There are many kinds of prayers. Some are designed to direct and inspire our minds toward a certain quality or aim, thus creating the causes for us to attain this. Other prayers are for specific people or situations, for example praying for a person’s illness to be cured. For any prayer to be fulfilled, the prayer alone isn’t sufficient: the appropriate causes must also be created. It’s not just a matter of saying, “Please, Buddha, make this and that happen. I’ll relax and have tea while you do the work!” For example, if we pray to be more loving and compassionate and yet make no effort to control our anger, we aren’t creating the cause for that prayer to be fulfilled. The transformation of our minds comes from our own effort, but we can pray for the Buddhas’ inspiration to do so.
Receiving the blessings of the Buddhas doesn’t mean that something tangible comes from the Buddha and goes into us. It means that our minds are transformed through the combined effort of the teachings and the guidance of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and our own practice. “Requesting the Buddhas’ blessings” has the connotation of requesting to be inspired by them, so that our minds and actions are transformed and become more beneficial.
Adapted from Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron