How To Write
| Writers’ Corner |
Before submitting a meditation, please read these writers guidelines to learn what we look for in the meditations we publish.
The meditations in each issue are written by people just like you, people who are listening to God and trying to live by what they hear. The Upper Room is built on a worldwide community of Christians who share their faith with one another.
The Upper Room is meant for an international, interdenominational audience. We want to encourage Christians in their personal life of prayer and discipleship. We seek to build on what unites us as believers and to link believers together in prayer around the world.
Literally millions of people use the magazine each day. Your meditation will be sent around the world, to be translated into more than 39 languages in over 70 editions. Those who read the day’s meditation and pray the prayer join with others in over 100 countries around the world, reading the same passage of scripture and bringing the same concerns before God.
Have God’s care and presence become real for you in your interaction with others? Has the Bible given you guidance and helped you see God at work? Has the meaning of scripture become personal for you as you reflected on it? Then you have something to share in a meditation.
You begin in your own relationship with God. Christians believe God speaks to us and guides us as we study the Bible and pray. Good meditations are closely tied to scripture and show how it has shed light on a specific situation. Good meditations make the message of the Bible come alive.
Good devotional writing is first of all authentic. It connects real events of daily life with the ongoing activity of God. It comes across as the direct, honest statement of personal faith in Christ and how that faith grows. It is one believer sharing with another an insight or struggle about what it means to live faithfully.
Second, good devotional writing uses sensory details -- what color it was, how high it bounced, what it smelled like. Though the events of daily life may seem mundane, actually they provide the richest store of sensory details. And when we connect God’s activity to common things, each encounter with those things can serve as a reminder of God’s work.
Finally, good devotional writing is exploratory. It searches and considers and asks questions. It examines the faith without knowing in advance what all the answers will be. It is open to God’s continuing self-revelation through scripture, people, and events. Good writing chronicles growth and change, seeing God behind both.
When you find yourself in the middle of some situation thinking, “Why -- that’s how God is, too!” or, “That’s like that story in the Bible. ” that can become a meditation. Excellent ideas come from reading and meditating on scripture, looking for connections between it and daily life. When you see such a helpful connection, here’s a simple formula for getting it on paper:
- Retell the Bible
teaching or summarize the passage briefly.
- Describe the situation that you link to the Bible passage, using a specific incident. Write down as many concrete, sensory details of the real-life situation as you can.
- Tell how you can apply this spiritual truth in days to come.
- After a few days, look carefully at what you have written. Decide which details best convey your message, and delete the others. Ask yourself whether this insight will be helpful to believers in other countries and other situations. If you feel that it will, add any elements that are necessary to The Upper Room’s format. Then you are ready to submit your meditation for consideration for possible use in The Upper Room .
- Begin with studying and meditating on the Bible so its power supports your words.
- Connect scripture with your own life. Your experience is unique.
- Each day’s meditation includes a title, suggested Bible reading, quoted scripture verse, personal witness or reflection on scripture, prayer, a “thought for the day” (a pithy, summarizing statement), and a “prayer focus” (suggested subject for further prayer).
- Meditations should be 250-300 words long.
- Remember that what you write will be translated for use around the world, so use clear, direct language. Hymns, poems, and word plays such as acrostics or homonyms ("God’s presence/presents", “the light of the sun/Son") make meditations unusable.
- Poetry and quoted lines from poems cannot be used.
- Previously published material cannot be used.
- Very familiar illustrations have little impact and should not be used.
- Avoid preaching ("you should. ” “you need to. ” “we must. ” etc.)
- Use language and examples that appeal to the five senses. Tell what you heard, saw, touched, smelled, tasted. When appropriate, use dialogue to tell your story (but no more than two exchanges).
- Make only one point. Think snapshot, not movie.
- Focus on how you can deepen the Christian commitment of readers and nurture their spiritual growth.
- Indicate the version of the Bible quoted in the text, and give references for any scripture passages mentioned. The versions we quote from are NRSV, NIV, KJV, and CEB.
- Seek always to encourage readers to deeper engagement with the Bible.
- Include your name and address on each page you submit. Please include a guide for pronouncing your name as our meditations are recorded for an audio edition. If possible, please type your meditation, double-spaced.
- Always give the original source of any materials you quote or historical fact you refer to. Meditations containing quotes or other secondary material that cannot be verified will not be used.
We continually need meditations, and you can submit a meditation at any time. However, to allow time for simultaneous publication around the world, we work far in advance. Below are the due dates and special emphases for the various issues.
January - February Issue
Deadline: August 1 of second year preceding. (For example, 2009 should reach us by Aug. 1, 2007) Special emphases: New Year, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday
March - April Issue