What is the secret to a strong, fervent and effective prayer life?

What is the secret to a strong,fervent and effective prayer life?


Others might answer your question differently. I will respond as a Trappist.

In our order we have a distinctive way of cultivating a strong, fervent, and effective prayer life. Our way of prayer is intimately informed by the life, teaching, and person of Jesus. Briefly, the program is ascetical, communal, and mystical. Because sin is real and undermines our freedom to love God and one another, we must enter into a conversion process before we can be intimate with God. Prayer, then, is fostered, first of all, by embracing a rigorous ascetical life.

This means one disciplines the body’s appetites and learns to be happy with a sufficiency in the areas of food, clothing, shelter etc. This asceticism is hard and actually precipitates an interior crisis which we call: “learning the truth about oneself.”

The truth is, we are actually quite unable to live according to God’s commandments without the gift of His grace. This discovery introduces a new and humble awareness of oneself, and surrender to “living in the mercy” of God which changes the way a person sees himself and everyone around him. Having been humbled and realizing how intimately he is united with other human beings, acts of love and service issue more spontaneously from him and his life becomes more and more a life for others.

It is, finally, in the context of this transformed life that real intimacy with God becomes possible. During this entire process of conversion, a person must be faithful to regular times of prayer. My recommendation for someone living outside a monastery would be the Church’s “Liturgy of the Hours” available at any Catholic bookstore. You will have noticed that the “secret” to a good prayer life I have shared with you is not a technique. In our Benedictine Cistercian monastic tradition, true prayer is the fruit of a changed life. We are inclined to caution people concerning “techniques” or “methods” of prayer that promise a quick entry into the Divine Mystery Jesus called His “Father.” We have to be changed, purified, and liberated from self preoccupation before we can pray deeply which is nothing more than intimacy with God.