I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you — Psalm 119:11
Did you know that if you memorized one Bible verse a day starting at age 5, you’d have the entire thing memorized in just a little over one average lifespan (about 85 years)?
Granted, there’s no need to memorize the entire Bible. If we take out some of the genealogies and perhaps the repetitive bits about tabernacle-building, it would take several years less to memorize.
And if you learned more than one verse per day, it would take considerably less than that.
For example, if you learned 2 verses a day, you’d have the entire New Testament down in just over 10 years. Or the entire Psalms in 7 years. In the grand scheme of life, that’s not a very long time.
If you started teaching two verses a day to your 5-year old, they’d have the entire Psalms and New Testament down by the time they graduated college. (probably sooner, because kids learn fast)
But whether or not you are interested in knowing the entire (or most of the) Bible by heart, I still believe that memorizing the Bible (as much as you can) is a great idea for most of us. It keeps us healthy, and our minds focused on what is meaningful and true and helpful.
The question is, where to begin?
You could start at Genesis and memorize until you hit Revelations, but some passages are more practical, relevant, and helpful than others. So it’s probably better to memorize non-linearly.
Here are some suggestions, if you are just starting out on your memorization journey:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”
This is one of those famous verses that anyone who has spent any amount of time in church/Sunday school/etc probably knows without conscious effort. But I also suggest memorizing the context of this verse (ie, all of John 3, or at least the verses before and after verse 16).
1 Corinthians 13
This description of true love is necessary for us all to hold onto, especially in this modern culture, where the definition of love is getting lost in a haze of smoke and sleights-of-hand.
Matthew 5: The Beatitudes
From Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes begin with “blessed are…” (eg, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven).
Feel free to memorize the rest of Matthew 5, not just the opening salvo. There’s lots more helpful stuff in there, from “let[ting] your light shine before men,” to Jesus’ thoughts on thoughts.
(literally: “You have heard it said, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”)
Matthew 6: The Lord’s Prayer
The well-known: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
An almost-as-well-known song has been written on this passage, the result of when disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.
This passage describes the “fruits of the spirit.” The natural results of a person giving their heart to God: love, joy, peace, patience, etc.
The well-known “armor of God” passage (belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, etc). Paul reminds readers that we are all fighting an epic war between good and evil, as long as we live on earth.
(It is easy for us to forget that we’re in the middle of a battle, when our lives are comfortable. Which is why this passage is a good reminder to stay ready)
All of the psalms are helpful to memorize — the more the better, for me.
The Psalms are the songbook of the Bible. They’re very much about the human experience. There are lots of very human yet divine laments and poetical praises in here that touch people in ways that transcend words. But here are a few standouts:
“The Lord is my Shepherd…” this Psalm begins. Often read during hard times, Psalm 23 provides a lot of comfort in a way that is hard to describe.
This psalm reminds us that “joy comes in the morning.”
This is the psalm David wrote after messing up very badly (adultery + murder). This one I think is necessary to memorize because we all sin, and it helps to have this model of repentance.
This psalm reminds us that God knows us thoroughly, and knew us before we were born.
The Proverbs of Solomon (and some other folks) are, like the Psalms, great to memorize. After all, they are helpful for “gaining wisdom and understanding” (Proverbs 1:2).
Before cracking open the latest self help book, read through the ultimate ancient self-help book on wisdom 🙂
A well-known chapter in Proverbs, describing a wife of noble character. I memorized this one for my cousin’s wedding. If you are/want to be a wife, this is a good one to know. If you are a man that hopes to have a wife, this might be helpful too.
The Ten Commandments
God teaches us that salvation is by grace, not by works. However, the Law is not to be sneezed at either. There’s a reason God gave us a law in the first place, it would behoove us to know it. Law helps us to understand and receive Grace.
The Ten Commandments are the backbone of the law, and there are two versions. Having them both down can be helpful.
This is the first version given by God on Mt. Sinai.
This is a summary Moses gave the Israelites before he died.
Deuteronomy 6 and 8
I started Bible memorization this year by memorizing these two chapters. I chose these because Jesus used verses from these chapters (6:16; 8:3) to counter temptation.
And God knows we all need help with temptation.
Deuteronomy 6 also contains the famous “Shema” which is something that all religious Jewish people know (Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, the Lord is one).
All things work together, and if God is for us who can be against us?
“I am the vine and you are the branches.” This chapter reminds us of the critical importance of staying connected to Jesus. For “apart from [Him], we can do nothing.” Quite literally.
(Don’t believe me, check out Acts 17:28 — we rely on Him for both physical and spiritual life, though of course John 15 is more concerned with the spiritual aspect)
One of the most well-known prophecies about Jesus written hundreds of years before his birth. “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”
This is a good one to meditate on every once in a while, to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and the point of our lives.
Verses that lay out the basic mechanism of salvation
Sometimes, especially for those of us who grew up in the church, trying to explain what sin and salvation is can be a bit tricky. Hopefully, the following verses can help:
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You probably know this one already. If not, see the first verse in this list 🙂
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Other standalone verses
While I recommend memorizing chunks of Bible verses at a time (for better understanding through context), there are cases when certain verses can stand alone.
(of course, I still advise you to go ahead and memorize the entire chapter the verses come from, but you can also memorize just the verses, to start with)
Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.
Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.
Romans 5:3 we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Galations 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
Don’t Just Memorize the Bible
Don’t just memorize the Bible because it’s a cool party trick.
Remember, the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were very Bible-literate (they probably had most, if not all, of the Old Testament memorized). But they totally missed the point.
Memorizing the Bible is a great discipline, but it doesn’t replace a saving relationship with Jesus, founded on obedience and trust and love.
That said, if you’re serious about memorizing, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Remember to review! The more often you go back and review old memorized verses, the stronger they become in your mind, the greater the influence they can have on your life.
- Make it fun. There are lots of scripture-based songs that can help trigger your memory, and you can write your own, too. I do.
- Another thing is, I write my verses on index cards. Sometimes I pull cards at random, point to a verse, and try to see if i remember the book, chapter and verse number without looking. If you’re memorizing with other people (like your family) you can make a game of it.