at the end of the letters to the seven churches.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and zknock. aIf anyone hears my voice and opens the door, bI will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 cThe one who conquers, dI will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as eI also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 pHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 were recommended by Masters Seminary as verses seminary students should memorize.  I didn’t attend Masters, but I got my hands on the list and I am thankful I memorized these verses that summarize the central duty of man and why we should be motivated to do it.

10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you except to revere him,21 to obey all his commandments,22 to love him, to serve him23 with all your mind and being,24 10:13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and statutes that I am giving25 you today for your own good?

Micah 5:2 is a key prophecy about our Lord.  See Matthew 2:6 and notice that Matthew adds that Bethlehem is by no means least!

2 3   qBut you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of rJudah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be sruler in Israel,

twhose coming forth is ufrom of old,

from ancient days.

 Romans 8:18-21 remind us that just as Creation was tainted and twisted by the rebellion of image bearers, even so will be redeemed.

8:18 For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared23 to the glory that will be revealed to us. 8:19 For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God24 who subjected it – in hope 8:21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.

John 1:1-5 are incredible!

1:1 In the beginning1 was the Word, and the Word was with God,2 and the Word was fully God.3 1:2 The Word4 was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created5 by him, and apart from him not one thing was created6 that has been created.7 1:4 In him was life,8 and the life was the light of mankind.9 1:5 And the light shines on10 in the darkness,11 but12 the darkness has not mastered it.13

For more on Scripture memory see here.

16 in 113 seconds

Chris —  July 8, 2011

If you give Scripture memory just a few seconds every day, it will change your world.  (More here).

Today when I timed myself when reviewing 16 verses. It took 113 seconds. I cannot begin to describe to you what these verses have meant to me over the last 20 years that I have been working on them.

The verses included:

Romans 8:1-4 – No condemnation for those in Christ!

Proverbs 3:5-6

Hebrews 11:1-2 – A definition of faith and the introduction to that wonderful chapter.

Titus 2:14 – Conclusion to one of the richest paragraphs in all of Scripture (Titus 2:11-14).

Galatians 6:7-8 – As James MacDonald has summarized, “Choose to sin, choose to suffer.”

1 Cor 10:11-12 – If you think you are standing firm . . .

Isaiah 40:28-31 – Those who wait on the Lord will soar

Per Isaiah 55:11, if you join this project led by Timmy Brister, you can count on it changing your life.  (See here).

Seriously.  Why not?

As I’ve explained elsewhere, it’s the best approach to emotional healing.

Lots more to read here.

Why memorize Scripture?

Chris —  October 25, 2010

If I could give you only one piece of advice for life, it would be to memorize Scripture (more here).

Ann Voskamp (who I might add, like Patricia is a tremendous photographer) has a wonderful post on memorizing Scripture.

If nothing else, take a few moments to watch this video from John Piper which Ann includes in her post.

I know of nothing that will help you grow as a believer more than Scripture memory.

John Piper:

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How do you keep from forgetting Scripture after you’ve memorized it?

I don’t. But practically, what can you do to keep it as long as you can? There is only one word. Review.

Review, review, review. There is no way to memorize Scripture that keeps you from losing it. Some people don’t lose anything. Some people have traps in their head that just hang on to it. But only 1 in 10,000 people can do that. Average folks like me have to work real hard to memorize the first time, and then recurrently review to keep it. So I memorize verses every day, and I forget them every day.

This morning I re-memorized a verse. I finished Deuteronomy and ran across a verse that I memorized years ago. Maybe I memorize it once a year, because I read the whole Bible once every year.

The verse is Deuteronomy 33:26. "There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, and through the skies in his majesty." So, I’ve got it memorized. I probably will forget it in a week. That verse is hard for me to remember.

I’ve memorized that verse probably five times in five years. I forget it because I don’t use it as often as some verses. So, I jot it down on a little piece of paper and carry it in my pocket, pulling it out during the day once or twice. If I try to nail it so that it is useful for me over the long haul, I keep it and review it.

A practical thing I would suggest for people to do, is decide what cluster of text they want to always be at their disposal. For me I could name Psalm 46, Psalm 23, Psalm 1, Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, a cluster of texts surrounding justification, 1 Peter 4:11—"let him who serves serve in the strength that God supplies, that in everything God may get the glory through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the dominion forever." This is the most quoted verse as we move into worship at Bethlehem.

So for my soul, for the warfare of my life, and for ministry in hospitals and counseling sessions, I want a cluster of texts at my disposal. Decide what those are, put them on a piece of paper, and review them until you have them down. I’ll give you a little story.

My first or second year of pastoring I was called to the hospital—quickly. I went without my Bible. Rollin Erickson’s wife just had a heart attack. I walk into a room of probably 20 family members that didn’t know if she was alive or dead—as she is in surgery. Rollin gave me a big hug and said, "John, give us a Word from the Lord." Now, if I had my Bible I would have opened it to a Psalm or something. I didn’t have my Bible, and for whatever reason at age 35 my mind went blank.

I felt so humiliated. It was horrible. Here are 20 people, and the husband of a dying woman says, "Give us a Word from the Lord." I can’t even remember what I said. I probably said, "Let’s pray," and tried to paraphrase some Scripture. I went home and got on my knees that afternoon. I said, "Lord Jesus, that will never happen again." I opened to Psalm 46—"God is our refuge and strength." I have been able to quote Psalm 46 verbatim for the last 28 years. I decided that Psalm 46 is going to be in my head because it is so useful all the time.

The answer is, review. But don’t try to do that with every verse you learn. You should be learning hundreds of Bible verses by heart, and forgetting 90% of them. But then you get to them again and relearn them, and they are still with you because you learned them once. Somehow they will function to get out into your life.

But really nail down a cluster of soul strengthening words