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Should I memorize individual verses or whole chapters?

“Should I memorize individual verses or whole chapters?” This is a question we frequently encounter at SMF, and our short answer is simply “yes.” Whether you’re memorizing a collection of verses on the topic of prayer or all 111 verses of the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll reap the vast benefits of having God’s word stored in your heart.

As someone who has enjoyed both topical and passage-based memorization, neither approach seems clearly superior to me. As a new Christian learning to share my faith with others, I greatly benefited from memorizing select verses on salvation from across the New Testament. Years later, God used my memorization of Jonah to reveal just how much grace my sinful, Jonah-like heart needs each day.

Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that “to everything there is a season.” When it comes to long-term memorization of Scripture, you may encounter seasons of topical memorization intermingled with seasons of passage-based memorization. When your job falls through and you’re unsure what’s next, memorizing 30 verses on peace may be helpful. When you feel burnt out and need encouragement to keep fighting the good fight, consider memorizing 2 Timothy.

What you memorize, how you memorize, and when you memorize aren’t nearly as important as that you memorize! If you prefer topical memorization, pick a topic and start memorizing! If learning a whole chapter or book seems best, then get started today! Once you decide what you’re going to memorize, be sure and find someone who will listen to you quote each week and let them know when you plan to finish. This will help you make consistent progress over the long haul.

Memorization is hard work, but it’s work worth doing. As you hide God’s word in your heart, may you learn to say with the Psalmist, “My heart stands in awe of Your word” (Psa. 119:161).

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