Put some bible in your brain!

by K.W. Leslie, 26 June 2023

There are certain bits of bible which need to be embedded in a Christian’s brain. Need to be.

No, this isn’t a requirement before God can save you. But it’s extremely useful to be able to quote various verses and passages which remind us of God’s love and grace and goodness, of Jesus’s teachings and commands, of the thinking behind God’s acts and our beliefs, and of promises, encouragements, and expectations. We need to put some verses into our memories.

So here’s how we get started.

Lots of Christians insist there are particular verses every one of us ought have memorized, like the Lord’s Prayer, or “the Lord’s my shepherd,” John 3.16, or Romans 6.23, or Romans 10.9. (People tend to refer to verses by their addresses. That’s sorta annoying for those of us who mix addresses up. I’m one of them, by the way.)

No, I’m not going to go through the entire list of Christians’ favorite memory verses right now. I’ll bring one or another up from time to time. If you’ve been praying the Lord’s Prayer, hopefully you’ve got it in your head by now anyway.

Me, I prefer this technique: It’s a little more natural.

1. Read your bible.

Because you are reading your bible, right? If not, don’t feel bad; just start.

So as you go through the bible, likely you’re gonna find a sentence or saying which really stands out to you. Something you think is especially profound. Something you’d want to quote later. Something you’d share with other people; you might even think right away of certain people to share it with. You might want to tweet it or otherwise put it on social media.

Well, there’s your memory verse. If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth memorizing.

And yeah, there’s a ton of bible worth memorizing. If you’re on the lookout for memory verses, you’ll find plenty. Dozens every day. Sometimes you’ll think, “Holy shnikes, I should memorize this entire chapter!

Okay, calm down little buckaroo. Don’t drive yourself crazy. If you’re on the lookout for memory verses, chances are you’re gonna overexaggerate the importance of every verse you find. Not that these verses aren’t important; they were important enough for the authors of the bible to write down, and for later believers to include in the bible. But maybe it’s better to not read the bible so you can specifically mine for memory verses. Just let ’em come to you naturally. If a statement strikes you as really significant, keep that one.

Don’t use a highlighter; that doesn’t help you memorize anything. (And somebody tell this to college students.) Write it down someplace. Write it a few times.

Yeah, you might only find one significant verse a day. Sometimes none. Sometimes ten, on a really good day. But you shouldn’t have to try very hard. So don’t try very hard.

Remember: If it’s something you’ll want to quote later, or share with others, that’s the one you keep.

2. Collect good quotes.

Again: Write these verses down someplace. If you’re tweeting them, that counts: Post them all on Twitter for now, then go back to Twitter later and collect them. Don’t copy and paste, ’cause like highlighting, that doesn’t help you memorize anything: Write it out with your thumbs like you do everything else.

If you carry a notebook or scratch pad, have a place in it where you collect these bible verses. Write them out.

If a verse is half a sentence, don’t quote only half a sentence; you’ll memorize it out of context. Don’t do that. Write the whole sentence out. If it’s five or six verses long, so what? Verse numbers are not there to chop up the text; they exist to mark your place. Memorizing half a sentence is like memorizing half a truth: You may as well memorize nothing. So write down the whole sentence.

Don’t forget verse numbers though. You’ll want to find it later in the bible.

Now, for bible translation. There are certain Christians who insist we should only memorize stuff in the King James Version or New International Version, because these are the most popular and best-known English translations. I don’t agree. Nearly all bible translations are similar enough. The point is you get the idea of the verse correct. If you flub an individual word, but still convey the idea of the verse correctly, that’s what’s important. Not specific wording.

There are certain translations to avoid. Like The Message, which doesn’t always get the precise idea across. Or The Amplified Bible, which tries so hard to be precise, it makes the verses unnecessarily wordy. Or The Passion, which is just a bad translation all the way around. But for the most part, use the translation you read most.

3. Memorize one verse at a time.

Now, everyone’s memory is different. Some people can memorize a verse a day. Others need a week. Others need two weeks. Others longer. However long it takes your particular memory to work, spend that time, and work on putting one memory verse into your brain. Once it’s in there, move on to the next verse.

Of course there are many different memory techniques. But here’s a few.

  • Write it on a bunch of sticky notes. Stick ’em everywhere. Make yourself read them every time you see one.
  • Write it down a hundred times, just like you wrote “lines” in grade school for punishment. Do this every day till it’s in your brain.
  • Recite it over and over and over and over and over and over and over
  • Put the words to a song. (Pick whatever song you can’t get out of your head lately.) Sing it to yourself. Sing it in the shower. Sing it to strangers on the street. That’ll be memorable.
  • Record the words onto an audio file. Make it your ringtone. Or put it on your phone or music player, put it on repeat, and play it till you can’t get it out of your head.
  • Stitch it into a pillow. (Hope you have a lot of pillows.)
  • Make a flash card. See if you can recite it without looking.

You can likely think of many more ideas than I can.

Memorize the address too. Memorize it as part of it. Otherwise you’ll always struggle to remember the address. Believe you me.

4. From time to time, review.

Once you have one verse in your brain, and move on to the next one… y’might forget the first verse. Because unless you reinforce your memory from time to time, stuff you thought was in there long-term, might not be. And there goes all your work.

So review. Keep that scratch paper with all your memory verses on it. Go over them again, after every time you’ve put a new verse in your brain. Make sure those verses stay in there.

If they do fall out—and they might—take a day or two per verse, and memorize them all over again. It’s annoying, but you know you should.

For some of you, this is going to be really rough going in the beginning. You’re just not in the practice of memorizing things. I sympathize. The beginning won’t be fun.

That’s why you have to insert payoffs into the process. Reward yourself for memorizing verses. Show off your memory verses to other Christians. (Believe it or not, it’ll seriously impress them. Most of the time they respond, “I should do that…”)

It does get easier. In fact it’ll become a lot easier to memorize anything. Regular memory verses are going to exercise the memorizing parts of your brain. It may surprise you.