What is a good devotional? What do you remember about a devotional message that impacted you? Did it teach you more about God and develop your theology? Was the devotional encouraging and helpful to feed your hunger for God’s Word? Did the message challenge you to live out your faith on mission for Christ?
Growing believers in Jesus want to share what God has put on their hearts. Often women may be asked to share a devotional thought in written or verbal form with a group or Bible study. As a believer, one has the Holy Spirit and His guiding wisdom to help others deepen their relationship with God. But what is the practical side? How do you write a devotional message that draws spiritual truth from Scripture while encouraging and inspiring others in their faith?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started:
- Spiritually, where are you? How is your relationship with Jesus? Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (CSB). With a pure heart, humility, graciousness, and spiritual sensitivity, you can create a devotional message that can impact a reader or listener’s thinking and behavior. But the tongue, what you speak (or write), can be scary unless you have a pure heart. (See James 3:8-11.) How do you need to pray and prepare yourself spiritually before you write or share your devotional message?
- Mentally, where are you? Are you focused on God and how He wants to speak through you, or do you have your own agenda? Are you sharing this message with a mind focused on Christ and His kingdom or mixing in a lot of your own thoughts and preferences? A succinct and powerful message can be distilled in fewer words. However, this demands clarity and focus. (See Psalm 1:1-3; 73:28.)
- Do you have a burning message? Is there a desire to share God’s Word and His truth? Are you struggling to contain God’s message? (See Jeremiah 20:9.) Ask for God’s guidance to write and say the correct words in your devotional messages. Remember that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He knows the hurts and needs of women now and in the future. He can use the messages you prepare today to help people during challenges in the future.
- Who is your audience? People turn to devotionals for many reasons—habit, encouragement, obligation—but the real reason is to meet deep needs. The best thing we can do is point them to God who is the only One able to meet those needs. Think about the spiritual condition of your audience. Some of your audience may have broken relationships, suffered criticism, betrayal, loss, or discouragement. They need the balm of God’s comfort. Others seek intimacy with God. Their prayer lives are lax, their testimonies need the message of redemption, or their church attendance is sporadic. They need to know that Jesus is near and has not left them. Some women want to grow spiritually and discover a better way to share their faith. Your devotion may be the only thing that connects them to the Bible all day. Many read devotional books or magazines to prepare their hearts for further Bible reading and study. Their devotional reading is a spiritual discipline that brings encouragement and helps them to focus their day on God. Regardless of where the women are spiritually, your devotion may impact the audience in a variety of ways to meet their needs.
Now that you’ve established your foundation for devotional writing, let’s dive into some tips for creating a good devotional.
- The devotional should always be drawn from Scripture. However, don’t just give them commentary. A strong devotional presents God’s wisdom and His message in a package that the reader can relate to.
- Keep your style appropriate for the audience. Is your devotional message for teen girls? Moms? Women who work outside the home? Or will the message be shared with women across generations?
- Stick with tangible images that your readers and listeners can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You need to engage your audience and guide them on a journey that offers new insights.
- Devotionals are usually short. In written form, on average, they may be anywhere from 150–450 words. Be specific yet precise with your writing. Make every word count. Use visual nouns, punchy verbs, short sentences, and the active voice.
Devotionals usually have some consistency about them when they are grouped in a book or magazine format. The reader knows there will be a title, key Scripture, content, and a way for them to apply what they read. The content is where the writer can make sure the reading is not repetitive. The following basic patterns may be helpful as you begin or continue your devotional writing:
- Object Lessons. It is likely that if you’ve ever read or heard a strong devotional message using an object lesson, you remember it. The writer or teacher focuses on a tangible object parallel to an event or circumstance. Jesus used this format throughout His teaching with the mustard seed, a coin, a lamp, and other objects as metaphors. Readers see the parallel between the object and the lesson from Scripture, and the message sticks.
- Interactions with Others. You may remember these types of devotionals as well. Most of us are relational and learn from others. In this type of devotional, the writer uses an experience or story learned from a friend, coworker, family, or church member. The writer uses these interactions among other people to help dive into the Scripture lesson. Real names may be used with permission, or changed, as long as the story is true.
- Self-examination and personal stories. This is when the writer draws from personal experiences and uses anecdotes to teach valuable lessons. The memory always has an application that ties to the selected Scripture. This is a great place to share the truths God has taught you and how He has changed your perspective, your faith, and your heart.
The best piece of advice I can give anyone interested in sharing a devotional message in written or verbal form is to keep a journal for ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Write down specific verses that changed your thinking and perspective on life and faith through deep hurts and disappointments or great joy. Write out the stories of how God placed specific people in your life that altered your direction and your relationship with Christ. Keep a record of how God has made Himself known to you in meaningful ways—how He answered prayers, met your needs, and brought about a spiritual awakening in your soul. Writing a devotional message is a craft that needs to be developed and practiced, allowing your heart and mind to speak God’s Word and truth to others.
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.