Prayer & Worship Tips to memorize psalms, long prayers, etc.

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
I think it's time for me to memorize some psalms. For memorizing prayers, I only know of this brute force tactic:

-Chop up the prayer into individual sentences.
-On day 1, memorize the first sentence.
-On day 2, recite the previous sentence then memorize the second one, repeating it as often as possible to get it right.
-Continue with each sentence.

It gets harder after day 5 or so, but technically this method works. Is there a better way?
 

Tom Slick

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Use a memory association technique for each sentence, such as finding a particular word that can be associated with something you already know and make the association between the two memorable in itself.

Prayer sentence 1: Our father, who art in the Heavens, hallowed be thy name.

Choose one word from the sentence that can be associated, such as the most unusual word: hallowed.

Write a sentence with the chosen word that connects back to the prayer sentence. Puns, synonyms, alliteration, and homonyms or near-homonyms work well.

Use a repeating mnemonic to identify the sentence number, such as the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

For example, on day 1 of memorization, recite:

In the first line of The Lord's Prayer, I hollered to the hallowed heavens:
Our Father, who art in the Heavens, hallowed be thy name.
 

Hermetic Seal

Pelican
Orthodox
Gold Member
This isn't exactly a technique, but what I've observed is that certain prayers are far easier to memorize than others. For example, both of the prayers to the Theotokos in the Jordanville morning prayers are very easy to memorize for me at least, not exactly sure why. I think it's because they feel like they're broken down into a series of compact "thoughts" that helps.

Otherwise, I find that the Psalms you heard sung in the Divine Liturgy (Psalm 102, 145, 33) are easier to memorize because you hear them regularly, and the music makes it easier to absorb them. The most commonly-heard elements (the Trisagion/Beginning prayers, Psalm 50, the Creed) I memorized without making any particular effort simply because I hear/read them so often.
 

DanielH

Ostrich
Moderator
Orthodox
I'm not good at memorizing lists, songs, or prayers, so I've used the same mnemonic since about 5th grade or so for tests, and I've used it to memorize prayers. Each, word, sentence, or verse you want to memorize gets a letter. For the trisagion prayers, and this is something I actually did, that looks like "IGOHGALGO" (In the name of, Glory to, O Heavenly King... etc.) I would write that vertically in the left margin of a piece of paper. Fortunately that makes a pronounceable word, if not you can tweak it and make it into a sentence. Then depending on how well you know each line of the prayer you can leave it as just those letters or after them add the first few words of that line.
 

tikkasakko

Pigeon
Orthodox Catechumen
I think it's time for me to memorize some psalms. For memorizing prayers, I only know of this brute force tactic:

-Chop up the prayer into individual sentences.
-On day 1, memorize the first sentence.
-On day 2, recite the previous sentence then memorize the second one, repeating it as often as possible to get it right.
-Continue with each sentence.

It gets harder after day 5 or so, but technically this method works. Is there a better way?
I use the exact same method. Works great. Also if I get stuck or make a mistake, I start from the beginning, helping remember previous lines at the same time.
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
Someone actually wrote a short book about this:
For $0.99 it's worth a try.

And this article was helpful:
 

Poche

 
Banned
Catholic
When I memorized Psalm 50, I started just by repeating it every day, then eventually I began to repeat it, but only looking at the text when I got stuck. Eventually I was checking the text less and less and it lodged itself in my memory.
That's how I learned some of the prayers that I know. Every day before I leave the house I say the Catena Legionis in French. That is also how I learned the Angelus in Latin and the Te Splendor Patris.
 

tractor

Woodpecker
Orthodox
I was able to memorize the rule of St. Pachomius. My technique was to read it, to pray it, three times a day for awhile, morning, noon, and night. Eventually, it sticks.

Seems that this rule is for those who don't want or can't use a prayer book. I like it.

The idea here, I think, that you repeat the Jesus Prayer 100x instead of those long prayers.

If I'm correct St. Seraphim of Sarov recommended repeating such short prayers ("Holy God...", "Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos" etc.) during the day if one doesn't have half an hour for the morning prayer.
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
So I read this short book (more like a long article) about memorization from a Protestant author:
Here are my notes:

Overview
  • Study one new verse a day Monday through Saturday (take Sunday off). You can build up to memorizing up to six verses per day.
Protocol
  • Recite yesterday's verse out loud ten times (including verse number) without looking at the text. Look at the text only if you need to.
  • Recite all the old verses together once.
  • Read the new verse out loud ten times (including verse number.) Try to photograph the verse with your eyes. Add any mnemonic visuals to help.
  • Cover the new verse and recite it out loud ten times.
  • When you are done, recite the entire passage for one-hundred consecutive days.
After Memorization
  • Once per week, read what you've memorized directly from the Bible text to weed out any mistakes you've been incorporating.
  • If retaining old books is hurting your ability to memorize new books, stop reciting the old books. Returning to them will still be easier in the future.
It's pretty similar to what I was doing, but more systemized. I'm going to try it out with individual psalms and report back.
 

