The Powerful Habit of Memorizing Passages


  • Deliberately memorizing passages daily has several benefits including, making your memory stronger more generally, giving you focus every day and providing a foundation that will last a lifetime.
  • There’s an easy method created by Tom Frost back in the 1980’s (

In the spring of my Freshman year in college (March 1998) I had a leveling up of my faith. I graduated from my childhood-like faith into a more mature understanding of what God did in Jesus, and why it matters. The group of guys I ended up hanging out with had a profound impact on me. We eventually had a falling out, but they introduced me to the discipline of memorizing scripture.

At the time, I was as zealous as a convert, even though I had been a Christian for 4 years by this point. My faith was not mature and did not stand up to even mild criticism, let alone rigorous debate. I realized that, while I had read the bible in the past, I really didn’t internalize much of it. So memorizing scripture intrigued me.

The method we used was to set aside time every day to go through the memorization exercise.

  • Each week you pick one new scripture to work on and write it down in a journal that had seven blocks of seven check boxes listed along side it.
  • Every day, when it comes time to do the exercise, you simply say the scriture out loud one time, then check one box.
  • You do this once a day for seven weeks (hence the seven blocks of seven checkboxes).
  • When the seven weeks are up, you assign the scripture to a day of the week. Then every week on that day, you say the scripture once a week for seven months.
  • When the seven months are up, you move the scripture to a day between 1 and 28, then you say the scripture on that day once a month for seven years.

By the time you get done, you will have memorized the scripture. Actually, in my experience, by the time I got through the seven weeks, I had pretty much memorized the scripture.

The first scripture I memorized was Romans 12:1-2Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Over the course of several months, I kept this discipline up, memorizing dozens of pieces of scripture. But as happens with many things started with good intentions, I eventually slowed down and stopped the practice altogether. Over the years, I’ve started the practice back up, only to stop just a few weeks in. It has not been a consistent part of my faith practice in over 20 years.

Over the course of those 20 barren years, as my faith has ebbed and flowed, sometimes closer to and sometimes further away from God, the scriptures stuck with me. After some research and reflections on my experience I learned a few interesting things about memory, and how the practice of memorizing pieces of wisdom have blessed my life.

The first blessing I’ve learned is that the act of reading scripture daily provides structure to my faith time. I don’t have to decide what to pray or what to read to what to do. I just kock out the scriptures, and check the box.

The next thing I learned is that you have to be wholly present and mindful for the practice to be effective. There are plenty of things that can draw my attention away from scripture, so setting aside time when I can focus on the Word was crucial to sucessfully memorizing scripture.

The third blessing I’ve learned is that memory is a muscle: the more you work it, the stronger it gets. I truely believe the act of deliberately commiting scripture to memory in my late teens and early 20’s built a strong muscle that has stayed strong for my entire adult life. I am a credentialed actuary, and to become credentialed, I had to pass a series of exams over a 4 year period. My ability to memorize facts was invaluable to me in this pursuit. I do not believe I would have made it to the finish line without my abnormal abililty to memorize things.

But all that effort came at a cost. By achieving great success in passing all those exams, I started believing I did it all by myself. At the time it didn’t occur to me that my scripture memorization had anything to do with my ability to pass exams. I was just awesome, and so I passed exams. That caused me to drift from God, as more of my faith was in myself and my own abilities.

That lead to the fourth blessing, and the first unexpected outcome of memorizing scripture as a younger man: while my faith waned, my memory of the scriptures did not! Even when I found myself drifting away from God, He would speak to me in scripture. I’d be sitting on a bus, commuting to work and the words of Psalm 23 would come out of nowhere and flood my mind. I would hear someone mention that they were anxious, and 1 Peter 5:6&7 would pop into my mind. On the golf course, without thinking why, I would use longer passages like Romans 6:1-6 or Ephesians 4:1-6 to center my mind when I was putting. When I was feeling hurt, I would recite Galatians 2:20, reassuring myself that I was already dead to this world.

There was an 8 year faith-desert between when I stopped the practice altogether and when I finally turned back to God. It was the birth of my first child that prompted me to explore who I was, and who I wanted to be. I don’t know where I would be without the foundation I had laid for myself by memorizing scripture. The last blessing I have discovered is that memorizing scripture preserved my faith and eventually led me home.

I’m grateful for past-Brett for his discipline, and I now feel like I owe it to future-Brett to add to the foundation of faith established 20 some odd years ago. I’ve kicked off a new round of memorization. This time I will be expanding beyond scripture to include wisdom I’ve gained through other sources like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Rohr, F3 and many others. I encourage anyone to do the same.