Srimad Bhagawatham, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 8: Suthovacha, preetihi Shounaka..
Translation: Sutha is extremely pleased at the quality of questions and doubts. He says: Oh Shaunaka! Your mind is filled with inquisitiveness to listen to stories. Since the essence of all treatise is to destroy the cycle of birth and death, I shall tell you.
Interpretation: The learned Suthan listened carefully to all the questions posed by Shaunaka on behalf of the rishis at Nimeshe. A learned guru will always be pleased to listen to intelligent questions for two reasons – one, the guru knows that the audience he is addressing is not only intelligent but also receptive to knowledge and wisdom. Secondly, a true guru always loves to listen to questions that challenge his knowledge and wisdom.
After pondering over them, the enlightened Suthan captures the essence of all the questions; that they want to know what would lead them to the enlightened path that would end the cycle of birth and death.
The essence of every religion is enlightenment or self-realisation. Prayers are meant to lead us all to this path, not for materialistic gains.
According to Suthan, this journey is not difficult. No need to run to the Himalayas or fret over rituals. No need to fear god. All that is needed is listen intently to the stories about Lord Vishnu.
Till then, the rishis were focused on yagnas and rituals or pleasing the forces of nature. But Suthan hints that the effect of yagnas and rituals would diminish due to the onset of Kaliyuga. Hence, there is a need to listen to the stories of the Lord which can generate bhakti.
From here, one can see the transformation from yagnas and rituals to bhakti through stories. This transformation is also aimed at the common people who were finding it difficult to associate with the highly ritualistic practices where they did not have a space to participate or understand.