Photo Credit: schoolhousereview.com

How to Memorize Entire Books of the Bible

If I had walked in late to the final plenary session at the inaugural Cross Conference, I would have simply thought I was listening to an impassioned sermon.  But Pastor David Platt’s point in that session was to demonstrate that Scripture itself can be preached and the word of God should evoke a response at least as great as a majestic song or a moving sermon.  And he illustrated his exhortation by reciting the first eight chapters of the book of Romans in front of an audience of thousands…word-for-word…from memory.

Photo Credit: schoolhousereview.com
Photo Credit: schoolhousereview.com

There’s no magic to memorizing long passages of Scripture.  It takes hard work, but anyone can do it.  I first discovered a method for memorizing large portions of the Scripture from the Desiring God website.  I’ve used this memorization strategy to recite dozens of verses at a time, so I know it works.  If you make the decision to spend about 10 minutes everyday to following these simple steps you’ll be on your way to memorizing whole books of the Bible.

A .pdf entitled, “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture” by Dr. Andrew Davis provides the framework.  In this short paper, Dr. Davis argues that memorizing whole books of the Bible is better than memorizing one or two verses here and there.  “Most of Scripture is written to make a case…there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized.  Furthermore, there is also a greater likelihood of taking verses out of context by focusing on individual verses.”  So, the author advocates memorizing chapters of the Bible verse-by-verse without skipping those parts we perceive as “unimportant”.

Principles for Memorizing Scripture
Before we go further, the good doctor gives some principles for Scripture memorization:

  • Review Old Verses—“Work before play!” says Dr. Davis.  Make sure you refresh yourself on what you’ve already learned before moving on to new verses.
  • Repeat Over Time—It is more helpful to say a verse once a day for 100 days than to say it 100 times in a single day.  So repeat these exercise once daily over a long period.
  • Memorize Verse Numbers—You’ll be less likely to skip verses and more easily cite them if you memorize the verse numbers (e.g. 1:1 = one-one) as if they were part of the verse.
  • Photograph with Your Eyes—Memorizing is taking mental pictures and remembering them.  Pretend you are taking a picture of each word to help you memorize them.
  • Say It Out Loud—Remembering how words sounds will help you embed them into your long term memory.  You can also practice inflection when you say them out loud to help you get the sense of the text and remember it better.

The Method
So how do you do it?  What’s the actual method?  It’s pretty simple.

  1. Day One: Read the verse aloud 10 times. Be sure to say the verse number each time (e.g. Eph. 1:1).  Then cover up the words and recite the verse from memory 10 times.
  2. Day Two: Recite the previous day’s verse 10 times.  Then do the new verse of the day.  Read the verse aloud 10 times,  (say the verse number; e.g. 1:2) then cover up the words and recite it from memory 10 times.
  3. Day Three: Recite the previous day’s verse (Eph. 1:2) 10 times from memory (include the verse number).  Recite all the old verses together (e.g. Eph. 1-2) ONCE.  Then practice the new verse of the day (e.g. Eph. 1:3).  Read the verse aloud 10 times.  Then cover the words and recite the verse 10 times from memory.
  4. Day Four: Recite the previous day’s verse (Eph. 1:3) 10 times from memory (include the verse number).  Then recite all the old verses together (e.g. Eph. 1:1-3) together ONCE. Practice the new verse of the day.  Read the verse aloud 10 times.  Then cover the words and recite the verse 10 times from memory.

This process continues throughout the entire chapter and book.  Dr. Davis says that reciting the entire book of Ephesians will probably take you 15 minutes or less.

Reflections after Using the Method 
As I’ve used this method, I’ve developed a few reflections. First, there will be days when you don’t feel like memorizing.  Just like exercising or eating right, sometimes you won’t feel like putting forth the effort.  Do it anyway.  Push through.  It helps to make a calendar and check off verses as you memorize them.

Second, you’ll be tempted to skip steps in the process.  You’ll want to speed up that day’s session or you’ll think you’ve got the previous verses memorized so well that you don’t need to practice them.  But shortcuts end up costing you more time.  You’ll soon discover that whatever part of the process you skipped will be the part of the chapter that you struggle to recall the most.  So take the time to go through all of the steps every day.

Third, you’ll experience incredible residual benefits from memorizing extended portions of Scripture.  I find that it’s easier to memorize other bits of information when I’m consistently memorizing Scripture.  I suppose it’s simply exercising that section of your brain that helps.  Whatever the science behind it, I feel mentally sharper when I’m memorizing the word of God.  I also get to meditate on God’s word throughout the day.  I think about the inspired word much more throughout the day when I memorize it rather than simply reading it.  Lastly, the word of God truly becomes a sword for spiritual warfare.  Verses of the Bible will jump into your mind at just the right moment when you’re facing temptation, ministering to another person, or sharing the gospel.  It’s amazing how God will use His word, for His purposes, in His timing.  All we have to do is keep the word readily accessible in our minds.

Start Small
You don’t have to start by memorizing an entire book.  Commit to memorizing a single chapter.  If you’re like me, you’ll be hooked and want to keep going.  And pray that God would bless your efforts.  He wants you to know His word.  As He says to Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8). Happy memorizing!

