Like swimming, we are to “jump in” and just begin. There is a world of difference between thinking, or talking, about quiet prayer, and actually praying. Like beginning swimmers , we only learn by getting wet.
The Fathers tell us that, often, the first thing that happens is an experience of darkness and resistance. Then, when we persist, peace begins to replace the darkness. The temptations may become more severe, even temptations to stop the praying, but we sin less. The Fathers tell us that, as we continue to pray and live the commandments, go to Church and listen to our spiritual Father, we can expect to become freed from indecision, upset and hesitation. Our will becomes stronger. We can expect to be available to others in ways we otherwise would not have been, and we will become more effective and creative.
Bishop Kallistos Ware says that by spending only a few moments invoking the Divine Name each day, we actually transform all the other remaining moments of the day.
In the beginning, there may be no new insights and no pleasant feelings. Was it a waste of time? Not necessarily. By faith, the Christian believes that spending time wanting to pray, and actually praying, does touch a Merciful God. God hears. And, in turn, Divine Truth is known through direct experience, sometimes called intuition. Something is happening, and changing at a deeper level of consciousness, unnoticed.
We can expect invisible, subtle snares, sent from Satan, precisely because we have upscaled our efforts, and are turning to God. In a sense, we rouse the enemy to action. St. John Chrysostom says that when we begin to pray we stir the snake (living within us) to action, and that prayer can lay the snake low.
There is no ascetic effort more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw close to God.
When we begin to pray, we expend desire and effort. The results are up to God. Real prayer is a gift from God, not the payment for our perspiration.
Prayer works in the Unseen Warfare as a power/gift from Jesus, given as a function of our ability to receive it. We increase our ability to receive by asking for the increase, and God grants it as He sees fit, in His tender, all sweet and merciful manner.