In storms and squalls we need a pilot, and in this present life we need prayer; for we are susceptible to the provocations of our thoughts, both good and bad. If our thought is full of devotion and love of God, it rules over the passions. As hesychasts*, we should discriminate between virtue and vice with discretion and watchfulness;* and we should know which virtues to practice when in the presence of our brethren and elders and which to pursue when alone. We should know which virtue comes first, and which comes second or third; which passions attack the soul and which the body, and also which virtues concern the soul and which the body. We should know which virtue pride uses in order to assault the intellect, and which virtue leads to vainglory, wrath or gluttony. For we ought to purify our thoughts from “all the self-esteem that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
~St Isaiah The Solitary (Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 27)
*Hesychast-one who pursues relationship with God through stillness, inner attentiveness and prayer.
*Watchfulness-spiritual vigilance and alertness, attentiveness to our thoughts, emotions and fantasies, and guarding the heart and intellect from their adverse effects.
Prayer draws us into the presence of God. Through the continual practice of prayer, stillness and watchfulness we purify ourselves as Christ commanded us to do, and we make ourselves receptive, by the grace of God, to the knowledge of God which illumines us and brings us into divine union.
The knowledge of God will teach us discrimination and help us to understand the good from the bad, and what is appropriate in all circumstances. Reading scripture and spiritual books is important, and feeds our minds, and gives us direction, but it is the inner practice of prayer that creates a living dwelling place for God within us, and from which we participate in the life of Christ.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.