View Full Version : What's a devotional?

07-27-2006, 03:11 AM
Some respondents in Roger's "Survey" thread say they write devotionals. The dictionary definition wasn't much help. Is a devotional a kind of prayer, or a religious essay, or a text to meditate on, or ______?

07-27-2006, 03:17 AM
Reph, I write devotionals for The Quiet Hour. In this particular case, it is a short (145-175 word) essay-type meditation based on a passage of scripture, and following a simple format. The devo starts with an illustration or story from everyday life that ties in to a thought from the scripture passage. It then links it to the scripture and makes (hopefully) a life application, and is ended with a quotation, short couplet, or prayer.

Hope that helps. :)

07-27-2006, 03:21 AM
Thanks, Pat, that does help. A devotional is approximately a miniature sermon, then?

07-27-2006, 03:28 AM
Well, it's miniature, but sermonizing is not what they want...more like reflecting, or meditating, or inspiring. Didactic stuff doesn't sell. The editor I write for likens a good devotional to haiku.

07-27-2006, 03:43 AM
Traditionally, they were written in prose, and were inspired by a line or two from the liturgy, or the New Testament. They were intended to be used in private prayer and meditation, but by the early to mid sixteenth century (I should know more exactly, but don't) they were routinely incorporated into sermons, particularly within Protestant churches. See this famous example (http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/donne/devotions/devotions17.htm) by John Donne.

Robin Bayne
07-27-2006, 06:54 PM
I write these all the time--but it's funny, when I first started writing as a Christian I turned down an invitation to submit one to a project --because I had no idea what one was!!

Every anthology or website that publishes devotionals has their own guidelines for length and format. Typically they start with a Bible verse and then has commentary and a way to apply it to real life--or an anecdote. Usually ended with a brief prayer.

I do a weekly devo for one of my writing groups, and have 2 books of devotions (compiled writings from many authors) being submitted by my agent. One of the best things about devo books is that each section is short--each piece can be read at a quick sitting. Sometimes they are in calendar format and the reader can read one each day.

(examples: Cup of Comfort Devotionals, Streams in the Desert)

The drawback is that there are tons of these books already in the market, so you have to make yours really different.

07-28-2006, 10:11 AM
A devotional, reph, is like a thought for the day. A lot of people use it in conjunction with their Bible to do Bible study or to have an encouraging theme to think about throughout their day.

Sometimes I use the devotionals I read for specific information in the Bible--such as "What does the Bible say about sex before marriage?"--that I might not already know the Biblical passage for. Also, devotionals tend to be written in a simpler language than most Bibles are, which makes for an easier-to-understand read.

But basically it's a Bible thought for the day, that is maybe a couple pages long at the longest, which allows someone on a busy schedule to read their Bible and understand it in easily digestable bits.

I hope this helps. Cool thread!

07-28-2006, 05:26 PM
Older devotionals were much longer than todays'. They were mini-sermons on a given topic.

Most of present day devotionals amount to a "Thought for the day" and may have a small scripture reading and a quote from a secular person. Old poets are quoted alot. And then the author's thought.

Something in this format:

"Consider the sparrows...They do not gather into barns, and yet your father in heaven feeds them. ...not one sparrow can fall to the ground apart from your father in heaven...therefore do not be anxious for your life..."

Msg follows: Have you ever watched small birds flitting from tree to tree or bounding along the ground? They are the picture of carefree living. Jesus illustrated that we can learn life lessons by observing nature. Anxiety is tied to frame of mind. Do we trust God will provide? We become engrossed in far too many things to enjoy life, things that only wear us down. The solution is getting a birds-eye veiw- enjoy what you can, which includes your options, but don't get so caught up in being busy that you can't enjoy anything going on all around you. Jesus was implying that it helps our minds to focus on beauty and order in nature, and helps us realize God is in control. And if he is in control for the birds, he is in control for us. Positive meditation is a beneficial discipline.

07-28-2006, 06:30 PM
They can be periodicals, such as Upper Room or Evangel. Sometimes inserted in the church bulletin (The church bulletin is a hand-out you get as you are going into or coming out of church -- sometimes has order worship -- often updates and reminders about activities and upcoming events as well)

Hope that helps.


08-02-2006, 12:06 AM
I've written hundreds of devotionals, I have two devotional columns and two devotional books published (Grace by the Cup: A Break From the Daily Grind and Faith-Dipped Chocolate: Rich Encouragement to Sweeten Your Day - both by Revell). Unless you are Oswald Chambers or work for the Crystal Cathedral it might be wise sidestep the heavy theology. Most devotionals that sell are anecdotal stories that share a message. They should come across as "This is what happened to ME and what I got out of it...". They should not be, "This is what YOU should do and how YOU should do it..."

Here is a link to one of my online devotional columns (Espresso for the Heart) that is run by the Comfort Cafe. You should be able to tell from this what sort of devotionals I write.

Most devotonals today are 200 words (very short), 500-600 words (average) or 800-900 words (long).

If you have any specific questions, drop me a line.