Prayers and devotion to the Lord is one of the three paths of self actualization in Hinduism.
The ancient Indian philosophers elaborated three ways for self-actualization -GYAN, the path of knowledge, KARMA, the path of action and BHAKTI or the path of devotion. It is the third path of Bhakti which guides the individual to submerge himself, his ego, his pride and his arrogance in his devotion to the almighty lord of universe. Prayers are a means to this end.
When an individual prays to the Lord, he devotes all his attention to the almighty god. The form in which the Lord is worshipped could be either SAAKAR, meaning a human like form, or it could be NIRAKAAR or formless. In bhakti, the individual loses his own ego in worshipping that form and almost attains a merger with it. Prayers are thus considered an essential part of bhakti.
BHAKTI THE WORSHIP OF THE LORD
Bhakti or worship and devotion to the almighty Lord is supposed to be a path for self actualization. Hindu PUJA (worship) is actually an expression of devotion, and the foremost way of doing it is by singing the prayers of the Lord, or the ARTI- a prayer describing the magnificence of the Lord along with a request to keep us under his shelter, bless us with his compassion and show us the right path in life. These prayers are the primary feature of every puja. It is usually associated with TILAK or placing the red powder on the forehead of the idol or the photograph of the Lord or the Goddess, depending upon whichever form you prefer to remember him.
The ARTI or the prayers are sometimes associated with music, and devotees also express their emotions in the form of bowing or prostrating before the Lord's idol. Some even dance with devotion, feeling the proximity of his presence while others with close eyes just seem to have entered into a trans, almost as if away from this world.
IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER IN SUSTAINING FAITH AS WELL AS HOPE
Prayers help people in three important ways. First of all, regular prayers are reminders to self that there is an almighty Lord of the universe who is always there, aware of everything and capable of taking care of us. Since the Lord is benevolent and fair, and rewards everyone as per their deeds or KARMA, it is a belief that provides hope to the people that good will prevail over evil. This is one of the most important factors for people having faith in our values, fairness and humanity.Second, by being able to express their faith, people are able to relate to the god whom they cannot otherwise experience or observe, and this simple activity reinforces their faith in an omnipotent power of universe and helps them sustain their belief.
Third, prayers are often said or sung together in temples or in homes, and this common activity performed while thinking about the Lord helps people to develop a common bond of faith that extends to each other as well, thereby fostering a society based on trust and dependability.Prayers in Hinduism are the simplest act to express your faith in the Lord and his fairness. For ordinary people, it is also the most common means to reinforce their faith and develop a social understanding of abiding by the rules of fairness and truthfulness.