Since the reformation, and Luther’s rejection of monastic life, western Christianity has considered monasticism to be an expression of Christian living that is to be rejected. As a consequence of this rejection, we in the post-protestant west have lost our understanding of asceticism in general. Below is a short excerpt from an article that explains the central role of asceticism in the life of the Christian.
Asceticism is practiced through the will in prayer to God and for life. On account of the centrality of the will if anything is going to change for the better in our lives it is the sin of pride that must be dealt with first if further progress is to be made. Pride places ourselves where God should be. It replaces His rule for ours. It subverts our relationships with Him and others through all manners of self pre-occupation. In short, pride has to be killed. In abject poverty of spirit we need to come to God and "throw in the towel" as it were and surrender ourselves to Him. Then, and only then can we hope to make progress with the other sins.
Surrender to God
Communion with God
Contentment with God's Gifts
Attachment to God alone
Strengthened body and will to serve God
Depth in relationships
From: Antiochian Orthodox UK