Writing Devotionals

Writing Devotionals by Julie Dearyan
Used with permission. Originally appearing September 20, 2009 at kvbwrites

Julie Scudder Dearyan is a writer and speaker. She is the editor of Victory In Grace, a monthly online magazine that ministers to people touched by her father and brother's television and radio program, Victory In Grace. She has been published in Focus on the Family, Clubhouse, Secret Place, Quiet Places for You, Marriage Partnership, Leadership Journal, and in many other publications.

What is the mission of Devotional writing?
A devotion gives people a two-to-five minute experience to encourage them to think about what God wants to do through their lives. People need to come away from reading the devotion encouraged and blessed, having read a Scripture along with its practical application.

 Format: Scripture reading, quote for the day, Title of Reflection, Text of Reflection (check format of market you are targeting)

 Length: Scripture-1-2 verses, Quote-One sentence, Reflection-200-300 words (some markets have them as short as 100 words-make sure your word count is right on and you have followed the format of other published devotionals in that market as closely as possible)

Start with an illustration
Your own life is the best place to start. In fact, with a little practice, you will start to see devotionals everywhere you turn. I pretty much could write a devo about anything these days.

Write down things you see God doing in your life. Randomly do this for a few days. They don't have to be profound, huge experiences to be a great devotion. Actually, it is better if they are the little things that happen when you see God's hand-this will resonate with your audience. The illustration can be as short as one sentence or as long as two paragraphs.

Here's an illustration from a devotion I wrote for Secret Place:
It was one of the last days of our vacation. The sun hid behind some clouds. We decorated sand castles at the beach and romped in the waves until I noticed pale red on my daughter's neck. I hadn't put suntan lotion on her. The less-intense sun had lulled me into laziness.

Transition sentence
Now, transition from the illustration to the spiritual truth. Here's how I did it:
A shirt kept the burn from increasing but the incident made me think about how I often neglect my spiritual side when my life is in less-intense mode.

Scriptural Truth
One or two sentences or paragraphs (depending on length of your devo) will help the reader to make the connection to the spiritual. This devo for Secret Place was short so my Scriptural truth is succinct to say the least.

I read my Bible but with a "let's get it over with" attitude. I pray but perfunctorily. I minister without a cheerful attitude. When things are calm, I tend to be a bit lazy with my
Spiritual disciplines.

Broaden to a wider audience
Take a sentence or two to make the devo applicable to any reader-not just readers who are like you. If your devo is written to Moms, then think of Moms who are in different circumstances than you are. Consider the mom who has adopted or the mom who works full time. Here is how I
did it for Secret Place.

Maybe you are between projects at work. Perhaps your children are at college, and while the quiet is welcome, your spirit longs for more.

Invite reader to make a decision
This is very important. The reader needs to be asked to make a decision regarding the devotion. It doesn't need to be a big decision. You are not asking the person to come forward and dedicate his or her life to  full time missionary service. Just a small decision-something doable in the reader's busy day.

Here's what I did:
Consider taking a walk today, preferably in a beautiful place, where you can share your longing heart with God.

Tie it up with a reference from the illustration
Now tie up your devo package with a pretty bow by referencing the beginning illustration. Here's my tie.

The squalls bring us to our knees but so should the calm.
Lord, help me every day no matter how busy or calm my life is going to
remember how much I need you.

Secret Place wanted me to end these with a prayer. Not all devos ask this.

That's it! Why don't you try writing a devo or two. They are easy and fun to write. For me personally, they are a great way for me to see how God is working in my life and I take great hope from that.