Devotionals are usually short, very inspirational and should never be preachy. The problem with writing such pieces is the required length. Most writers, no doubt, have a lot to say and to fit it into 200 – 250 words can be very challenging. Nonetheless, write without editing yourself, or worry about word count, on your first draft. As with any kind of genre those are matters you will deal with later. Follow the writers’ guidelines and most publications will give you a theme to get you started.
The Upper Room, a magazine with a world wide subscriber’s list, depends on every-day writers to fill their yearly devotionals. Think about it, one devotion for each day of the year. Needless to say they are always looking for good writers, not to mention an endless amount of written meditations.
Writing for The Upper Room is a call for authenticity . . . good advice. Also, write about your own, very personal, experience (which obviously includes your struggles and honest questions). Then use scripture to illustrate how God brought you through the tough times.
Don’t forget to use sensory details. After all, we the readers would love to know what you, the writers, saw, smelled or heard. I’m all for knowing what it tasted like also. Show your readers the vivid colors or let them smell the jasmine floating in through open windows on summer breezes. You get the picture, right? And then, connect all of this with God’s working in and around you. Make Him personal, real, and a part of our daily lives.
And, of course, according to The Upper Room, it is best to explore meaningful questions. Search these out and consider the tough ones. It’s quite all right if the writer did not know the answer in advance. Actually it’s wonderful to connect to your readers that way-self-realization, growth and change is something your writing should reveal.
Remember that writing a devotional is like sharing something personal with a friend over a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. It’s not something that comes from head knowledge, so to speak, it should come from the heart.
Here is a devotion I wrote for The Upper Room based on Psalm 46:1 (NIV), “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
When my husband divorced me, I immersed myself in the Psalms. I imagined myself sitting side by side with David in a cold cave, pouring out my soul as he did and discovering that our God was right there. How intriguing, I thought, to picture Israel’s future king in such a place — cold, desperate and alone. If David’s help came from God, surely the Lord would rescue me as well.
God promised to be an ever-present help in time of trouble. I had to trust God and to forgive. It wasn’t easy. But as I began to trust, my hopeless hours turned into treasured moments with God.
Eventually, I became aware of birds singing and recognized to whom they were singing their melodies. In their songs I heard God’s still, small voice asking, “Am I enough for you?” A whisper, “I am the Maker of the sunrise,” comes each morning as the sun softly breaks into my “cave.”
God is ever present in my wintry cave, soothing and warming me. The Bible warns us that troubles will come, but it also declares that God will be with us always.
Prayer: “Maker of every sunrise, thank you for being with us in the midst of our troubles. Help us to seek you and to trust you completely. Amen.”
Notice that your devotional must have scripture and a prayer at the end. But like I said before, each publication will have their own writers guidelines which I would strongly suggest reading before submitting any material.
In any case, make it concise, personal, never preachy, and focus on a theme such as forgiveness, love, compassion and so forth. Keep it genuine and read the Bible (it’s your greatest source) so that you can inspire others to live a satisfied live. And by all means, write to let them know it’s all right to have struggles and questions.