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How the World’s Leading Memory Coach Can Help You Memorize More Scripture


“Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11


 

When God designed the human brain, He gave us an organ so incredibly powerful and complex that scientists are only just now beginning to comprehend how much it can do. A few years ago, researchers working in Japan and Germany made a tremendous leap forward by simulating roughly one percent of brain activity for one full second. This experiment, which barely scratched the surface of what our minds can do, still required the use of the world’s fourth most powerful computer – and even then it took the computer 40 minutes and almost 83,000 processors to perform the simulation. And again, we’re talking about one percent of what our brains are capable of for only one second.

Nonetheless, when it comes to our ability to remember information, most of us find it hard to believe that we have a supercomputer sitting between our ears. We’ve all stared blankly at people we’ve met before and tried in vain to remember their name; we’ve all laid down our keys only to forget where we placed them just a minute later; and we’ve all stood in the middle of a room wondering why on earth we walked into it in the first place.

But believe it or not, all of us have an incredible memory, which means that all of us have an incredible capacity to memorize. In other words, memorization isn’t a talent that you either have or don’t have – it’s a process, a skill that you can learn if you’re willing to apply yourself.

Thankfully, that’s where Kyle Buchanan comes in.

Kyle Buchanan is the world’s most watched memory coach, the creator of Memorize Academy, and the author of How to Memorize Bible Verses: The Fast and Easy Way to Memorizing Scripture. In his cutting edge video trainings, he shares that normal people like you and I already have an astonishing memory, and he provides the “secret keys” to unlocking the untapped potential of the mind God gave you.

Buchanan describes memorization as a three step process in which we learn new information (step 1), store it in our minds (step 2), and retrieve it when necessary (step 3). He goes on to describe the process of memorization using the analogy of a taking a picture with your phone:


“You record the image, you store it somewhere on your phone, and then you retrieve the photograph later on to show somebody. If you don’t do well in step 1, then you’re wasting your time. And if you don’t have an organized system in step 2, it becomes almost impossible to retrieve it in step 3. When we memorize something, the goal is to be able to retrieve it or recall it – to do that easily requires us to learn and store it effectively in the first place.”


I’m sure you can already see how this concept applies to Scripture memory. If we don’t learn a verse well or store it in our minds effectively, then we’ll never be able to remember it when we need to, which is the whole point of memorizing it in the first place. So how do we learn and store Bible verses well enough to retrieve them later on? Below are the five basic principles Kyle Buchanan teaches to help you memorize Scripture – or anything – more effectively.

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Five Principles for More Effective Scripture Memory

Attention: It’s impossible to remember information that we’ve never learned in the first place. Think of the last time you forgot someone’s name, for example. If we’re honest, for most of us the issue wasn’t that we forgot their name, it’s that we weren’t paying attention enough to learn it in the first place. Because we didn’t learn it correctly, we couldn’t store it correctly – and that made it impossible for you to remember it when you saw them again later.

So what’s Buchanan’s solution?

Stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time.

When we multi-task – like studying for an exam while talking on the phone, for example – our brains don’t actually engage in both activities at the same time. Instead, your brain has to jump back and forth quickly between them, meaning that neither activity gets your full attention. This truth explains why so many car accidents are caused by cell phone use.

And we’ve all made this multi-tasking mistake with Bible memory as well. Trying to memorize a Bible verse while doing something else at the same time causes two things to happen: first, it takes a ridiculously long time to be able to recite the verse from memory; and second, we forget it soon after that anyway, because we never really learned it in the first place.


All of us have an incredible memory, which means that all of us have an incredible capacity to memorize. Click To Tweet


The human brain needs approximately 8 seconds of focused attention to commit a new piece of information to memory, so when you’re memorizing Scripture, turn off the TV or radio, put down your phone, and give your focus to the task at hand. When you do, you’ll be amazed at how much more quickly and effectively you’ll commit the Word of God to memory.

Meaningfulness: Buchanan consistently stresses that “things that make sense are easier to remember than things that don’t.” In other words, the more we learn and understand what we’re memorizing (step 1), the easier it will be to store (step 2), and retrieve it later on (step 3).

This is why it’s easier to memorize passages of Scripture that you’re already familiar with or have studied before. If you have pre-existing familiarity with the passage, then the first two steps of the process have already begun, making the task of memorizing them much easier. Instead of having to learn something completely new and unfamiliar, you have a basic understanding of the concepts, and you can build on that context as you memorize.

With this in mind, Buchanan encourages us to get away from relying on rote memorization, or repeating the verses you want to memorize over and over again. While repetition may help the words stick in our short term memory, they won’t transfer to our long term memory effectively unless we first give the words meaning. Otherwise, all we’re doing is memorizing a bunch of words in the right order, and even if we do remember the words of a verse, they’ll be of little use to us if we don’t understand them or know what they mean.

As a side note, this is one of the reasons I believe we need to re-examine how we’re encouraging children to memorize Bible verses. If we teach our kids to say all the words of a verse in the right order without first teaching them why the verse is important and what it means, then I believe we’re doing them a disservice and completely missing the boat.

So if you have kids or work in children’s Bible programs like AWANA or Kids 4 Truth, let me encourage you to take the time to help your kids understand the verses they’re memorizing before asking them to memorize or recite them back to you. You’ll have an opportunity to help them understand the verses they’re memorizing, which will also help the wording transfer to their long term memory.

