The Upper Room Story

Following the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, Frances Craig, a Sunday School teacher at Travis Park Methodist Episcopal Church, in Francis CraigSan Antonio, Texas, saw the comfort people found in short devotional readings. She urged her pastor, Dr. Paul Kern, to write a collection of devotionals. In the weekly church newsletter, Kern began suggesting daily scripture readings alongside short notes to encourage people to read the Bible. Mrs. Craig never forgot the impact of that daily guidance in Bible reading.

At the same time, Grover Emmons, a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church who had served in France and the Far East, was also being prepared for his future role in developing The Upper Room daily devotional guide. In his ministry, Emmons saw that believers around the world have a common commitment to Christ. He dreamed of a devotional book that would be available and usable for all, “to cultivate an acquaintance with God.”

Grover EmmonsIn early 1934, Emmons came to Nashville, Tennessee to work as the director of home missions, evangelism, and hospitals for the Board of Home Missions.

In December 1934 Grover Emmons gave a report about the committee’s work on “the matter of a publication for devotional use in the home.” The following motion was brought to the board:

. . . To publish a quarterly devotional booklet to be sold in the local church through the Missionary Committee and to bear the imprint of the Commission [on Home Missions, Hospitals, and Evangelism]. This is to be an experiment for one quarter, details to be referred to Dr. Emmons . . . 

At the time, Frances Craig served as a volunteer director on the Committee on Devotional Literature for the Board of Home Missions, and she took news of the project back to San Antonio and asked the Philathea Sunday school class (a group of more than 100) to pray for the devotional project.

Francis CraigDr. Emmons began to develop the structure of the magazine; daily entries would include a quoted scripture verse, a suggested scripture reading, brief comments, a prayer, and a closing thought for the day. Individuals were invited to provide content for the daily entries and the emphasis was on personal stories of everyday people. When Frances Craig received a letter asking her to write entries for the new magazine, she knew that her prayers were having effect—production of the magazine was underway.

Grover Emmons and Bishop Arthur J. Moore talked to pastors and leaders of all denominations throughout the United States and shared the vision for the little magazine: reestablish the “family altar”—the practice of daily prayer and Bible reading in the home.

The new magazine would not be just a Methodist publication but a gift from Methodists to the larger church. Dr. Emmons envisioned a devotional aid that was not doctrinal but inclusive, centered not on differences but on beliefs that Christians hold in common.

Attending a church conference in Richmond, Virginia, Grover Emmons heard Reverend John W. Smith speak about the power of God descending on Jesus’ disciples as they prayed in an upper room. Dr. Emmons was inspired: the magazine would be called The Upper Room.

In early 1935, 100,000 copies of the first issue (April-May-June 1935) sold out quickly. The staff ordered 160,000 copies of the second issue and 211,000 of the third issue. By the seventh issue, the print run was half a million copies.

First Four Magazine CoversAlmost immediately after the magazine’s publication, readers began writing and sending in devotionals that spoke of their personal faith stories. By 1938, the magazine was publishing meditations written by ordinary readers, not just invited writers. With the January–February–March 1939 issue, less than four years after the first issue, circulation reached an astounding one million copies.

Today, The Upper Room daily devotional guide is a familiar item on kitchen and bedside tables around the country. Over the years, that little, beloved magazine has sparked a global ministry that now reaches millions around the world in 100 countries in 35 languages.

Upper Room Ministries now include magazine and book publications, a museum and chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, and program ministries like The Walk to Emmaus, The Academy for Spiritual Formation, and The Living Prayer Center.

Scroll through the decade links below to see more key dates in The Upper Room story.

What’s YOUR Upper Room Story? How has Upper Room Ministries shaped your spiritual formation? Share your story with us:

To submit a meditation to The Upper Room daily devotional guide, visit

To read more about the history of The Upper Room, read Where the World Meets to Pray: People and Stories of The Upper Room by Mary Lou Redding, © 2009 Upper Room Books. 


  • 1935

    El primer ejemplar de The Upper Room es publicado y se distribyueron 100,000 copias.

