Devotional messages are an important way to develop your own relationship with Jesus, or to spread his word to others. Anyone who seeks his truth, and anyone who would like to grow closer to God in their daily life, can find value in engaging with devotionals written by others. Writing your own devotional is a little harder, especially if you would like to share your message.
You may wonder if you have the skills you need to write en effective devotional, but don’t worry about that — so long as your heart is in the right place, you can absolutely write a beautiful devotional that opens hearts and souls to his love.
Understanding a Devotional
A devotional, also often called a “devo”, is a spiritual inspirational message that connects a particular scripture, or lesson from the Bible, with our everyday lives in an actionable manner. Devotional messages connect everyday life with the word of God, but beyond that, there are no rules — which indeed means that you get to make your own.
What purpose do devotional messages, which are not mentioned in the Bible but are instead used to bring us closer to God in everything we do, serve — whether for ourselves, or maybe for others within our congregation with whom we may feel called to share our messages?
Devotionals typically have the following characteristics:
- Devotionals can offer strength to those who need it, by reminding them of the ways in which the Lord can act in their lives, or the ways in which they are called on to act.
- Devotionals offer practical guidance — which is why they often share stories that others can take comfort in, or learn from.
- Devotionals usually, but not always, refer those who engage with them to a specific line of scripture that they can learn from, be inspired by, or find solace in.
- Devotionals are there for those who need them most. They can be shared during daily prayer or fellowship, at veterans’ groups, within support groups for new mothers, in circles for recovering addicts or inmates, or in grief support groups. They relate to the struggles those who are hearing the devotional are currently facing, and often offer tips on applying the word of Christ to their own lives, so that they can feel his presence and do his work.
Devotionals may be shared verbally, within your church, extended family, or support group, and they can also be published for people to draw inspiration from on an everyday basis. Scripture is hard work to interpret and understand — and while this work is always worthy, devotionals help to connect his word and his wisdom to situations in a way that anyone with an open heart can immediately understand.
The Key Elements of a Good Devotional
Devotionals are teachings or stories that help Christians grow in their faith or that offer comfort and inspiration. They vary very widely in their delivery, but devotionals usually contain the same common elements, which include:
- A Bible verse that illustrates the core meaning of the message the devotional is spreading.
- A true story, from modern times, that relates the scripture shared in the devotional to the current context, and shows the importance of faith.
- Brevity — although the writer decides precisely how long the devotional will be, it should generally take no more than five minutes to read aloud.
- Encouragement and lessons readers can immediately put to work in their own lives.
Devotionals usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Object devotionals use a physical item to draw analogies that help people grow in their faith. If the message sticks, they will remember the devotional every time they see the object. Jesus himself used this format many times.
- Life lessons from others, shared with their permission or — in the case of strangers you may have interacted with — by refraining from using any identifying details.
- Lessons from the writer’s own life, in which they share how they overcame a struggle or grew in their faith.
Why Write a Devotional?
Writing a devotional can serve many different purposes, and before you begin to open your heart, you may want to consider how you can best put your message to work. A devotional can:
- Offer inspiration to develop a closer relationship with Jesus to anyone at your church.
- Help to bring people who are seeking his presence in their lives closer to him, by helping them apply Biblical messages to their own lives.
- Help you stay on track in your daily prayers, by reminding you of important lessons — you absolutely don’t have to write your devotionals to share them with others. Some are intimate and personal, between you and Jesus. Turn to your devotionals when you are feeling lost, to remind you of the way back to him.
- Share a particular line of scripture with people for a very specific purpose — if you feel called to, you can write devotionals especially for those who have recently lost a loved one, who are about to embark on military service, who are getting married, or who are seeing a child off to college.
Devotionals, in short, translate the Bible into life stories that can inspire and transform people, and then to bring them to the source, from where they can more confidently continue their own Bible studies to put his work into action within their own lives.
How to Write a Devotional: A Step-by-Step Guide
Writing devotionals is scary — especially if you have never done it before. If you have a worthy story or inspiration to share, however, you can move ahead by writing from your heart. It will feel more natural, and less daunting, to write devotionals if you have been practicing for a while, and you can start by following this step-by-step guide.
