Contributors Guidelines

The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

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.

Where do I begin?

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.

How do I get started writing a meditation?

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:

  1. Retell the Bible teaching or summarize the passage briefly.
  2. 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.
  3. Tell how you can apply this spiritual truth in days to come.
  4. 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.

Tips to keep in mind

  • 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.

When are the deadlines?

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.

Special emphases

January-February issue

New Year, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday

March-April issue

Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, World Day of Prayer

May-June issue

Festival of the Christian home, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday

July-August issue

Creative uses of leisure

September-October issue

World Communion Sunday, God and our daily work. Tithing/Stewardship

November-December issue

Bible Sunday, All Saints' Day, Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas

Our response to your work

If your work is being considered for publication, we will notify you once your submission has been evaluated. Later, if your meditation is chosen for publication, you will receive a copyright release form to return to us. It may be as much as a year before a final decision is made. If you wish to be notified if your work is eliminated from consideration, include a stamped, self-addressed postcard for each meditation or submit it electronically by e-mail or through our website.

We buy the right to translate meditations for one-time use in our editions around the world, including electronic and software-driven formats, and to include them in future anthologies of Upper Room material should we choose. We pay $30.00 for each meditation, on publication. We also send 4 copies of the issue in which your work appears (but only if you have completed and returned the copyright and W-9 forms we send you).

We are unable to give updates on the status of submitted material or to offer critiques. All published meditations are edited.

Please be sure to include your postal address with each meditation, since we must send a form to be signed if your work is chosen for publication. Also include an email address and phone number (if these are available).

Meditations cannot be returned, so keep copies of what you submit. Please send no more than three meditations at a time. If you wish to know we have received your work, include a stamped, self-addressed postcard in addition to the one(s) previously mentioned. We will use the postcard to notify you that your work has reached us. If you email your submissions, you will be notified via email that we have received them.

We look forward to receiving meditations from you to be considered for possible use in future editions of The Upper Room.

Where do I send my meditation?

However, we also accept meditations submitted by postal mail and e-mail.

Editorial Office
P.O. Box 340004
Nashville, TN 37203-0004


The Upper Room Disciplines

You will submit seven meditations. Each meditation will include the following:

  • a listing of a Bible reading from your assigned scripture passages for the week
  • a meditation of 325 words based on the scripture reading chosen for the day
  • a short prayer, or suggestion for prayer or meditation


Disciplines offers the reader a deeper look at scripture through examining the scripture in its original context and considering its meaning for our lives today. As opposed to merely recounting scripture, Disciplines offers an interpretation of scripture passages to readers.

Length and Format

Disciplines contains a meditation for every day of the year. Each author writes seven meditations, beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday.

Address all of the designated scripture passages. Use each scripture at least once and no more than twice in your assigned week. You may divide passages into sections, so long as the division maintains the integrity of the passage.

Choose an overall theme or title for your week of meditations.

The word count for each meditation (325 words) includes the meditation itself and the prayer or other closing. The word count does not include the theme title line or the date-scripture line.

Please submit your meditations as one submission by clicking the "Submit to Upper Room" button on your Disciplines assignment page.

Quoted Material

For any Bible quotations, indicate the version (translation), book, chapter, and verse. We do not use paraphrased versions, such as the Living Bible.

Avoid using copyrighted material. If you do use quotations, cite the reference in the notes section of your assignment and include the source author, title, place of publication, publisher, copyright date, and the page(s) from which you are quoting. Keep a copy of this information for yourself. If quotations are not identified, they will be deleted.

We will determine if permission for any quoted material is needed. Avoid using poetry (two or more lines), hymns, or songs, unless they are clearly public domain material.

Returning Forms

Complete and return all forms given to you (including your byline and other information) and the W-9, which is necessary for our financial files.

Final Publishing Decision

A final decision as to publication of each manuscript is not reached until after the meetings of our editors regarding all fifty-two weeks of meditations for the upcoming year.

Sight Psalms


Sight Psalms is a daily, online, photo inspiration intended to help people reflect on God’s presence in the world and in their lives through the use of images. Each day, a new photograph is posted to evoke reflection and inspiration within themes connected to the Christian year, and it is usually accompanied by a few words.


Our intent is to express the divine through images. They are accompanied by a caption [see Captions below].


Themes are posted on here and generally follow the liturgical year.


Photographs should be 72 dpi (ppi); the length should not exceed 700 pixels on the longest side and should be sent as a .jpg file. They may be either vertical or horizontal. Resizing can be done in most photo editing software. Look for the term "resize" or "image size."

Copyright notice

Any copyright notice should appear parallel to the bottom of the image, in either the lower right or lower left corner — no larger than 16 points. Suggested font is Verdana or Helvetica. The copyright symbol can be made by pressing Alt-0-1-6-9 (PC) or Option-G (Mac).


Photos of adults taken in public places are permissible without the subjects’ permission. However, photos of children cannot be published without permission of the child’s or children’s parent(s) or guardian(s). Permission must either be written or in an email, and obtaining the permission is the responsibility of the photographer. Permission should be submitted along with the image and caption.


Logos of products, companies, etc. may be included incidentally, but should not be the main focus or feature in the image.


Captions include the theme and sentences below the picture. Their purpose is to enhance the message of the image and invite reflection and connection to the Holy. The language of the captions needs to be understandable to people who are not a part of a church.


Theme word or words precede the verbal message and should appear in all upper case. The sentences below the image should be no more than 50 words in length. Information about the photo (location, ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.) should be posted on the Sight Psalms Facebook page. Bold print should be used sparingly, if ever. Currently no formatting may be used, e.g., lines in a poetic form.

Where Do Captions Come From?

Here are some ideas for generating captions, should you need help:

  • What about the photo inspires you? Invite others to that inspiration.
  • Sit with the photo and ask yourself what it is trying to say about God, Christ, and the holy.
  • Think about how the image speaks to the theme and what it says.
  • Pray about what God wants said with this photo.

Use of Scripture is permissible, but must be no more than two sentences and follow the other guidelines above. The book, chapter, verse and version should be listed in parentheses at the end; e.g., (Job 1:16 NRSV).

Use of Quotes

Sources of published quotes must be identified, and that identification must be included in the word length restriction. Quotes must fall under the guidelines of fair use. If the source is an article or a book, and you are quoting only a sentence from that source, this is fair use. If, however, the quote consists of the entirety of the source, you need permission. Do not quote from a poem or hymn under copyright protection unless you have written permission. Getting permission to use a quote is the responsibility of the photographer, and the permission must be submitted in written form along with the image and caption.

Submitting Your Photo and Caption

Your image, caption and signed use agreement [and any necessary permissions for the image or caption] should be submitted to Please submit only one image and caption per email.


You will be notified if your submission is chosen, and you will be given the date the photo will appear.


Any Photographer whose image is published is encouraged to visit the Sight Psalms Facebook page, the day the photo appears and share additional information, such as where it was taken, circumstances of the moment, and/or his or her own feelings about the photo.