Offering the Lord Prayers
One of my favorite activities is offering the Lord my prayers for perfection, and reciting notable prayers.
Offering prayers is one of the nine main classifications of devotional service (these 9 methods of devotional service are also part of a larger number of 64 practices favorable for developing love for Krishna, listed in the Nectar of Devotion, chapter six).
The nine main kinds of devotional service are hearing about Krishna, chanting about him, remembering him, serving him, worshiping him in his Deity form, praying to him, carrying out his orders, serving him as a friend, and sacrificing everything for him. We can obtain perfection through practicing any one of them. If you visit a Hare Krishna Temple you will discover that all the Temple activities facilitate engaging in all these activities.
For now I am just speaking about the importance of praying to Krishna, both your own personal prayers, and reciting prayers of pure devotees. Whoever we are, whatever our position, we should practice praying to Krishna and his devotees for perfection and their mercy.
We can also share our struggles and whatever is going on in our life. In addition, by studying and learning the prayers of great devotees we will understand the standard of pure devotional prayers. We are encouraged to pray in that way, yet we have to pray on whatever level we are on, while we aspire for unmotivated, uninterrupted, and pure devotion. Whatever way we come to Krishna, or whatever our initial motivation is good---somehow Krishna is using our life circumstances to help us come to him.
Krishna says four kinds of persons come to him in the seventh chapter of the Gita (the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and the wise person), and it is understood that we don't all come for pure devotion (few do actually). There are many things we could say about this, but one thing is what we should come to Krishna even for the fulfillment of our material desires. That is not pure devotion, but it is a beginning.
If we engage in devotional service, chant the holy name, hear from and associate with saintly persons, we will become purified. If have to start somewhere. No one is so fallen that they can't be purified----we are not that powerfully fallen!!!!
The scriptures are full of wonderful prayers to the Lord in his different incarnations. We see Krishna as the source of all these different incarnations. I refer you to the 7th Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, concerning the appearance of Lord Nrisimhadeva, the half man, half lion incarnation. Specially chapter 9 about Prahlada's prayers to pacify the Lord.
After Hiranyakashipu was killed, the Lord continued to be very angry, and the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, could not pacify Him. Even mother Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, the constant companion of Narayana, could not dare come before Lord Nrisimhadeva.
"Then Lord Brahma asked Prahlada Maharaja to go forward and pacify the Lord's anger. Prahlada Maharaja, being confident of the affection of his master, Lord Nrisimhadeva, was not afraid at all. He very gravely appeared before the Lord's lotus feet and offered Him respectful obeisances.
Lord Nrisimhadeva, being very much affectionate toward Prahlada Maharaja, put His hand on Prahlada's head, and because of being personally touched by the Lord, Prahlada Maharaja immediately achieved brahma-jnana, spiritual knowledge. Thus he offered his prayers to the Lord in full spiritual knowledge and full devotional ecstasy. The instructions given by Prahlada Maharaja in the form of his prayers are as follows.
Prahlada said, "I am not proud of being able to offer prayers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I simply take shelter of the mercy of the Lord, for without devotion one cannot appease Him. One cannot please the Supreme Personality of Godhead simply by dint of high parentage or great opulence, learning, austerity, penance or mystic power. Indeed, these are never pleasing to the Supreme Lord, for nothing can please Him but pure devotional service.
"Even if a nondevotee is a brahmana (priestly order) qualified with the twelve brahminical symptoms, he cannot be very dear to the Lord, whereas if a person born in a family of dog-eaters is a devotee, the Lord can accept his prayers.
"The Lord does not need anyone's prayers, but if a devotee offers his prayers to the Lord, the devotee benefits greatly. Ignorant persons born in low families, therefore, can sincerely offer heartfelt prayers to the Lord, and the Lord will accept them. As soon as one offers his prayers to the Lord, he is immediately situated on the Brahman (spiritual) platform."
So please pray to Krishna for his mercy. I say many times a day, Lord, please be merciful to me--please help me, and sigh, because although my life is in many ways wonderful, just being in a material body can be troublesome. Then I usually say, "You know Lord this is just a way of speaking, because I want to be surrendered to you and remember you always---then I won't be affected by the duality of the material world. Lord, you are always merciful, and you are always helping me. Please let me realize this, and always act on this understanding".
Yes, I have to smile!! Then I say some expression of gratitude, like, "Thank you Lord for your mercy, your kindness, your love, guidance and help in some many ways". And I do mean it. That always feels very good. Gratitude in whatever condition we are in is always good for us, and is often the solution to whatever ails us. Our feelings and intentions are more important that our words. Practice makes perfect.