A Word for the Weary: Preparing to Submit Your Devotions to The Upper Room

So you’d like to get published, or perhaps you need a breather from writing a novel. Try writing “a word to sustain the weary soul” for The Upper Room’s Daily Devotional Guide.

They accept unsolicited submissions, and their publication allows you to share your God-centered message with an international community of believers.

When I began freelance writing, I wrote a story about being grateful despite catching chicken pox from my toddlers. The Upper Room published that devotion and have published my work in their magazine multiple times since then.

I’d like to share an overview and helpful hints with you, in hopes you’ll submit your devotions so God can use them.

Devotions must be 250-300 words.

This can be a challenge because rather than preach, writers need to “show not tell” how God used a Bible passage—or event—to deepen our faith and inspire change within us. And editors ask that we convey our message so it nurtures the reader’s spiritual growth—albeit the Holy Spirit transforms people’s hearts.

Fortunately, there’s a prescribed formula.

Write three paragraphs. The first paragraph shows what the writer experienced. The second explores what the writer learned from the experience. The third encourages the reader to deepen his faith and apply the message to his own life.

Each day’s meditation includes a title, a suggested Bible reading, a quoted scripture verse, a personal witness or reflection on scripture, a prayer, a “thought for the day” (a pithy, summarizing statement), and a “prayer focus” (suggested subject for further prayer).

Where do we find material for devotions?

1) Read and meditate on Bible passages—particularly less familiar verses. The Holy Spirit convicts, teaches, and inspires us when we’re reading scripture. Look for connections between scripture and life. Those lightbulb moments—when God’s Spirit transforms our attitude or compels us to action—are opportunities to share what we’ve learned.

2) Wear eternal-colored glasses. Pray God reveals Himself and helps you see life from a Biblical perspective. Then look for God’s lessons throughout your day. My devotional ideas happen during ordinary moments: walking, gardening, cleaning my house. When we look at life through an eternal lens, scripture comes alive.

 3) Wake up and observe life. There’s a wealth of inspiration when we focus on the moment  instead of living on autopilot. Watch people while you’re running errands. Listen to people when you’re standing in a grocery line. How does God’s Word connect with what you’re observing?

I wrote a devotion because I heard a child holler, “Mommy, watch me!” I thought of God watching His children like Eric Liddel, who said, “God made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

4) Keep a journal. Preserve those God moments, lessons, and visual metaphors so you can refer back to them when you’re ready to write a devotion. Remember to pray before you write, and when you submit your work.

You can visit The Upper Room website for writer’s guidelines.


Karen Foster’s devotion will appear in The Upper Room (Nov/Dec 2017). She also has a story in  the upcoming book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Military Families.

About Karen Foster 4 Articles

Karen Foster has been published multiple times in Christian magazines such as The Upper Room, The Secret Place, Bible Advocate’s ezine: Now What?, MomSense, Fulfill, and Discipleship Journal. Her stories have also appeared in five Inspire Anthologies. She blogs at KarenFosterMinistry.com and is a guest blogger for ThinWithin.org. She loves to write, speak, and blog about the intimate satisfaction that only God can bring. Otherwise, Karen’s nose is in a book or she’s using her green thumb in the garden.

13 Comments

  1. Karen,
    Thank you for this information about writing devotions for publication. The information you have given is clear, insightful, and very helpful. I am now praying about submitting to “The Upper Room.”

    God bless you,
    Terese

    • I’ll be sure to say a prayer for you, Terese as you seek God’s direction. The Upper Room is always looking for new voices to sing God’s praises and His message of hope.

  2. I, too, have had several devotionals published by The Upper Room.

    If I can add anything to your piece, I’d emphasize the importance of the takeaway at the end. That allows the reader to apply the lesson you’ve learned to their own lives. They benefit from how God has blessed us.

    Be a blessing, you all!

    • Great point, Ellen!! It’s not about sharing our stories or spiritual insights as much as encouraging the readers to apply the message and be blessed in the process. Some of those takeaways have been forgiving others, reading their Bible, praying for the enemy, trusting God during our trials. If you can think of others, feel free to add them here.

      However, even the takeaways that I mentioned . . . although imperative . . . has been heard many times. So that’s where much prayer and seeking God’s takeaway in the message will help writers go deeper.

  3. First, congratulations on your upcoming published devotionals. Second, thank you for these timely and wonderful tips. Lastly, and most importantly, God bless you as you “continue” your writing journey to bring hope, faith and joy to your readers.

    • Chrissy, Thank you for all the warm kudos. Writing is definitely a journey, and sometimes this traveler gets weary and discouraged. Thankfully, the Lord never lets me stay on the side of the road too long. And he brings Inspire friends like you to encourage me.

  4. Karen, thank you for these tips and this encouragement! I have submitted a half dozen devotionals to The Upper Room over the past couple years, and none have been accepted, although on was held “for consideration”!

    I have read their guidelines many times, but you have clarified them and added some very good points. Thank you so much.

    • Debbie,
      I’ve sent them some devotions that weren’t accepted either, so you never know. The key is perseverance. Here’s something else you might try. I took some of those devotions that weren’t accepted by The Upper Room and sent them to The Secret Place Devotional Magazine where they were published.

  5. In addition to the “formula” given for the typical template, The Upper Room also accepts devotionals in which the paragraphs vary in number. For instance, mine have varied from two to four paragraphs, depending on how the content builds. Additionally, the editorial staff will make changes of their own.

    The Holy Spirit will not only inspire the thoughts, but also direct in their presentation. The key is listening to Him and making the message clear to others, so they can “run that read it.” Habbakuk 2:2

  6. Hi Karen, Thanks for your encouragement. It’s been years since I submitted anything to the Upper Room. The few devotions I sent, were rejected, but you’ve put a bug under my hat to get me thinking of working on submitting again.

    Blessings,
    Danie Marie

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