If you are leading an ascetic life and struggling against the enemy, (which we should all be. -Fr. P) should you notice the demons weakening their warfare or even retreating, do not rejoice in your heart that the evil spirits are now behind you, for they are preparing a battle that is worse than the first. They are moving behind the city and ordering their troops to be still. If you oppose them by attacking them, they run away from you, feigning weakness. Then if your soul feels proud that it has chased them away and you abandon the city, some of them appear from behind while others attack from the front, thereby leaving the poor soul surrounded and with nowhere to escape.

Now the city in this case is the act of surrendering oneself before God with one’s whole heart, for He will save you from all the attacks of the enemy. If you pray to God about a particular struggle in order for Him to remove it from you, and He does not hear you, do not lose heart, for He knows better than you what is of benefit to you. If you pray to God generally in the time of spiritual warfare, do not say ‘Take this from me’ or ‘Give me this’, but pray as follows: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, hep me and do not allow me to sin before you, for I am deceived. Do not let me follow my own will. Do not let me become lost in my sins. Have compassion of your creature. Do not overlook me, for I am weak. Do not abandon me, for I have sought refuge with you. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you. All those who trouble me are before you, and I have no other refuge but you, Lord. Save me, Lord, on account of your mercy. Let all those who have risen against me be put to shame, for they seek to destroy my soul. For you, Lord, are mighty in all things and through you is glory given to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.’

Then your conscience will speak in secret with your heart as to the reason why God is not listening to you. Your duty is not to feel contempt, but simply to do what He commands, for it is impossible for God not to hear you unless you, first, disobey Him. He is not far from us, but our desires prevent Him from listening to us. Therefore, let no one deceive you. Just as the earth cannot be fruitful without seed and irrigation, so, also, it is impossible for us to be spiritually fruitful without ascetic discipline and humility.

Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetic Discourses


If a person knows…

If a person knows the glory of God, he also knows the ferocity of the enemy. If a person knows the kingdom, he also knows Gehenna. If a person knows love, he also knows hatred. If a person knows the wrath of passion, he also knows the hatred of the world. If a person knows purity, he also knows the stench of impurity. If a person knows the fruit of the virtues, he also knows the fruit of evil. The one rejoices together with the angels because of his works. The other knows that the demons rejoice because he has carried out their work.

If you do not flee from the enemies, you will not recognize their ferocity. How will you recognize the love of money unless you renounce it and live in great poverty for the sake of God? How will you recognize the bitterness of envy unless you acquire gentleness? How will you recognize the disturbance of anger unless you acquire forbearance in everything? How will you recognize arrogance unless you acquire humility? How will you recognize the stench of evil unless you know loving-kindness? How will you recognize the disgrace of scandal unless you know yourself to be inferior? How will you know the rudeness of laughter unless you know compunction? How will you know the disturbance of despondency unless you order, perceive, and contemplate the light of God?
Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetic Discourses

Why, you ask…

“Why,” you ask, “do we see evil doers thriving and healthy and enjoying great prosperity?” Let us weep for them, because their not having to suffer in this world is a guarantee of greater punishment in the next! To show this, St. Paul said, “…but when we are judged, we are being chastised by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with this world.” Afflictions here are a form of reproof, while those in the other world are a form of punishment for those who were evil in their lives.
St. John Chrysostom

Amongst All Our Different…

The Brethren asked Abba Agathon, “Amongst all our different activities, father, which is the virtue that requires the greatest effort?”

He answered:  “Forgive me, but I think there is no labor greater than praying to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies the demons try to prevent him; for they know that nothing obstructs them so much as prayer to God. And everything else that man undertakes, if he perseveres, he will attain rest. But in order to pray, a man must struggle to his last breath.”
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Let us Therefore…

Let us therefore, be attentive ourselves, brothers. Are we as attentive when we work hard and lose ourselves in our labor by our negligence, unaware that our enemy is in us, flattering and gnawing away at us every day, not allowing our eyes to contemplate anything of light and divinity?

Examine yourself,wretched one, who has been baptized into Christ and His death. What sort of death is it that He died? If you follow His footsteps, show me your way of life. His sinless and presents Himself to you in everything. He has walked in poverty. He did not make a place to rest His head. You, however, do not joyfully endure being a stranger. He endured insults but you cannot bear any injury. He has not returned evil for evil, you cannot resist returning evil. He was not angry when He suffered. You, on the other hand, are irritated when you do suffer. He was not distressed when someone insulted Him, but you become agitated, even when someone is not insulting you. He humbled Himself, comforting those who sinned against Him. You injure with words even those who love you. He joyfully tolerated afflictions but you are disturbed by the least new unpleasantness. He, He was with those who had fallen but you, you are arrogant to those who expiate you. He was handed over for those who had sinned against Him, in order to ransom them. You are incapable of giving anything, even for those who love you.

See what He has given you. What do you give Him in return? Know Him through His works and you through yours. If you have died with Him, who commits these sins?
Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetical Discourses

Pray Simply…

Pray simply. Do not expect to find in your heart any remarkable gift of prayer. Consider yourself unworthy of it. Then you will find peace. Use the empty, cold dryness of your heart as food for your humility. Repeat constantly, “I am not worthy, Lord, I am not worthy!” But say it calmly, without agitation. This humble prayer will be acceptable to God.
St. Macarius of Optina