"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . ."

You can hear the words in your mind. The voices of little children chanting John 3:16. Maybe it was in Sunday School; maybe in Vacation Bible School. Maybe you have reflected with a bit of wistfulness, "I remember when I could quote . . ." Maybe you never had the chance.

That was then. This is now. The childhood years are past. You are an adult: you have a family, a spouse, a job. You have hobbies, recreation, social gatherings, and various board meetings. When someone mentions the word "memorize," you cringe. You don't have the time; you don't have the energy. And, deep down in your heart, you might also be thinking, "It's not that important, anyway."

It's not that important: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105, NAS).

It's not that important: "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11, NAS).

It's not that important: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35, NAS).

It's not that important: "Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, NAS).

The Bible is called the "sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17, NAS) - the only weapon we are given with which to fight the enemy. It is our comfort, our shelter, and our refuge. It is where we must turn if we are to combat sin, temptation, heresy, and evil. It is for our instruction, encouragement, rebuke, exhortation, and discipline. It is our joy, our song, our meditation, our contemplation. It is food for the soul and a challenge to our minds. It is history, symbol, theme, revelation, story, song, and prophecy.

It is the nearest thing to a physical touch from God that we will have this side of heaven.

Very well, then. So we tack up index cards with a verse or two, read it for a week while shaving or doing our hair, change it, put up another ... and we find we can't remember what we memorized a month ago, and we have no sense of accomplishment. So, in dejection, we stop entirely. Better not to try, we reason, than to fail so continually.

Better to try again, and try new. The most effective way I have found to memorize Scripture is to apply minimal actual effort, but a maximum amount of long-term time. Theoretically, I could memorize a verse every week if I tried hard enough. I would forget it within a few weeks, too. Therefore, I don't try to memorize verses or passages. Not directly.

Instead, I take a verse each week. I write it down (or type it up). Then I read it once a day. Just read it. Then put it away. I don't try to memorize it. Not at all. The next day I read it again. And put it away. And so on and so forth. Each week, I add another verse. And I keep reading all of them once a day. Adding one by one; reading them over once every day.

It may take me two or three months before I can stumble my way through a verse without looking at it. But it comes. Slowly, it comes.

And it stays. It may take two or three months to learn a verse, but years later, I can effortlessly call them forth from my memory. One of the keys is not to stop reading a verse once a day even after you have learned it completely. Keep reading it. Only "retire" a verse off your list when your list becomes too long to read once a day or once every other day easily. By then (after what - six? eight? months) you will have learned that verse so well that it will be a part of you - body, mind, and soul.

The keys to memorization are simple: repetition, regularity, and reading aloud.

You will find that Scripture wends its way into your prayers without your even realizing it. It becomes the song on your lips. It leaps forth as an instant defense when your faith is attacked. It comforts your sleep, guides your mind, disciplines your life, and draws your thoughts constantly to God alone.

Then it is that you will find the truth of the Psalms:

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

© 2001 Paula Marolewski

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. This article is not to be sold or included with anything that is sold.

Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots (www.SinkYourRoots.com). Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little thoughts that grow big results.”