Not praying or worshipping gods follows Liberation Path

Now and then people pray to gods when they desire lofty things

Liberation is about being free from desire

That’s why the samaṇa doesn’t pray to gods

And top of that they want follow Truth

That’s in sutta Buddha teach that monk don’t need to pray to get what they want. And look nowadays most people it’s all about your mindset. Your thoughts. So Sangha understood it’s all in the mind

Now and then people worshipped gods out of fear of evil coming to them or believing their duality experience was because gods etc

That’s why the samaṇa doesn’t worship because out of many reason that is far from Liberation humans do it

In the sutta Buddha refused to be fed by the gods
If that is true of false doesn’t matter. It’s an example given of practice of liberation which has One taste, the taste of Freedom. There is no freedom being dependent on things of the world

Even the Upanishads later wrote

There is no worship of gods (by him). Discarding the way of the world he shall become one ‘liberated while living’

Liberation is getting your sole rule. You can think what you want. Move where you want. Talk what you want. Freedom in all

That’s why Buddha says in Vāseṭṭha Sutta in MN

One possessing the triple knowledge,
Peaceful, with being all destroyed:
Know him thus, O Vāseṭṭha,
As Brahmā and Sakka for those who understand

I read a report online once of a Sri Lankan monk praying to a Buddha statue for some sort of material prize. Many in the Buddhist world, even Theravada, (mistakenly) believe the Buddha can hear them and grant them wishes.

I remember in some suttas the Buddha advising monastics in the forests to pay their respect to devas and other forest spirits.

Yes mi friend its sad before and now after Buddha was gone and the true essence of Dhamma got lost. Paying respect is like saying Namaskar most probably. I saw in the chinese sutra Buddha saying to pay respect to other samanas. Its almost same spirit. All that try needs respect