7 Easy Steps to Memorize Key Bible Verses (Even If You Have a Bad Memory!)

A big welcome to all of you who have ever said, “I can’t memorize key Bible verses. I have a terrible memory!” Today’s post is for YOU, because I was once one of you.)

Have you ever sat down to do your Bible study, and in the middle of an otherwise normal chapter, you find a verse that jumps off the page and screams, “This is for you!”?

Your heart beats faster. You underline the verse in your Bible. Maybe you even write the date in the margin. And then your excitement suffers a terrible death because that beautiful verse is destined to the deep, dark recesses of your brain, never to be heard from again.

I’ve been there. Done that. Lamented the curse of mommy brain If you've ever said, "I can't memorize key Bible verses. I have a terrible memory!" Today's post is for YOU, because I was once one of you.and every other reason I could come up with for my poor memory. But *cue cinematic music* I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.

You, my smart friend, CAN memorize key Bible verses. And I’ll show you exactly how.

But before we get to that, I want to make sure you understand just how key verses fit into the grand scheme of deeper Bible study.

Key verses help us dig deeper in our Bible study by becoming anchors for the entire text, making it easy to remember a story or important doctrine by referencing just that one verse. For example, my recollection of Joseph’s story (favored son, sold into slavery by jealous brothers, suffered unjustly in prison, and eventually raised to political power to save the entire nation of Egypt and his father’s family), hangs on just one verse: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Isn’t that neat? Not only does that one verse basically summarize Joseph’s life (13 chapters, if you’re counting), but it also provides a theological lens through which to interpret it, and it gives us an important life principle to hang onto when things are looking grim: God will use everything for good, no matter how bleak the outlook is right now.

Pretty exciting stuff, if you ask me.

So how exactly do we move these verses from paper to memory?

Here are a few methods that have helped me memorize key Bible verses:

  1. Understand the verse in context. This is where memorizing goes hand-in-hand with Bible study. We don’t just take verses out of context and claim them for ourselves (remember the 5 W’s of Bible Study?). As you study the text surrounding your key verse, you’ll begin to understand what the verse really means, and that will help you remember it.
  2. Write the verse in your own words. Engage with the text, and try to summarize what the verse is saying in your own words. You’ll find this steps helps make the verse your own.
  3. Read the verse out loud. Re-read it several times for good measure. You can use these methods to make each read-through interesting and revealing.
  4. Write the verse on an index card. This way you can take the verse with you whereever you go, and pull it out when you have a few moments to spare, like when you’re waiting in line at your favorite fast-food restaurant.
  5. Break down the verse in shorter chunks. If you’re working with an especially long verse or you’re trying to memorize a passage, try working on just a few words at a time. Repeat the first phrase 10 times out loud, until you have a handle on it, and then move to the next phrase. Then combine the two, and so on.
  6. Read the verse several times throughout the day. You don’t have to be weird about this and scare the fast-food cashier with your recitation, but go ahead and pull out the verse when you have a few moments throughout your day and say it to yourself. (Stop lights, grocery store lines, car pickup lines, and any line in general is a good training grounds.) Pretty soon, your brain will turn on autopilot and you’ll be saying it without realizing it.
  7. Use physical motions to go with the verse. Okay, so this may sound a bit dorky, but using motions really helps. Honest. I didn’t do this before because, I’m too cool, thankyouverymuch, but just recently I started memorizing short verses with my two-year-old, and I found that I internalized the verse so much quicker when I used motions. Like, scary fast. Maybe I’ll upload a video of us working on a verse so you can see how this works. Wouldn’t that be cute? 🙂

Repeat your memorized verses often. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Or so I’m told. And my fledgling French vocabulary is proof. Voulez-vous mangez un muffin aux bleuets avec moi? (Yeah, totally googled that.)

Create a routine to go over your verses often, maybe when you brush your teeth (pardon the flying foaming toothpaste), or when you’re washing dishes. As you slowly work on mastering one verse after another, you’ll be surprised to find yourself memorizing key Bible verses, even though you never thought you could!

Your Turn

  1. Start your Bible study with prayer. If you have a particularly bad memory like me, go ahead and ask God to give you a supernatural dose of memorizing-power. Or maybe just patience in self-discipline. (Or maybe they’re the same thing?)
  2. Read John 5. As you read, be on the looking out for a key verse, a “golden nugget” that encompasses the central truth of today’s passage.
  3. Underline the verse in your Bible, and write it in your notebook.
  4. In your journal write 2-3 sentences about why you think that’s an important verse. What does it mean? How does the context illuminate the truth of that verse?
  5. Using the methods above, work on memorizing that verse today. 
  6. Respond to the key verse in prayer. Do you see an attribute of God to praise Him for? Something revealed in your life to confess? Something to thank God for? Anything to ask God to do in your life?

I’d absolutely LOVE to hear what you’re memorizing! Share your key verse online using #deeperbiblestudy. Bonus points if you include a picture of yourself holding your index card in a line of some sorts. Just sayin’.

Summary: Key verses help us remember important truths of Scripture, and they’re like energy boosters for the soul—they contain important truths about who God is, what He calls us to, and what life is all about. Some call these verses fighter verses, and if you memorize them, they make wonderful arsenal to add to your spiritual armor.

Want to get more out of your Bible study? Write down your observations.