Devotionals, which feature daily, weekly, or monthly readings and words from the Bible, are intended to bring the reader closer to God. Since their debut in the 1920s, devotionals have become increasingly important to religion publishers, and many say sales for the category remain strong. The books, such as Sarah Young’s famous 365-day devotional Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson), often lead bestsellers lists year over year.
“They are the gift that keeps on giving,” says Brigitta Nortker, Nelson Books editorial director. “You can go through a devotional once and get a lot out of it. And the next year you can go through it again and have a completely different experience and gain new wisdom because you’re at a different point in your life and different passages are speaking to you.”
Devotionals can also have a subtle yet significant impact on a person’s state of mind, according to Jennifer Gott, v-p and publisher, HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s gift division. “Readers want attainable, patient guidance for living well,” she says. “They don’t want to overhaul their lives—they want tools to make realistic but meaningful improvements, and along the way, they want to be affirmed and comforted.”
Justin Taylor, executive v-p of book publishing at Crossway, points to a societal shift toward what he calls “a short-form culture” that promotes superficiality. He says devotionals can provide much needed daily doses of deep spiritual truths: “We have found that a lot of Christians are drawn to the idea that a substantive devotional can provide the equivalent of dense and tasty nutrition in bite-sized chunks.”
Whether a reader is looking for encouragement or spiritual enrichment, new and forthcoming devotionals are applying wisdom from the Bible to a wide range of issues. Addressing challenges associated with different seasons of life as well as our digitally driven culture, devotionals offer ways to move forward one day at a time.
Small readings, big problems
While the content is usually short and simple, devotionals can be used to tackle such difficult matters as illness, death, grief, and loneliness. These books aim to inspire readers with uplifting stories and promises from God. Damon Reiss, v-p and publisher at Thomas Nelson’s W Publishing, notes the recent advisory from the surgeon general about an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in America, and says devotionals fulfill “a real need for content that helps individuals connect with the goodness and presence that come from a strong faith.”
Out now from Thomas Nelson, Susie Larson explores life’s difficulties and doubt in Closer Than Your Next Breath: Where Is God When You Need Him Most? To Reiss, the book assures readers that they are never alone by reminding them that God is always near. “Not shying away from the complexities of the nature of grief, sadness, or aloneness, [Larson] makes certain that the reader knows these [feelings] are not the final words spoken about them,” he says. “With hard fought wisdom, she gently leads us into a faith that can heal hearts and restore our souls.” A second devotional by Larson, Waking Up to the Goodness of God: 40 Days Toward Healing and Wholeness, is coming from Thomas Nelson in January.
Following the sudden loss of her husband, author Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young turned to breathing exercises and other “soul care tips” to help her process the grief. In 25 devotions, Gilmore-Young shares her story, as well as grief support resources, in Breathing Through Grief: A Devotional Journal for Seasons of Loss (Ink & Willow, Nov.). Also drawn from personal experience, Incurable Faith: 120 Devotions of Lasting Hope for Lingering Health Issues by Andrea Herzer (Multnomah, out now) offers prayers, readings, and spiritual exercises for a stronger relationship with God. Herzer writes about living with a long-term illness and finding comfort through faith.
Baker Publishing Group’s Chosen Books division addresses mental health in Rising with Hope: A 40-Day Devotional for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression by Mark Chironna (Chosen, May 2024). Coming from Zondervan in March 2024, One Prayer Away: Healing Words to Speak over Your Day (90 Devotions for Women) by Lauren Fortenberry collects Bible verses related to mercy, hope, anxiety, and more, placed alongside inspirational quotes and photography. “Lauren doesn’t shy away from the joy or the rawness of life,” says Gott at HCCP. “She invites women to begin their days with the bliss of brokenness, to surrender to the journey to a faith-filled future.”
For readers who are suffering from rejection, regret, or fear, Jesus, Calm My Heart: 365 Prayers to Give You Peace at the Close of Every Day by Ruth Schwenk (Bethany, Nov.) features nightly prayers for strength. To be published in October by SPCK’s Form Books, Facing Fear 365: Daily Reflections for Hope, Peace and Courage by Dan Blythe combats “a culture of chaos and confusion” with words from the Bible, according to the publisher.
Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama collects 31 scripture readings, short excerpts from literature, and essays in Being Here: Prayers for Curiosity, Justice, and Love (Eerdmans, Jan. 2024). Placing an emphasis on connection and creativity, Ó Tuama writes, “The hope is that you can turn to a prayer with the story of your life, and in the little emptiness you create there, hear something, discern something, feel something that’s connecting you to other things seeking out connection with you.”
A number of new devotionals by bestselling authors include spin-offs of previously published titles in which content has been repurposed, as well as standalones featuring short, original writings. Devotionals can help an author expand their audience, and readers gravitate toward books by authors they already know and love, according to HCCP’s Jennifer Gott.
“In the age of social media, readers crave intimate, heartfelt, and practical devotionals from people they trust and respect to help them conquer their own real lives through the truth of God’s Word,” Gott says.
Below is a sampling of devotionals by bestselling authors.
