Using Bible Verses in a Devotional

open bible on wooden table, autumn leaves

Bible verses are an integral part of a devotion. Without a verse, you just have an anecdote, no matter how inspirational it may be. Using bible verses in a devotional is standard fare. But, they are commonly misused.

Anecdotes and illustrations should be taken from your life, and the lessons should be from the scriptures. Illustrations parallel the lesson, support the lesson, and demonstrate the lesson.

The primary goal of a devotion

The primary goal of a devotion is to connect the reader to God, to encourage them to turn a negative into a positive, and/or to direct the reader to spiritually move or engage.

Devotions have four main parts:

  • Scripture on which the author builds an observation
  • An explanation of what the scripture means
  • A real-life illustration or anecdote related to the main point of the scripture
  • A call to action, or takeaway, that is related to the chosen scripture

The devotion is built around the chosen verse, and the chosen verse alone.

Common problems

  • Picking the verse before establishing the lesson

The verse should be central to the devotion.

To pick an appropriate verse, start with the lesson you want to teach, pick your real-life anecdote to parallel the lesson, and then find a verse that that closely relates to both.

When you set the verse for the devotion first, then you run the risk of the the explanation, real-life illustration, and call to action not directly relating to the chosen scripture.

  • Chosen verse is taken out of context

While you should not necessarily include the preceding and subsequent verses, you as the author should read them and recognize the meaning of the passage. This is imperative to remaining in context and not leading your audience astray.

  • Using multiple verses in a single devotion

Consider that using multiple verses in the body of the devotion as part of the explanation of the lesson takes up valuable word space. Highly consider paraphrasing the scripture you wish to use in your explanation.

Should you choose a verse that is familiar to your reader?

It’s okay to choose a familiar verse, and it’s okay to tackle a more obscure verse.

For example, the minor prophets are not as familiar as the Gospels, but they contain a wealth of inspiration and actionable scripture.

Effectiveness of your chosen verse

Verses should convey a principle and be relatively short, around 25 words, give or take. If a verse is significantly longer than that you run the risk of losing the attention of your audience.

Prayer and Takeaway

Some authors will have both a prayer and a takeaway. Some authors put the takeaway in the prayer. Either way is fine, but it needs to continue to be consistent with the content of the devotion and the chosen scripture.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you in your devotional writing journey.

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