The Bible by Heart
Did you ever hear a reader proclaim Scripture by heart? Or an actor present a whole Gospel? We may not be capable of such a feat, but we can always memorize a Scripture verse or two. Janaan Manternach calls this “banking prayers.” The verses will surface when we need them. For example, St. Teresa of Avila got through months of pain by continually praying, “We receive good from God’s hand, should we not also receive evil?” (Job 2:9) When a heart attack put my dad in the hospital, repeating “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) gave me comfort. Jesus knew Scripture by heart, for he quoted it and prayed it. We recite slogans and sing jingles from commercials even when we don’t want to. Mastering a few Bible verses then shouldn’t be that difficult.
Ten ways to commit verses to memory*
1. Repeat the verse aloud.
2. Write the verse several times.
3. Display the verse where you will see it: on your desk, dresser, or refrigerator.
4. Make up motions to do as you say the verse.
5. Sing the verse to a tune.
6. If the verse is long, break it down and memorize one section at a time.
7. Work on memorizing a verse right before you go to bed. It sticks better.
8. Memorize verses while traveling, exercising, jogging, or waiting in the checkout line.
9. Set goals for yourself.
10. Be accountable to another person.
Religion teachers who encourage students to memorize Bible verses do them a favor. Pope John Paul II pointed out that “the blossoms . . . of faith and piety do not grow in the desert places of a memoryless catechesis.”
Nine ways to help students learn verses by heart
1. Share the tips above with your students.
2. Write a verse on the board. Erase one word or phrase at a time and have the students recite the verse each time. Continue until all the words are erased and the class is saying the verse by heart.
3. Duplicate jigsaw puzzles of the verses and have the students race to work them.
4. Write verses on strips of paper and cut them in half. Distribute them and tell the students to find the half that matches theirs and then memorize the verse.
5. Letter, or have the students letter, verses on index cards. Keep the cards in a box or special pocket for the students to study.
6. Present verses that have blanks for key words on the board or on a transparency. Have the class supply the missing words.
7. Hold races. Use charts, stickers, stars, and dots to encourage memorizing verses.
8. Use verses as prayers to begin and end class.
9. Have the students throw a ball, beanbag, or stuffed animal to one another. Each student who receives the item must recite a chosen verse or add a word to a verse that is being recited.
Jesus once said, “When you make my words your home, you will indeed be my disciples.” (John 8:31) What better way to make God’s Word our home than to keep them in our hearts?
* All the memory tips are taken from my book Leading Young Catholics into Scripture (Twenty-third Publications).
What Scripture verse or verses have you committed to memory? When have they provided strength or comfort?
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