Everyday Courage: 50 Devotions to Build a Bold Faith by John Bevere (Thomas Nelson, Feb. 2024)
Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!: Daily Meditations for the Rest of Us by Kate Bowler (Convergent, Feb. 2024)
I Am Asking In The Name Of God: Ten Prayers for a Future of Hope by Pope Francis (Image, Oct.)
Kingdom Values Devotional by Tony Evans (Bethany, Oct.)
Pilgrim: 25 Ways God’s Character Leads Us Onward by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House, Sept.)
The Practice of the Presence of Jesus: Daily Meditations on the Nearness of Our Savior by Joni Eareckson Tada (Multnomah, Oct.)
Sunday Matters: 52 Devotionals to Prepare Your Heart for Church by Paul David Tripp (Crossway, Oct.)
Trusting God with Today: 365 Devotions by Charles F. Stanley (Thomas Nelson, Oct.)
You're Not Finished Yet: 100 Devotions for Building Strength and Faith for Your Journey by Christine Caine (Thomas Nelson, Oct.)
Alongside titles by well-known authors are devotionals by celebrities. These books also benefit from an author’s existing platform and can generate brisk sales. Out now from Nelson, Love Is the Point: 100 Days of God’s Love for You and How to Share It with Those Around You by husband and wife actors Carlos and Alexa PenaVega highlights opportunities to show others love. The book includes tips for connecting with people despite differences and other obstacles.
“I think this is the exact kind of encouragement we all need right now, and I love how passionate Alexa and Carlos are about these challenges for their readers,” says Nortker, Nelson’s editorial director. “It’s easy to overlook the daily reminders of God’s love or get too busy to think of ways to show love to friends, neighbors, and strangers, but Alexa and Carlos’s stories and practical advice make it feel a bit more manageable.”
Also focusing on loving others, Sadie Robertson Huff, of A&E’s Duck Dynasty fame, addresses the need for joyful connections in How to Put Love First: Find Meaningful Connection with God, Your People, and Your Community (A 90-Day Challenge) (Thomas Nelson, Oct.), written with her husband, Christian Huff.
Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of famed televangelist Billy Graham, and her daughter Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright have teamed up on Preparing to Meet Jesus: A 21-Day Challenge to Move from Salvation to Transformation, out now from Multnomah. And lastly, B&H is rereleasing 2021’s Fighting Words Devotional: 100 Days of Speaking Truth into the Darkness by singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb with 10 bonus devotionals and new, full-color interior illustrations.
Moms need a moment
For busy and stressed-out moms, devotionals aim to provide quick moments of clarity, calmness, and grace. Several titles this year are exploring the struggles and rewards of motherhood, including He Gives More Grace by Linda Green and Sarah Walton (The Good Book Co., Dec.). In it, the mother-daughter authors address pressures, joys, and disappointments of motherhood in an effort to shift the focus away from the perfect mother and toward Jesus, “a perfect savior,” they write.
Coming from Paraclete in October, Every Day Holy: 60 Devotions to Embrace God’s Gift of Time by debut author Meredith Barnes, a speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, argues for God’s view that time is sacred, encouraging readers to rethink their relationship with it.
Tyndale, which has published several popular devotionals on motherhood in recent years, has four new entries: MomStrong 365: A Daily Devotional to Encourage and Empower Everyday Moms by Heidi St. John (Sept.); Tonight We Pray for the Momma: 100 Midnight Mom Devotions and Prayers by mother-daughter team Becky Thompson and Susan K. Pitts (Oct.); Precious in His Sight: A Mother’s Guide to Praying for Her Children by Rachel Norman (Mar. 2024); and Mom Heart Moments: Daily Devotions for Lifegiving Motherhood by Sally Clarkson (Apr. 2024).
Discussing the number of new releases on motherhood, Sarah Atkinson, v-p of the Tyndale Book Group, says there is longevity in the subject matter. “I think devotionals for moms continue to do so well year after year because they meet both spiritual and practical needs,” she says. “A devotional provides a format for structured reading and Scripture engagement that encourages regular practice. At the same time, a devotional is designed to offer personal inspiration and reflection on a topic that moms may resonate with in a unique way, such as peace or purpose.”
Looking at the days ahead
With an average price point of $20, as well as so many options in frequency, duration, and subjects, devotionals are steady sellers. As a testament to their endurance, in February, Zondervan is publishing Faith over Fear: 100 Devotions to Rest in the Shadow of His Wings by Guideposts editors, 77 years after Norman Vincent Peale’s Guideposts organization became a pioneer in serial devotionals with its Daily Guideposts volumes. Like all devotionals that came before it, and like those that will follow, Guideposts’ new book aims to reassure readers with messages of faith. “While trials and heartache may be part of life, God promises comfort and solace in every situation,” the publisher writes.
Read more from our religion and spirituality feature on devotionals:
Religious Publishers Count Down to Christmas
Holiday-themed devotionals have a strong presence in faith-based publishing catalogs this year.
A New Jewish Bible Triggers a Translation Debate
Translating a Bible has always been risky, and today, the language of gender often fires up public opinion. That makes the “gender-sensitive” new English translation of Judaism’s core scriptures forthcoming from the Jewish Publication Society a book to watch.
Devotionals for Children: A Faith-Based Teaching Tool
Short, faith-based content that can be approached one day at a time is a winning combination for young readers, according to religion publishers.