Devotional Submissions

Guidelines for Contributing Devotionals

Thank you for your interest in contributing devotionals for the PresbyCan Daily Devotional. All our devotionals are contributed by our readers on a voluntary basis. Pray about contributing a devotional — writing is not restricted to Canadians or Presbyterians.

To contribute devotionals, you must be registered. Please read the following information about our PresbyCan Daily Devotionals and discover how to register. It just takes a few minutes, and you will immediately be able to post a devotional.

Here are the guidelines for writing:

The Ideal Devotional

Over the years, we have found that the ideal devotional: (1) is short (about 500 words); (2) is simple (keeps to one main point); (3) draws a spiritual analogy from an everyday situation or experience; (4) begins with a Scripture; (5) closes with an application for the readers' lives; and (6) ends with a prayer asking for God's help in carrying out the application.

The most commonly omitted part of a devotional is the application or take-away. Although a writer may feel that the application of what they have written is obvious, we can't assume that our average reader is able to deduce a general principle from a particular instance. Therefore, I like our devotionals to have a specifically-worded take-away. The take-away is the answer to the questions, "What do I want my readers to do as a result of reading this devotional? What change do I want them to make in their lives?" The prayer, then, is our request that God will help us to make that change. It is very helpful to frame the take-away first, and keep it in mind while you write.

When I realize that there is a connection between an experience I have had, and my relationship with God, the devotional writes itself. Looking for a devotional subject seems to make one's spiritual life more intentional. Often the same material used in a children's story in worship is suitable for a devotional. Consequently, devotionals can provide ideas for children's stories and sermon illustrations.

Devotional Writing Guidelines

Structure

There should be five parts to each devotional: a title, a Bible verse or two, the body of the devotional, the application, and a prayer. The order may be varied; if the Scripture has more impact after the devotional, it could follow rather than precede the body.

Contents

The devotional should be a reflection on one of the following: a brief story, a personal experience, an everyday-life situation, an answer to prayer, or a vivid illustration from a book you have read or a sermon you have heard or preached. It should be intended for a "general public" audience, and should have a theme of encouragement, e.g. hope for the downhearted, better relationships with others and God, trusting God in difficult situations, a better quality of daily life, etc. It should not be "preachy". An ideal way to avoid this is simply to use the inclusive pronouns "we", "us" and "our", rather than the preachy pronouns "you" and "your". Short and punchy is the watchword, and abstract theological dissertations must be avoided. Feel free to use humour, in good taste.

Length

The body of the devotional should be about 500 words. The object is to be able to read it in about four minutes. The online submissions form gives the word count automatically, and a word count feature is also available on many word processors.

Simplicity

In the space of 400-500 words it is possible to focus on only one point. Try to keep it simple and to that one point. In fact, before writing a devotional, write down in one sentence the one point that you want to make, to clarify it in your mind. In a second sentence, state the change that you want your readers to make in their lives (the application) as a result of reading your devotional.

Emphasis

The e-mail convention of marking emphasis by enclosing words in asterisks, *like this*, will produce words that appear in italics. Additional information about formatting appear with the online submissions form.

Paragraphs

The sure sign of a new paragraph is a blank line. Make sure that you insert a blank line between paragraphs.

Scripture

We assume that as people read the PresbyCan Daily Devotional, they do not have a Bible handy to look up Scripture references. The Scripture verse(s) can easily be found on and copied from BibleGateway.com. The reference should be placed before the verse; the name of the Bible book written in full; the chapter and verse references separated by a colon and followed by a hyphen; tildes (~) surrounding the reference are used make it bold; no quotation marks around the verse should be used. The version or translation used should be specified (in brackets) after the quotation, e.g. (NIV). Note the tildes (~) and dash in the standard Scripture notation:
~Psalm 96:9a~ — Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. (ESV)

Prayer

The closing prayer should be one that any reader can pray, rather than being one that the writer would pray. It is good to include everyone in a friendly way by using the pronouns "we", "us" and "our", rather than "I", "me" and "my".

Instructions for Submitting

  1. Some contributors have devotionals written previously for the radio, the newspaper, or their church newsletter, and those are fine to submit. Otherwise, write any time you feel inspired, when the reflections are fresh in your mind. Some writers write a series, and these are always accommodated.

  2. Please submit only original material, your own writing. If you are incorporating a quotation or illustration gleaned from another source, please identify the source if known.

  3. In order to be registered to contribute devotionals, we need you first to confirm your e-mail address. We'll send you an e-mail confirmation which contains a link to click. That will bring you back to the website where you can fill out a form with your name, and place of residence (town or city, province or state, and country) which are always published at the bottom of each devotional. You will immediately be able to submit a devotional.

  4. The reason that we use an online form for submissions is that the process of formatting devotionals to be entered in our database is a laborious process of multiple search-and-replace operations. These can be handled and eliminated so easily by an automated computer script.

  5. You have the choice of typing the devotional directly into the online submissions form, or else composing your devotionals in a word processor document, and then copying and pasting it into the form. In any case, it's helpful to keep a copy of your devotional in case it "disappears" or goes astray. If your Internet service goes out, or the Daily website is unavailable, click on "Back", and your work will reappear. If you don't receive a confirming e-mail containing a copy of your submission, it didn't go through. If you have questions, e-mail the Submissions Editor at <rross@telus.net>.

  6. Devotionals may be submitted online at any time. After the Submissions Editor has a chance to review your devotional, you will receive an acknowledgment with information about its acceptability or any changes that need to be made. Please use the revised version from the Submissions Editor to make any changes on, so that the Submissions Editor's revisions won't be lost. Writers will be advised of the date on which their devotional are scheduled to appear.

Feedback

Encouragement of our writers is a vital part of the PresbyCan Daily Devotional, since writers need to know that their work is appreciated. The names, e-mail addresses, and locations of our writers are included with their devotionals. Readers can and do contact the writers with their reactions. Simply clicking on the writer's address (or on "Reply" in the e-mailed text version) automatically opens an e-mail note to the writer, with a copy to the Feedback Editor. When you receive feedback, simply look at the "To:" field in the header, and if <presbycan@cogeco.ca> is included, you need do nothing further. If not, send a copy of the feedback letter to Jane Anne Waller, Subscriptions and Feedback Editor at <presbycan@cogeco.ca>. A digest of feedback received each day is posted to the PresbyCan Daily Devotional website every night. Sometimes readers express their thoughts very well or relate a personal experience that would be of general interest, and they are contacted in regard to becoming a potential contributor.

We encourage our writers to respond personally to feedback received. We ask that writers respect the privacy of the readers, and do not add their names or e-mail addresses to any distribution lists or start any electronic distribution list comprised of those sending feedback.

PresbyCan Daily Devotional Copyright Policy

Our policy at the PresbyCan Daily Devotional is that the authors retain copyright on their materials and are free to submit them for publication elsewhere. Those wishing permission to reproduce these copyrighted materials in a commercial publication or other media need to contact the individual authors to secure their permission. The redistributed text must not be abridged, edited, altered in any way, sold for a profit, or included in another media or publication that is sold for a profit without the express consent of the author. The author may request compensation for re-publication for commercial use.

We encourage our authors, when publishing their material elsewhere or when giving permission for reproduction elsewhere, to indicate that their material first appeared on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional website, and to indicate the URL for the site, http://www.presbycan.ca, since all material remains available in an online archive on the site.

May you know the Lord's blessing in writing, as we labour together to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24b NIV) in following the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Questions? E-mail the Submissions Editor <rross@telus.net>.