How to (Really) Memorize Scripture

I'd memorized some Bible verses during Vacation Bible School as a child and had tried to learn a few as an adult, but I could never make them stick. I wanted to get pieces of God's Word so embedded in my brain and heart that I could recall them easily years after first memorizing them. One day about a year ago, I believe God dropped a method for long-term Scripture memory into my brain, and it's been working ever since. Because I need all the mnemonics I can get, I've come up with an appropriate acrostic for this method: SWORD. Here's what to do if you want to give it a try:

S = Select a Scripture and a "Scripture spot." Pick a Bible verse (or a chunk of verses) you think you'll want to have in your arsenal for years to come. In other words, you might want to skip the"regulations about mildew" section of Leviticus in favor of something more along the lines of Philippians 4:6-8What Scripture do you want to be able to fire off in a few days...and in a few months...and in a few years? Now pick a "Scripture spot," someplace you spend time in most days, preferably where you're doing one thing but have your mind free to think about something else. My spot is, weirdly enough, a seldom-used newspaper box near my mailbox. I do a walking loop back and forth in front of my house every morning for exercise, so I pass by this newspaper box several times each day. Your spot could be your bathroom mirror or a desk in your bedroom. My older daughter's "spot" is her daily planner.

W = Write it out. Hand-write or type out the Scripture you picked. I write mine on note cards that I then stick in a plastic zip-top storage bag for protection since I store them outside in the mailbox. Writing or typing out the verse or verses you're trying to memorize will jump-start the process and give you a reference to check while you're working on it.

O = Organize it into bite-sized pieces. Now start memorizing one chunk of your chosen Scripture(s) at a time. I pick pretty small chunks because that's all my brain can handle. For instance, when I memorized the Philippians passage mentioned above, I started with just "do not be anxious about anything." Keep repeating that chunk at different times during the course of a day or a couple days until you don't have to work very hard to recall it.

R = Really learn one chunk before you add on another. You're building a long-term memory here, so don't add on a new section of your target Scripture until the one you've been working on is firmly planted in your mind. Then, when you add on a new phrase, be sure to keep repeating what you've already learned. Again, to use the Philippians example, once I got good at "do not be anxious about anything," I tacked on "but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Your goal is to get these verses etched on your brain for permanent recall. This is not like science class where you're just trying to remember the life cycle of a rock long enough to ace the test. You want to know this stuff FOREVER. 

D = Do it all again. Keep repeating the verse you're working on, plus those you've already loaded into your Scripture arsenal. Write them out. Whisper them when you're lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Replay them in your mind while you're brushing your teeth. Keep a running list of them in a journal. Work them into your prayers. (Praying the Word of God = power prayer.) Say them out loud when you're feeling attacked, defeated, tempted, discouraged, weak, or uncertain. If you're not used to doing this, it might feel strange. But the devil can't read your mind, so he is only intimidated by what he can see and hear. And when he hears you saying Bible verses out loud, he feels your sword plunge in deep. And guess what? You've just slayed the dragon.