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