We eat and drink every day, yet on the morrow our bodies need drink and food again. In like manner the recollection of God’s bounties never wearies the soul but disposes her still more to think on God. Or again: the more wood you pile on a fire the more heat you get, and thus it is with God – the more you think on Him the more are you fired with love and fervour towards Him.
He who loves the Lord is always mindful of Him, and remembrance of God begets prayer. If you are forgetful of the Lord you will not pray, and without prayer the soul will not dwell in the love of God, for the grace of the Holy Spirit comes through prayer. Prayer preserves a man from sin, for the prayerful mind is intent on God and in humbleness of spirit stands before the face of the Lord, Who knoweth the soul of him who prays.
But the novice naturally needs a guide, for until the advent of the grace of the Holy Spirit the soul is involved in fierce struggle with her foes and is unable to disentangle herself if the enemy offer her his delights. Only the man with experience of the grace of the Holy Spirit can understand this. He who has tasted of the Holy Spirit recognizes the taste of grace.
The man who sets out without guidance to engage in prayer (imagining in his arrogance that he can learn to pray from books), and will not go to a spiritual director is already half beguiled. But the Lord succours the man who is humble, and if there be no experienced guide, and he turns to the confessor he finds, the Lord will watch over him for his humility.
Whoever would pray without ceasing must have fortitude and be wise, and he should consult his confessor in all things. And if your father-confessor has not himself trodden the path of prayer nevertheless seek counsel of him, and because of your humility the Lord will have mercy on you and keep you from all untruth.
But if you think to yourself, ‘My confessor lacks experience and is occupied with vain things: I will be my own guide with the help of books,’ then your foot is set on a perilous path and you are not far from being beguiled and going astray. I know many such who reasoned thus and so deceived themselves, and who did not thrive because they despised their confessors. They forget that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit is at work in the Sacrament of confession. In such wise does the enemy delude those who fight the good fight – the enemy would have no men of prayer – but the Holy Spirit gives good counsel to the soul when we hearken to the advice of our pastors.
Think in this wise: the Holy Spirit dwells in your confessor and he will tell you what is right. But if you say to yourself that your confessor lives a negligent life, and how can the Holy Spirit dwell in him, you will suffer mightily from such thoughts, and the Lord will bring you low and you are sure to fall into temptation.
Prayer comes with praying, as it is said in the Scriptures; but prayer which is only a habit, prayer without contrition for our sins, is not pleasing to the Lord. My soul yearns after the Lord, and I seek Him ardently, and my soul suffers thought of no other matter.
My soul yearns after the living Lord, and my spirit strains towards Him, my heavenly Father, my kin. The Lord made us His kin by the Holy Spirit. The Lord is dear to the heart-He is our joy and gladness, and our firm hope. O Gracious Lord, mercifully seek out Thy creation and show Thyself to all men in the Holy Spirit, as Thou showest Thyself to Thy servants. Rejoice, 0 Lord, every afflicted soul by the coming of Thy Holy Spirit, and let all who pray to Thee know the Holy Spirit.
O all ye people, let us humble ourselves for the sake of the Lord and the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us humble ourselves and the Lord will give us to know the power of the Jesus Prayer. Let us humble ourselves and the Spirit of God Himself will instruct the soul.
O man, learn the humility of Christ and the Lord will give you to taste of the sweetness of prayer. And if you would pray cleanly, be humble and temperate confess yourself thoroughly, and prayer will feel at home in you. Be obedient, submit with a good conscience to those in authority; be content with all things, and your mind will be cleansed of vain thoughts.
Remember that the Lord sees you, and be fearful lest you anywise offend your brother, whom neither dispraise nor grieve, even by a look, and the Holy Spirit will love you and will Himself be your help in all things.
If you would retain prayer you must love those who offend against you and pray for them until your soul is reconciled with them, and then the Lord will give you prayer without ceasing, for He giveth prayer to those who pray for their enemies.
For prayer our teacher is the Lord Himself, but we must seek to humble our souls. He who prays aright has the peace of God in his soul. The man of prayer should feel tenderly towards every living thing. The man of prayer loves all men and has compassion for all, for the grace of the Holy Spirit has taught him love.
The Holy Spirit is like a dear mother. A mother loves her child and has pity on it; and the Holy Spirit has pity on us, forgives and heals us, enlightens and rejoices us. And the Holy Spirit becomes known in humble prayer.
From: Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 2001