Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Teresa of Ávila on the Purpose of Prayer

Excerpts from The Interior Castle by Teresa of Ávila

“We cannot know whether or not we love God, although there are strong indications for recognizing that we do love [God]; but we can know whether we love our neighbor. And be certain that the more advanced you see you are in love for your neighbor the more advanced you will be in the love of God, for the love [God’s] Majesty has for us is so great that to repay us for our love of neighbor [God] will in a thousand ways increase the love we have for [God].”

“In sum, my Sisters, what I conclude with is that we shouldn’t build castles in the air. [God] doesn’t look so much at the greatness of our works as at the love with which they are done.” 


Teresa of Ávila teaches us that the purpose of prayer life is to deepen in love. For her, it is the way we show love to our neighbors that proves our love of God. She instructs her sisters at the conclusion of The Interior Castle that prayer is not meant to be a disconnected or disembodied venture, rather the sum of our life will be measured by how much love our prayers and actions have cultivated in our life and the world.


  1. How does your prayer life foster love? Share a story about how love plays a role in your prayer life. 
  2. What is the measure of love for you? How do you know, or show, that you love God and your neighbor?

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