Tactician

Kingfisher
Protestant
Gold Member
Probably more that one way to do this, but this is my go-to method anytime I need to memorize something:
1. Read out whatever you want to memorize in full (most Psalms are short). You want to memorize as much as you can handle in one go, so try not to chunk unless it's one of those huge Psalms (119 :laugh:). When you need to chunk, try to make the chunks as big as you can handle. E.g. For Psalms 119, I'd do verses 1-24 or 1-32 for my days work. Read your target a couple times until you feel you know what's coming after each line.

2. When you feel ready, cover up the Psalm & speak it out loud or clearly in your head. If you spot mistakes or struggle, go back to Step 1 & check your trouble spots. When you feel you've got it, go to Step 3.

3. When you feel like you can recite the whole thing, write out your target from memory. This'll provide a record of what you got right & the few spots you struggle. Testing yourself in this way is the most important step. Do this writing on a paper, no typing or phone.

4. Check the incorrect spots & write them in where you made a mistake. Don't re-write the whole thing during error correction because that takes too much time, just cross stuff out & fill in blanks.

5. Repeat the process until you can write out a Psalm perfectly. When you go back to reading your target, you'll naturally pay extra attention to the parts you had trouble with. Writing stuff out by hand is pretty tedious, so you'll be really determined to get it right within 2-3 tries & not start the Step 3 writing test before you can recite it & hold it in your mind.

5. Last step, when you can write it out perfectly, cover up your writing & recite the Psalm out loud one more time from memory, Uncover the verses that you wrote as you go so that you can compare on the fly. This step is because when you're writing out the Psalms in Step 3, you'll be writing at a slow cadence, but you'll want to be able to speak the Psalms quickly like second nature. This will also get rid of small errors like replacing "the" with "a" or similar.

6. In the future, you may have some minor touch ups (e.g. using the word "which" when the word is "that"), but they should be very easy to correct & you shouldn't need to write the whole Psalm out again.

Small tip: If you listen to audio recordings of Psalms, try to listen in the same version that you want to memorize in. Not a huge deal, but this just helps you not to 'combine' the two versions by accident. I tend to goof on this & recite a verse which is half-KJV & half-NIV :laugh:

In 2013 I memorized 2000+ Korean words from a dictionary using basically the above with an added step of Korean --> English, & English --> back to Korean. I'd memorize 30-60 per day & the next day I'd consistently only forget 1-3 words (5%) & this was easy to correct because of the previous day's focus on nailing the writing step perfectly. Scripture, prose, or instructions are significantly easier because there's a theme or direction to the work.

The core process of Read until I feel I can recite --> Recite until I feel ready --> Writing to test is what works for me. I don't claim this method is the best & it certainly takes work. However, once Step 5 is done, the results for me have lasted years, excepting the tiny & infrequent corrections mentioned in Step 6. This would absolutely be my go-to technique if I needed to memorize Psalms, although I don't want to knock anyone else's method.
 

Alexander_English

 
Banned
Protestant
Excellent suggestions from all, I would add from my own experience it helps to practice looking at a verse quickly, they looking up from the text, for example at an icon, while speaking the verse. Then look down again long enough to get the next verse in your mind, then speak it without looking at the text. Simply change the way you read and speak your Psalms, so there's no need to commit extra time to memorization, it will happen on its own.

Soon, especially if you're repeating the same Psalm, you will be able to hold larger pieces in mind at a time while reading. Eventually it will start running through your mind even when you're not thinking about it, like a song randomly starts playing in your head during the day, sometimes in great detail.

It's similar to learning music, for anyone who plays piano for example you end up looking quickly up at the music, taking in a chunk, then looking down at your fingers so you can see where all your fingers are while you execute all the notes. Then you quickly look up again and take in the next few bars, or however much you're able. Over time you don't really have to look up at all.
 

Patrick1

Pigeon
Orthodox
About a year or two ago my brother set out with the goal of memorizing all the psalms. It seemed like the process of memorizing them was more important than the end result
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
I attempted to use the system described in Post #11 to memorize Psalm 50 and it works. I memorized the Psalm in a more seamless way than my own system (which was similar). The main challenge with psalms is that some lines don't connect with previous ones, so I had to create a pneumonic that helped me remember what comes next. The system recommends you do this 6 days a week, but I usually did 5. Each session took me about 5-10 minutes. I plan to continue with more psalms.

There's only one change I made to the author's system: after memorizing the new line, I once again recited the whole thing. Here's the updated protocol:

Protocol
  • Recite yesterday's verse out loud ten times (including verse number for Gospels/Epistles) without looking at the text. Look at the text only if you need to (you will probably need to).
  • Recite all the old verses together once.
  • Read the new verse out loud ten times (including verse number). Try to photograph the verse with your eyes. Add any mnemonic phrases or visuals to help.
  • Cover the new verse and recite it out loud ten times. Look at it if you have to.
  • Recite all the old verses and the new verse one time.
  • When you are done memorizing the entire text, recite it once a day for one-hundred consecutive days.
 

EuropeanCanon

Woodpecker
Trad Catholic
I think of memorizing scripture as been akin to becoming proficient in the use of a weapon, the sword of truth which is the word of God. Once you have it down you have it always.
 
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