1. Read and Listen to Plenty of Other Devotionals
Some devotionals will immediately speak to you, to the point where you feel the need to keep them around — whether in your heart and soul, or on paper. Others fall flat. They may offer inspiration to others, but don’t quite help you on your personal mission of drawing closer to Jesus.
By immersing yourself in devotionals written by other people, it will become easier to understand what style you would personally like to aim for in your devotional messages.
2. Decide What Wisdom You Feel Called to Share
What would you like to share with your audience today — yes, even if that’s just you or your family? Once you decide on the core message or teaching you are aiming for in your devotional, you will be able to think back to lessons from your own life, or the life of someone close to you, that convey this truth. You can then tie the same message back to a relevant Bible verse, which you can quote in your devotional.
3. Know Your Audience
Teenagers who attend your church youth group and your one elderly neighbor who recently lost her husband may well benefit from the same core message — but they will not be able to absorb it completely if you use the same words in both cases.
An effective devotional message, one that inspires people to grow in their faith, is one that relates to their own lives, and their personal struggles. It is also one that honors the stage in their journey of faith; some people may be new to Christianity and are not yet familiar with all Bible teachings.
As you write your devotional, consider what the people who will be listening to it need to hear most, and tailor your words accordingly. Consider your word choices, too. Devotionals do not have to be written in overly formal language and often, writing just as you would speak to a sister or close friend is the best choice.
4. Pray Before Writing Your Devotional
Sharing a devotional with your congregation or anyone else in your life is an act of humility — Christians should aim to do the Lord’s work, and pray on the words they choose for their devotional. Only write a devotional when you are in an open state of mind, where you feel ready to receive any wisdom that may flow through you, and when you have pure intentions.
5. Start Writing Your Devotional
Devotional messages are usually most effective and familiar to people if they follow this common format:
- Lead with a life story, maybe a struggle you had in your own life, that your audience will be able to relate to. Indeed, it is best if the people listening to your devotional can deeply feel your pain or your challenge, and find themselves contemplating how they would have reacted in a similar situation.
- Relate a Bible verse to the story you have shared, bringing your listeners to his truth.
- Explain how the Lord’s presence in your life lifted your burden and helped you find peace, or how your faith helped you overcome the challenge you have shared.
- Offer words of courage and faith to people who are facing similar struggles, and remind them that all things are possible in the Lord.
- End your devotional with a short prayer.
How to Write a Devotional: Tips to Keep in Mind
Chances are that your devotional will essentially flow from your heart, so long as you have a raging passion to share your message and you know that it can help others. However, if you are not a very experienced writer, you may worry that you are not able to share the contents of your heart effectively. If you are still feeling stuck, try:
- Writing exactly what you think about the story you would like to share, just as if you were retelling it to someone verbally. Once you have the contents of your message on paper, you can begin to edit it, choosing words that maximize the impact of the devotional or that render it appropriate for the audience.
- If you are hoping to offer words of encouragement to a particular person or group of people, such as new moms or someone who is recovering from illness, you can ponder whether you have experienced anything similar in your own life. The situation does not need to be identical — being stuck in a broken-down car with no money, in a desert, is a good metaphor for feeling stuck, for instance, and the same holds true for being locked out of your own house after losing the keys.
- Write with humility; there’s no need to make it seem like you have all the answers — that bit is up to God.
- After you have drafted a devotional, you can share it with a trusted friend, relative, or your pastor to ask for feedback.
- Keep a journal in which you write down any inspiration you gain for future devotionals.
- Consider the Bible versions you keep closest to your heart, and examine what lesson they remind you of. You can also craft a devotional in this way.
What experiences can inspire a devotional?
Anything meaningful you experience, and that helped you grow in your faith or made you come to a realization, can serve as inspiration. The neighbors that made you angry, the kitten you found lost on the street, people you met while traveling, or even worrying current events can all form the basis of a devotional — so long as they ultimately share God’s truth.
What if I’m not confident?
That’s OK, and it may even help. If you have a pure desire to spread his message, you will find the right words. Just pray on it and ask for wisdom. You will find the strength to share what you need to.
Can I write devotional lessons to read myself?
Of course. A devotional journal can help you find a prayer routine that works for you, and this is a great way to begin writing devotionals. You may later decide to share your devotional with someone who could benefit.