The History of Daily Texts
The tradition of the Daily Texts began in 1722 when Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) offered his property to provide shelter for religious refugees arriving from Bohemia and Moravia. This settlement became known as Herrnhut, meaning “under the watch of the Lord.” This community of believers shared morning and evening devotions, consciously placing their lives under the Lord’s watch by sharing Bible verses together.
During the evening service on May 3, 1728, Zinzendorf gave his congregation a losung, or “watchword.” Zinzendorf intended for this verse to shape the conversation in the homes in Herrnhut the next day. Thus was born the notion of the daily texts. These texts would come to shape the life of this community. In 1731, Zinzendorf compiled 365 watchwords from his reading of the Old Testament, creating the first complete book of Daily Texts. From its inception, the purpose of the Daily Texts has been to provide a message that is “new every morning” (Lam. 3:23) to accompany a person throughout the day.
After Count Zinzendorf died, the Moravian Church established that all watchwords for the Daily Texts would be selected from about 2,000 Old Testament passages he had chosen. Each year a group of people meet to prayerfully select the watchword verses for a complete year. Each verse is either a promise, an encouragement or an admonition. Some years later, the Moravian Church added an additional verse to the daily text discipline. This second text, taken from the New Testament, complements and illuminates the daily watchword.
In 1732, when the first Moravian “messengers” left for overseas mission work, they carried a copy of the Daily Texts with them. This book naturally connected the messengers with members of their home congregation, who were reflecting on the same scripture passages.
From these humble beginnings, the Daily Texts have now become one of the most widely used devotionals in the world. They have been translated into 50 languages, and they are available in a variety of formats, from specially bound editions, accompanied by a selection of prayers and hymns, to photocopied pages bound only with a staple.
Regardless of the form in which they are produced, the Daily Texts unite Christians on all continents, crossing confessional, language and political barriers. In their own unique way, the texts perform an ecumenical service for the whole church.