There is this parable of two men who were granted permission to meet the king at the palace. Both were asked to wait in the richly furnished lounge.
One of them, a very rich man, had come in his finest apparel and other ornaments fit for an audience with royal personage. As he was waiting he surveyed the grandeur of the room comparing it with his own mansion by feeling the texture of curtains, examining the furniture, observing the curios and such. His mind was occupied with thoughts of how to make this audience with king beneficial to himself. He was not called in though waiting for long.
The other guy who sat in the edge of the upholstered chair appeared very poor from the cheap clothes he wore. His face with three days stubble showed no sign of scholarship. His hair was unkempt and he looked dirty. But he was sitting in total calm unconcerned with the liveried men and all the pomp around him. His mind was only on the king he was about to meet. But to rich man’s consternation, the indigent fellow was called in and was with king for a long time. Our rich man finally did not get to see the king at all.
To give a spiritual twist to this story, one can say that only those without the slightest trace of ego ’I, me or mine’ will have access to God’s grace. Even a tint of ego is a barrier. The external appearance is irrelevant and what matters is the inside. The matted locks, shaven head or smearing of ashes on the body covered in ochre robes do not make one a devotee.
Likewise knowledge of scriptures, wealth, high position or even good looks has the danger of making a person proud. There will be the pride in the sub conscious that would manifest itself through lack of humility in word, thought or action. We are witness to such important people seeking immediate attention even at God’s shrines and if necessary by peddling their wealth, influence or position negating the very purpose of their visit to shrine.
Prayer is attuning oneself to god by total surrender at His altar in whatever way and form your faith permits. What counts is the attitude of abject surrender to His divinity and supreme power. There would be no place for ego in it. The prayer could be thinking of Him by invoking His presence in our hearts or singing in praise of Him or listening to His divine qualities and glorious deeds. Heart has a dominant role more than mind in this exercise. It is falling in selfless love with god and nothing but a communion with Him. Prayer should be simple and pure with no strings attached. The purpose of such a prayer is for liberation or getting His eternal grace.
While this is the greater purpose, this does not preclude one from seeking His help and blessings during times of trials and distress. It eases one’s mind that he is safe in God’s hands. But this should not be confused with the selfless prayer talked about earlier.