56 thoughts on “How to Memorize Entire Books of the Bible

  1. Thanks Jemar. I think the church needs a renewed challenge to hide God’s word in its heart. Glad to see you came across Dr. Davis’ work. He is a great man of God. I was able to interview him during my time working on my dissertation related to Scripture memory. Here are some other articles on my site you and your readers may find encouraging.

    http://becomingsaturated.com/2013/03/scripture-memorization-great-tool-or-old-school/

    http://becomingsaturated.com/2013/03/12-reasons-to-memorize-scripture/

  2. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but one thing I’ve found extremely helpful is memorizing backwards. That is, if a chapter has, say, 25 verses, memorize the last “chunk” (last 4 verses or so) of that chapter first. The next day, learn what comes before. This has the advantage, as you are practicing, of giving you the new part (which is probably less familiar) first, and then moving into parts you should know much better. It may sound goofy, but it really helps me. Your mileage may vary.

  3. I use a slightly different method, but the basic principles are the same. I just wanted to comment to attest to how much regular memorization like this, entire passages with all the “unimportant” verses, not just the well-known ones, has helped my spiritual stability and growth, and appreciation and awe for God’s Word. And while it is a discipline and I often have to “just do it,” I was also surprised at how often it just naturally leads to worship, thanksgiving, adoration, and intercessory prayer, how often I will pause over a verse, even one I’ve recited hundreds and hundreds of time and meditate and even weep in gratitude over a new revelation of God’s goodness. It also adds so much to listening to the preaching of the Word on Sundays, the joy of a slightly new perspective on a verse I know intimately well, or an added depth to the preacher’s point when he references a few verses because I can also contemplate the context of the entire passage around those verses. And the added confidence in prayer because I can reference God’s own promises as memorized verses come to mind. I cannot encourage people enough to make this a regular part of their daily walk with God, especially in this day of quick and superficial access to everything. We desperately need God’s word hidden deep in our hearts.

    1. “I was also surprised at how often it just naturally leads to worship.” YES!!! That’s the true goal of study the word, to worship God more fully for who He is and what He has done. That’s an excellent. point. Just curious…what method do you use? Is there a written description of the method anywhere?

  4. As a 60 year old woman who has never been much good at memorizing anything at all (and who can barely remember what I had for dinner last night), and who had tried a couple different scripture memorization programs for a while, a few years ago I read about this method and decided to try it. I had already memorized a few Psalms, so I decided to try James for my first whole book. And I did it! I do my memorization in the car while commuting to and from work. I have gone on to memorize Titus, Ephesians, Romans 8, and Psalm 119, plus several other Psalms. It does take hard work, diligence, prayer, and for me, much, much repetition. I made the mistake of neglecting the regular review of those three books, and so semi-“lost” them, so am now relearning, which isn’t taking very long at all. I am hooked, too, and now want to always be working on memorizing something. I can only echo what everyone else has said about the spiritual benefits of memorizing scripture. It’s all true. I just want to encourage everyone that you are never too old to do this, and the benefits are as everyone else has said.

    1. God’s word is living and active. I never anticipated the good it would do to my soul to truly meditate on His word day and night. Thanks, for telling us your experience, Paula, and many blessings as you continue to memorize Scripture!

  5. Nice article. I have found, over the years, for me it is easier to memorize Books of the Bible rather than 100 verses from all over the Bible. I like the continuous thought process. I also appreciate the Books more as I can see how the author (for example, Paul in Colossians) ties things together. And, yes, this memorization of Books does lead to a deeper experience of worship as well as Bible study and bringing verses into everyday life. I find, for me, it is easier to memorize paragraphs of verses then transition into the next paragraph. Though in those paragraphs I work verse by verse.

    1. Yes, Rick. I, too, am finding that memorizing whole paragraphs at a time can be helpful. Really, I’m just starting to go by “complete thoughts” in a text. It’s hard to remember the words if you’re not grasping the overall point. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Something that has always been challenging to me and yet so vital to my spiritual growth. This greatly encouraged me.

  7. Hey Brother:
    Good stuff. I will share this system with our Church body.
    Memorizing Scripture was a part of my discipleship when I first came to know the Lord. So sad that in recent years it has taken a back seat. Thanks for putting it up front again.

    1. I had strong encouragements to read the Bible when I was a new Christian, but few instructions to memorize it. I’m getting a late start, but seeing the fruit of it. Happy memorizing!

  8. I use a very similar method and can add a couple suggestions that have helped me memorize larger sections of the text. From day one I read through the entire book that I’m memorizing or listen to it on my iPhone daily. I have found that by doing this, by the time it comes to memorize the last chapter in the book, I’ve already memorized it. I try to read through the passage from my Bible itself (not copying it onto notecards), so that I have a visual picture of where the passage is in the book. In this way I don’t get lost when I’m reciting the entire book because I have a visual of what section comes next. After I’m done memorizing a book or chapter, I continue to either recite, read, or listen to that passage daily for 100 days, and after those 100 days, I recite the passage weekly. I do this out loud with expression while walking my dog (usually in secluded woods so that I don’t look like a nut-case). I’m in my 50s and memorizing is not easy, but with this method and discipline, it can be done and it is SO valuable.