  • 1938

    Se imprime la primera edición en otro idioma ( Español).

  • 1939

    Se crea el departamento de recursos y se publica su primer tratado.

  • 1940

    Se inicia la edición BrailLe de la guía de meditaciones.

  • 1944

    La circulación de la guía de meditaciones sobrepasa la cifra de dos millones.

  • 1949

    Se establece el grupo The Upper Room para responder a las peticiones de oración y para manejar el fondo de la fundación.

    La librería de The Upper Room comienza su colección de libros devocionales.

  • 1953

    La Capilla y el Museo de The Upper Room abren presentando la obra tallada de la Última Cena.

  • 1959

    La ventana de la Comunión Mundial Cristiana se instala y se dedica.

  • 1960

    Se publica la primera edición anual de The Upper Room Disciplines como una ayuda para los pastores.

  • 1963

    Las ediciones de la guía de meditaciones diarias ahora de imprimen en 35 idiomas.

  • 1970

    La guía está disponible en cinta magnetofónica.

  • 1971

    Alive Now magazine is launched

  • 1972

    La Capilla y El Museo de The Upper Room registra su visitante que marca la cifra de un millón.

  • 1973

    La conferencia de The Upper Room de oración y Biblia celebra su primera reunión.

  • 1974

    Se imprime la primera edición en letra grande de la guía de meditaciones diarias.

    Se publica el Cuaderno de la Oración Viviente de Maxie Dunnam.

  • 1975

    Se celebra el aniversario número 40 de The Upper Room en Nashville con delegados de 36 ediciones internacionales.

  • 1977

    Se establece el Centro de Oración Viviente

  • 1978

    Se inicia el movimiento de la Caminata de Emaús .

  • 1980

    Se imprimen 600 millones de copias de la guía de meditaciones diarias The Upper Room.

  • 1981

    Se lanza la revista Pockets.

  • 1982

    Se realiza la Primera Academia de Formación Espiritual en Nashville.

  • 1983

    El Centro de Oración Viviente recibe 9,000 llamadas por mes.

  • 1985

    Se inicia el movimiento de Crisálida.

  • 1986

    Se lanza el boletín Weavings.

  • 1988

    Se lanza el programa Una Aventura en Sanidad y Plenitud.

  • 1995

    - El museo de The Upper Room se remodela y recibe su visitante que marca cuatro millones de visitantes.

  • 1996

    Se lanza la revista Devo’Zine

    The Upper Room entra en la red cibernética con su página en la Internet

  • 1997

    Comienza la edición en correo electrónico de la guía de meditaciones diarias

  • 1998

    El Centro de Oración Viviente recibe 15,000 llamadas por mes.

  • 2001

    Se lanza MethodX, la página en Internet para adultos jóvenes.

    Se lanza Compañerismo en Cristo.

  • 2002

    El centro de Oración Viviente recibe 6,000 peticiones de oración a través de su página en la Internet.

    Se fundan los ministerios de The Upper Room cerca de Johannesburg, Suráfrica.

  • 2003

    Las ediciones de la guía de meditaciones diarias ahora se imprimen en 44 idiomas..

    Cerca de 3,000 copias de Prayers of Courage (Oraciones de Valor) se envían a militares sirviendo en el exterior.

    La Academia de Formación Espiritual se adapta para utilizarse en Suráfrica. Los participantes internacionales incluyen personas negras, blancas y personas indias.

    La Academia de Formación Espiritual se lleva a cabo en Puerto Rico (La adaptación en español de la Academia de Cinco Días).

  • 2004

    El Centro de Oración Viviente recibe 30,000 llamadas por mes.

    El retiro Soulfeast (Fiesta del Alma) se lleva a cabo en Lake Junaluska, Carolina del Norte.

  • 2005

    The Upper Room celebra su aniversario número 70.

  • 2010

    The Upper Room daily devotional guide celebrates its 75th anniversary

  • 2013

    El Aposento Alto, la edición en español deThe Upper Room celebra su aniversario número 75