Organization: This principle goes along with step 2 of the memorization process. One of the most important concepts Buchanan teaches is that information needs to be well stored in order to be easily retrieved.

Think of looking up a word in the dictionary, for example. Could you imagine trying to find the word “whale” in a dictionary that didn’t use an organizational system? It would take hours of flipping through pages at random, hoping to land on the right one. Thankfully, dictionaries list words in alphabetical order, an organizational system that allows you to flip straight to the “W” section, where the word you’re looking for is stored.

And our minds organize information in the same way. So, if you were asked to name all the countries that start with the letter “S,” your brain would jump straight to the part of your memory where that information is stored, rather than running through all the “A” countries and then to the “B” countries, and so on. And we can use this organizational system of our brains to our advantage when memorizing Scripture (more on that in the next point).


Memorization isn't a talent that you either have or don’t have – it’s a process, a skill that you can learn if you’re willing to apply yourself. Click To Tweet


Buchanan also stresses that the best time to organize new information is right after you’ve learned it. The smaller the time gap between learning and organizing, the more easily the information will be retrieved later on. Taking the time to organize information effectively in your mind will help give it more meaning, and also use the power of chunking.

A great illustration of this is Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. I know several people that have memorized all 176 verses, and every one of them did so by breaking the psalm down into 22 sections of 8 verses each. They do this because that’s how David organized the psalm when he wrote it. The first section of 8 verses in Psalm 119 all start with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph. The second section of 8 verses all start with the second letter, beth, then on to the third letter and so on through the entire Hebrew alphabet, until you’re at the end of the psalm. So one of the best ways to memorize Psalm 119 is by breaking it down into these smaller chunks that are easier to understand and organize in our minds.

Association: This principle is about connecting the new information you’re trying to memorize to information that you already know. So for instance, when you’re watching season 2 of you’re favorite TV show, you interpret the new information you’re receiving in season 2 based on the information you’ve already learned in season 1. By consistently making these connections, the writers of the show are helping you remember what’s going on from week to week.

Association links back to the first principle of meaningfulness. The more associations you can make with a new piece of information, the more meaningful it becomes – and therefore, the easier it is to remember.

So when memorizing Scripture, use association as often as you can. Perhaps the truth in a particular verse applies to something you’re going through in life or maybe it uses a phrase or word from another Bible passage you’re familiar with. Whatever the association may be, try to find a connection between the verse you’re committing to memory, and something you already know that has meaning. Again, the more connections you make, the easier it will be to remember.

One of the best ways to establish association is to study the verse in the original languages the Bible was written in. Take the verse below, for example.


“Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11


Your Bible translation may use the word “hid” instead of “treasured,” but both words really capture the idea well. The Hebrew word David uses here refers to hiding a treasure or valuable object in the ground to keep it safe. In ancient times, they would often hide their most valuable treasures in the ground inside their tents to keep them from being stolen (for example, in Joshua 7, Achan hid the treasures he stole from Jericho in the ground inside his tent).

So think of Treasure Island, buried gold, and Long John Silver, and you’re on the right track. David is saying that he views the Word as his most priceless and valuable treasure, and as a result he’s going to hide it in the one place where it can never be stolen or taken away from him – his heart. Because I now associate this concept of hiding and burying treasure with Psalm 119:11, it gives the verse more meaning and makes it easier for me to remember.

Visualization: When applied correctly, this concept could transform your ability to memorize Scripture. One of the things Buchanan shows us is that human memory is predominantly visual in nature, which is why most of us find it easier to remember a person’s face than their name. He explains that “images are fundamentally more memorable than words, and we can take advantage of that by visualizing what we want to remember.”

Going back to the verse we looked at above, another method that you could use to memorize the wording is to mentally picture buried treasure as you recite the wording aloud. Taking this concept a step further, Buchanan even suggests creating a visual story to help you remember the verse, so instead of having just one mental image, you have several. Picture this with me:

You’re stranded on a desert island. Hoping to be rescued, you’re walking along the beach as you look for ships in the distance. As you’re walking, you trip over an object in the sand, falling down hard and leaving handprints in the sand where you braced for impact. As you get up and turn around to see what caused your fall, you realize that you’ve stumbled upon a buried treasure chest. You quickly clear the sand away and crack open the chest to find a copy of the Word hidden inside.

Because your memory naturally stores the mental images from stories like this, coming up with your own story may help you remember the words of Psalm 119:11 or another verse you’re working to memorize.

This concept is what prompted the people at The Verses Project to provide visual art and songs that aid with Scripture memorization. They do a tremendous job of making Bible verses easy to memorize, and if you register on their site, they’ll send you a new verse each week with 100% original content from their musicians and artists, along with a short meditation on each week’s verse to help make it meaningful.

This final concept may not work well for everyone, and it certainly won’t work well for every verse in the Bible, but I’d encourage you to give it a try anyway. You may just be surprised at the results you get.

If you would like to learn more about Kyle Buchanan and how your memory works, you can check out his website, his books, or his Youtube channel, all of which contain excellent resources that will aid you as you strive to hide God’s Word in your heart.

 

 

 

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