    1. That sounds like a strategy that takes incredible discipline. Those are also the strategies that tend to yield incredible fruit. Thank you for sharing a way to truly immerse yourself in Scripture.

  9. great and helpful article! i have decided to take on the task of memorizing my favorite book. revelations. altho this seems like a daunting task, i already have memorized chapt 1, 4,5, and halfway thru 6. i decided to skip chapt 2and 3 the letters to the 7 churches just to keep the flow going. on my way to work today i recited them word for word and it has greatly enhanced my view of heaven and the one who sits on the throne. its not as hard as it seems because revelations is in order very well and with imagery easy to remember. it may take me a year but i will do it. some say why not memorize a book that is useful for correction or teaching and my response to that is why not memorize a book that describes heaven and our near future. to me we are in the last days and nothing could be more fitting in my opinion. there are some really inspiring verses and i love reciting them and pondering what heaven is like. thanx very much for the inspiration

    1. “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16) I think that verse also applies to the book of Revelation. No portion of Scripture is unprofitable to memorize. It will probably take me a while to get to Revelation, but I’m glad you’ve taken on the challenge! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  10. I, personally, don’t think I have a good memory. But, I decided a couple of months ago to try to memorise a whole chapter–Ephesians 1. That went so well for me, I memorized Titus, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and am now working on 1 John and am in the third chapter. I find that by memorizing the whole chapter, I get a much deeper understanding of what it means. Just thought I would add my comment to encourage those who don’t think they can do it–YOU CAN!

  11. I am Korean. I am trying to memorize whole chapters of Proverbs in English(NIV). These explanation is really helpful to me.

    1. Thanks, Will. Proverbs can be a little tough to memorize because there may not be clear ties linking one verse to another. Yet there is unity and the conciseness of each proverb may be an asset. In any event, these practices will help. Thanks for reading !

  12. Came across Jemar and Dr. Davis through challies.com and have gotten hooked. There’s something about doing something by God’s grace that you never in all the world thought you could or would do. Am on my 100-days phase of reciting Romans 8 (kind of leads me to believe we shouldn’t be setting our minds on the flesh) and have started on Ephesians. As an old guy I’m amazed at this. I have this sense that I’ll wake up some morning and it’ll all be gone!:-) But even were that to happen it would have been worth the work.

  13. Curious how important you think memorizing the verse numbers is? I have read often about this system but haven’t done it. I have still been memorizing a lot of individual verses but now wanting to memorize ephesians. I like the method except the verse numbers. How does that work when reciting to someone. Do you still say the numbers or is it easy enough to skip over in your head?

    1. Since using this method, I have started memorizing the verse numbers. It does help keep me from getting lost at times. That being said, when I review long passages, I don’t say the verse numbers, but mentally tick them off on my fingers. If I were to recite to someone, I would do the same thing rather than saying them out loud. You will not regret taking the time and effort to memorize long passages!

  14. Thanks.have you ever used audio to review? that has helped me in the past. I have the ESV on audio and I was thinking of listening to Ephesians and saying along with it on top of this method. When I have memorized other passages I record them on my phone and listen to them while I walk. Something about listening to them also helps me memorize.

  15. Regarding verse numbers, I find them good for keeping my place and for cross-referencing when reading elsewhere in Scripture. Yet I’m humbled to admit that, if you were to pick a certain verse and ask me to say it, I’d in many cases have to start a few verses back and work up to it! Regarding audio, I doubt it would hurt and would probably add another route to the brain. The ESV audio I listened to (old CD that came packed with a print Bible) alerted me for the first time that there have been subtle changes to the ESV. I thought I had memorized Rom. 8:21 wrong because my Bible said “corruption” while the audio said “decay.” Turned out the audio was older.

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  17. Jemar, what a wonderfully valuable article!

    Actually, I’m working with a very similar technique to memorize large texts. Right now I’m approaching 5,000 words memorizing verbatim Og Mandino’s scrolls of the “Greatest Salesman in the World” — simply for its rich and inspiring content.

    Jemar, do you also find that your memory improved generally after memorizing long texts?

    Marko
    P.S. For my article on memorizing long texts, please have a look at:
    http://unchainmybrain.com/how-to-memorize-long-texts/

  18. Well scripture memorizing is a very hard but tremendously rewarding task.I am 22 years old and pray to go to a Bible college outside Africa,afer my French Bachelor’s degree.When it comes to accomplishing this godly task,I spend a time praying for my next chapter memorizing.The next day,boy I work with a strong refreshed soul and go ahead with my tricks.This I did and I was able to memorize the Philipians,James,two Timothies and Peters in 6 months.I never give up,I believe one day GOD will allow me to be a good evangelist I can be and join my dad and mom in the Ministry.Sure there’s nothing magic because the Bible says you’ll be able to get wisdom if you search for it like buried gold or silver.Don’t give up it works and helps!!

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