The Man Who Engages in Prayer without Spiritual Director or Who Does not Trust His Confessor, Falls into Delusion
Archimandrite Sofronii. "Saint Silouan the Athonite".
He who loves the Lord is ever mindful of Him, and the thought 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 stays intent on God, and in humbleness of spirit stands before the Face of the Lord. Whom the soul of him who prays knoweth.
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 against 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 savoured the Holy Spirit recognises 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 any confessor he finds, the Lord will watch over him for his humility.
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 careless life, how can the Holy Spirit dwell in him, you will suffer mightily for such thoughts, and the Lord will bring you low, and you are sure to fall into delusion.
Some there are who say that prayer beguiles. This is not so. A man is beguiled by listening to his own self, not by prayer. All the Saints lived in prayer, and they call others to prayer. Prayer is the best of all activities for the soul. Prayer is the pith to God. Through prayer we obtain humility, patience and every good gift. The man who speaks against prayer has manifestly never tasted of the goodness of the Lord, and how greatly He loves us. No evil ever comes from God. All the Saints prayed without ceasing: they filled every moment with prayer.