By The Book: Staying ‘grounded and in the Word’ Print
Written by Ken Walker   
Monday, 11 November 2013 04:51 PM America/New_York

Devotional and prayer books help refocus believers on Christ in a fast-paced world

Howard-DuckCommanderDevo-PinkWith multiple formats, attractive price points and new material by best-selling authors like Max Lucado, Beth Moore and Stormie Omartian, devotional and prayer books represent a strong niche for Christian retailers.

Indeed, the genre is enjoying a higher profile among some readers with November’s release of The President’s Devotional by former White House aide Joshua DuBois (HarperOne). Subtitled “The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama,” the book is likely to stir interest in other collections, such as Daily Guideposts 2014 (Guideposts, October) and African American History Month Daily Devotions 2014 by Angela Roberts Jones (Abingdon Press, Dec. 17).

Devotionals are trending because people don’t have as much time today to read, said Dawn Woods, publisher of gift books for B&H Publishing Group, who believes that Christian retail stores “can set themselves apart from others” by providing a wide selection of books in this genre.

Mark Gilroy, senior vice president at Worthy Publishing’s Freeman-Smith, noted that numerous faith traditions are seeking directed experiences, so the need for daily inspiration will never go away.

Regal-FastingWithTheLordsPrayer.jpeg“Individuals have different needs and affinities, so sometimes it is great to find a devotional that feels like it was written just for them,” said Gilroy, whose imprint has more than a dozen forthcoming devotionals, including the Dec. 10 releases If God Wrote Your Birthday Card by Jay Payleitner; Practicing the Presence of Jesus by golf legend Wally Armstrong; and Shine!, a 365-day volume.

“For example, we are in the process of writing material for caregivers—those who have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s, cancer or a handicap,” Gilroy said. “But there are also thoughts, truths and writings that are so universal in appeal that they work for everybody.”

Expanding the authors’ messages

In a hectic world, it seems that readers are yearning to hear from God daily and be reminded of connections to Him, said Annette Bourland, senior vice president and group publisher at Zondervan. 

“I think people are moving so quickly,” Bourland said. “Devotionals help keep Christians grounded and in the Word by offering them short thoughts and scripture pairings.”

ThomasNelson-OneGodOnePlanOneLifeZondervan has had success with such past titles as Streams in the Desert by Lettie Cowman and Jim Reimann. Two of the company’s newest are Encouragement for Today by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst, Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Team (September); and Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell (October).

Harvest House Publishers is also active in the genre. In addition to August’s What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional by TerKeurst, the house has eight first-quarter 2014 releases. The company also is relaunching in January Omartian’s “Power of a Praying” series—which has 26.5 million copies in sales.

Editor and author Hope Lyda said Harvest House has realized the benefit of expanding the messages of Christian Living authors through devotionals to deepen and further apply those messages.

“Collections of prayers and devotionals are great reads for Christians and for Christians to give to non-Christians,” Lyda said. “That makes this an ideal genre for themed displays or to have as a feature book of the week or month.”

Whitaker-30MeditationsOnJesusHarvest House isn’t the only publisher turning to devotionals to accentuate authors’ messages. Swope’s A Confident Heart Devotional (Revell/Baker Publishing Group, November) echoes her popular 2011 title, while The Shack author Paul Young’s Cross Roads Reflections (FaithWords, September) stems from his second novel, released a year ago. 

The Duck Commander Devotional (Howard Books, October), with contributions from the entire Phil Robertson clan, debuted a month after Si-cology 1, the memoir of Uncle Si from the hit A&E show Duck Dynasty. Jerry Bridges’ 31 Days Toward Trusting God (NavPress, October) came after his best-selling Trusting God, and Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still Devotional (Multnomah Books, October) hearkens to his 2010 title.

In January, Abingdon Press releases Adam Hamilton’s Journey to the Cross, reflecting on messages from his previous best-seller 24 Hours That Changed the World. Next April, Zondervan plans Living Life Undaunted by international speaker Christine Caine, inspired by last year’s Undaunted.

Popular speakers and Bible teachers continue releasing devotionals, such as Moore’s 10-week focus, Whispers of Hope (B&H Books, October). Other previous B&H authors with fall releases are Tom Blackaby’s Experiencing God at Home Day by Day and filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick’s Love Dare Day by Day.

Thomas Nelson follows Lucado’s You’ll Get Through This with his first Young Adult devotional—One God, One Plan, One Life (Jan. 7). Another well-loved pastor, Chuck Swindoll, saw his latest release, Hear Me When I Call, out from Worthy in August, combining daily readings with prayers. In October, Whitaker House released the first of four “30 Meditations” by Marilyn Hickey and daughter Sarah Bowling, with 30 Meditations on Jesus due in January. 

However, it isn’t just high-profile figures entering the field. Homeschool mother Brooke McGlothlin offers her insights in Praying for Boys (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group, January), while Gloria Furman delivers meditations for mothers in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (Crossway, March). Kristen Parrish, Thomas Nelson editor in chief, uses examples of well-known heroes to encourage others to pursue their dreams in her Dec. 3 release, No Cape Required.

Collaborating writer Ava Pennington made her solo debut this fall with Daily Reflections on the Names of God (Revell/Baker Publishing Group), and Jessica Thompson will release her own family-based devotional, Exploring Grace Together (Crossway) in February.

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival author Kelli B. Trujillo offers ways to stay connected to God in a pair of Dec. 1 devotional studies from Wesleyan Publishing House—Awaken Your Soul and Surrender Your Guilt. Liberty University’s Elmer L. Towns addresses fasting again in Fasting With the Lord’s Prayer (Regal, Dec. 23). 

Establishing the ‘discipleship habit’

Even though retailers stocked their Christmas inventory long ago, publishers recommend special displays and handselling to capitalize on these books. Bourland suggests placing them up front as well as pairing them with Bibles or journals.

Devotionals make a great gift for family, friends and associates, said Gilroy, who points out that the majority of teen devotionals have been purchased by parents, grandparents or youth leaders.

“I can’t think of a better gift than the gift of daily inspiration,” said Freeman-Smith’s associate publisher. “There might be a great title on the need for discipleship in the Christian Living or Ministry sections, but if someone is reading a Bible passage and inspirational message each day, that is a great practical discipleship habit.” 

Harvest House’s marketing vice president, Barb Sherrill, said devotionals are affordably priced and gift-packaged, so they make good stocking-stuffers. In addition, Sherrill advises remembering devotionals’ post-holiday appeal.

“A person might not hand their neighbor or co-worker a Christian Living book about marriage or parenting—and risk implying they need help in those areas—[but] they can give them a book of prayers or meditations that speak on a personal level about God’s love,” she said.