Man is in constant search of his true identity and his relationship with his creator. Everyone seeks the Supreme, in his own way. A virtuous man is forever devoted to God (Ishvara – the Supreme Lord). Bhagavad Gita, in shlokas from 7.16 to 7.23, has elaborated upon the different kinds of devotees. They have broadly been divided into four categories. The first category consists of those who worship God while in distress. When one is in the dark and unable to find his way out, he turns to God for help. He implores Him to take him out of the difficult situation in which he Is placed. The second category of devotees are those who wish to improve their material position. They pray to God for some specific worldly gains. Devotees of the third category are those who pursue knowledge. They want to know the truth about themselves, about the universe ; and about the Supreme. They seek the guidance of God in getting that knowledge.
Apart from the above three classes of devotees, there is the fourth category which consists of men of wisdom (gyani). These sages have full knowledge of the Absolute Truth and are free from material desires. A man of wisdom worships God not for any material gain but for his own spiritual growth. He considers Ishvara to be his highest goal and always remains established in Him. He wants to attain God – to know Him not only at intellectual but also at experiential level. Such a sage, who has evolved into wisdom over a period of many lives, is very difficult to find in this world.
Shree Krishna calls all the four categories of devotees as pious because instead of indulging in evil deeds, they pursue noble goals. They are ethical. They are spiritual. They believe in the benevolent power of God and take refuge in Him. Though all the devotees are dear to God, but He loves a gyani the most because his devotion is exclusive and single-minded. Such a sage is extremely dear to the Supreme Lord because his devotion is pure and without any selfish motive. God considers such a pure devotee to be just like His own self.
Worship and prayers are the ways and means of getting one’s material wishes fulfilled and attaining the spiritual perfection. While offering his prayers, for any material gains or otherwise, one subordinates himself to a superior spiritual authority. He shreds his ego from himself. He stands before his creator, bereft of any pretentions. His excessive pride, uncalled for fears and false hopes get exposed before himself. Either he gets his wish fulfilled or he realises the unreasonableness of his demand. He is, then, at peace with himself. Slowly and slowly, his soul starts getting purified. He advances further towards wisdom. And a man of wisdom, belonging to the most evolved categories of the devotees, submits himself completely to the will of God. While others ask for favours or rewards, a gyani asks for nothing. He wants the will of the Supreme, and not his own will, to prevail. He is ever blessed by the Supreme. To put it simply, the imperishable majesty of Ishvara is experienced by a devotee who is humble, truthful and trustful.
There is no prescribed format for worship. It can be in the form of a physical activity such as offering a flower, fruit, or water etc. ; or in the form of speech such as singing of the glories of Ishvara or simply mental invocation of the Supreme Lord. What is important is not the object of offering or performance of complicated rituals but the purity of heart and love for the Supreme Lord.
Worship is the endeavour of man to reach the Supreme. No devotion is worthless. No sincere prayer ever goes unnoticed. Even the prayers of those who, prompted by their own selfish desires, worship other deities, through various rituals, are not wasted. Whichever deity in whatever form a devotee with faith wants to worship, the Supreme Lord makes that faith of him steady so that he can devote himself fully to that particular deity. Endowed with such a firm faith, he worships that deity and obtains the desired results, through him. These benefits are, in fact, ordained by the Supreme Lord alone. In other words, all divine forms are the forms of One Supreme. Worship of the different forms is indirectly the worship of the Supreme. Only He is the giver of all rewards. Thus, more important than the nature of the manifestation of God worshipped, is the firmness of faith in that manifestation.
Even the devotees of other deities gradually rise to the worship of all-pervading Ishvara, the one who embraces and transcends all aspects of divinity. They also experience, in due course of time, the divine bliss.
To conclude, all worship helps one to rise to a higher level. Sincere prayers of every devotee, whether done for any material reward or for attaining spiritual perfection ; whether done directly or through some other deity, are answered by the Supreme Lord himself.