Quite simply, and without meaning to be glib, the secret to prayer is secret prayer!
The goal of prayer should never be the roaring approval of the crowds, but rather the approval of our Father who is in heaven. As Jesus so eloquently put it, "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." The secret to prayer is secret prayer.
Jesus provided the ultimate example. As Dr. Luke puts it, He "often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16). Unlike the religious leaders of His day, He did not pray to be seen by men. He prayed because He treasured fellowship with His Father. Hypocrites gain their reward through public prayer. They may be perceived as spiritual giants, but by the time they are finished, they have received everything they will ever get - their prayer's worth and nothing more.
Steeped in religious practices, these hypocrites tithed, fasted, and traveled "over land and sea" to win converts. They even prayed. And how! They prayed publicly in synagogues, and they prayed publicly on street corners. They even wore boxes on their foreheads containing pet prayers. Yet their motivation was not intimacy with God, but to be seen by men. Thus, said Jesus, "they have received their reward in full."
Originally published as "Having a Great Prayer Life" (used by permission).